Q&A with Peter Dreyer of Fokuscope

Peter Dreyer, astronomer with a PhD in artificial intelligence, has spent more than 20 years in the IT industry in a range of companies from telecoms providers, over internet startups to innovation consultancies.

For the past 10 years he has worked as an open innovation expert for select international clients across industries. Peter has co-founded a number of IT-startups including the ideation tool developer FOKUSCOPE. He is board member in the Danish association of IT-professionals (DIT). He is also a part-writer and has published two science thrillers.

Your bio says you are an astronomer. How did that happen and how do you incorporate that into your work today?

Astronomy and research among the planets, stars and galaxies – and loads of even more exotic objects – in the endless depths of space was a boyhood dream. The dream never quite left me, but after having spent time in the late eighties looking for extrasolar planets (planet orbiting other stars; it took another ten years for the first to be discovered) I realized that I didn’t have the genius nor the persistence to contribute at the frontier of science. I moved on to the IT world and eventually combined that topic with innovation. I still pursue the old passion in the novels I write – they are thrillers set in a scene where I speculate in manipulating the laws of nature – just a little bit…

Being a modern-time astronomer you have to be extremely open-minded. Typically the environments you study are so alien and so extreme that when you attempt to describe the structures you observe there are no familiar frameworks to apply, there is nothing Earthlike to compare with. When involved in front-end innovation I believe that my background allows me to be comfortable working with “wild ideas” with a “why not” smile…

Your current project is FOKUS scope – what can you tell us about that?

Fokuscope (fokuscope.com) is a platform for collaborative front-end innovation inspired by Frans Johansson’s book “The Medici-effect”. It is all about mixing competencies and cross-pollinating ideas in an innovative context. That is basically what Fokuscope is about; facilitating ideation. There is a lot of platforms today offering themselves to crowdsourced innovation, but the strength of Fokuscope is that it is forcing cross-pollination in a highly structured way. It unfolds the multidisciplinary, multi-cultural, multi-whatever creative power of the the group coming together on the platform to produce solutions for specified challenges.

How will you fit this in with YAIC 2012?

Often when you attend a conference you don’t prepare yourself until the very last minute and even then it may be a somewhat mediocre effort. Our idea is that all attendees receive a login to the platform with an urgent request to provide some input on the platform – for others to build upon. So we are urging all attendees to invest some efforts well ahead of the conference formulating thoughts to share with others and vice versa. In this way you could say that the conference starts weeks ahead of the physical gathering in Reykjavik.

What kind of results do you expect?

That is impossible to say! But we can be certain that if the YAIC participants are committed, then we will in collaboration – ahead of the conference – formulate and prioritize the most popular and demanding global challenges that creatives may contribute to solutions for. During the conference the platform will be applied to produce responses – or at least parts of responses to thoes challenges. It is impossible to predict the nature of these responses, but beyond doubt they will represent the focussed collective intelligence of the YAIC crowd.

You’ll be talking about other stuff too, right? 

The focus of my talk is the role of creatives in innovation, but I will also be talking about superstrings, the voyager space probes, chocolate bars and other only vaguely related subjects. I really don’t expect to talk much about Fokuscope. By the time we get to the conference all attendees should be familiar with the platform and there won’t be much else to add.

Have you been to Iceland before? 

I visited Iceland back in 1989 as part of the Danish national basketball-team playing at the Nordic Championship (I think we finished last…) and again two years ago for YAIC 2010. I remember that conference as being superb in terms of how the organizers managed to mix the audience and facilitate dialogue. I hope that YAIC 2012 will be as intense an experience.