Thursday, November 14, 2013

Manage up?

Sage advice from the folks at Forbes here "My advice on managing up - don't".  I worked with a few executives who were brilliant at it at couple of the Fortune 100, with success to boot.

"...the best way to be looked upon favorably by those you report to is not through various charades and other forms of skulduggery, but by simply doing your job and serving them well. When the emphasis of your efforts shifts away from others and to yourself you have placed yourself on a very slippery slope. If you want to move up in the organization let it be the quality of your work that catapults you upward, not your skill in manipulation. If your timetable for career acceleration isn’t matching up with that of your employer, surface your concerns with them in a straight-forward fashion, don’t revert to amateurish corporate hi-jinks."

The upwards manager does not realize that their organization thinks poorly of them or outright does not respect them, if they do not share and bring the results down.  In the end, they are short timers.

Replies to the article are particularly interesting.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Open data

Celebration of open data, some interesting insights, still a ways to go.  Read the article at The Economist here.  Details from McKinsey, AidData, Open Government Foundation, Open Data Institute, and others.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Worldwide - Women's impact on economics, education, health, and politics

Delightful info-graphic from The Economist on women's impact on the various aspects of various countries around the world.  Read details here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Early education reinvention

Can creativity be killed?  Can the status quo be institutionalized?  It seems that is what some of the thought leaders are proving… delightful, as well as showing what it takes to move past it.

The latest article in Wired, "How a radical new teaching method could unleash a generation of geniuses" highlights.

"Peter Gray, a research professor at Boston College who studies children’s natural ways of learning, argues that human cognitive machinery is fundamentally incompatible with conventional schooling. Gray points out that young children, motivated by curiosity and playfulness, teach themselves a tremendous amount about the world. And yet when they reach school age, we supplant that innate drive to learn with an imposed curriculum. “We’re teaching the child that his questions don’t matter, that what matters are the questions of the curriculum. That’s just not the way natural selection designed us to learn. It designed us to solve problems and figure things out that are part of our real lives.”"

The story in the article of a teacher in the slums of a border town (to USA) transforming the capabilities of his students is a real world example of what is possible.  Note in the article that the status quo is unable to accept this transformation.  Read the complete article here.

See Mr. Sugata Mitra's Ted talk "Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud" below to hear one of the leaders leading the above change across the world.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Working hours versus productivity

A picture is worth a thousand words... perhaps more!

From The Economist here.

The above may be correct for corporations, in my experience in the entrepreneurial world the above curve is inverted.  But then "burn out" is a common occurrence as well.

UPDATE: I was asked given that I have created and led smaller companies and also been in multinational, why the curve does not apply to entrepreneurial or smaller ventures?

The answer is quite simple: Entrepreneurs work on what they love, can't stop thinking about, and want to make sure it is successful.  Same does not hold true in a multinational.  In larger corporations, mostly the work is assigned, loving what you do is not necessarily true, yet most of all, the creative mind is caught in the proxy battles.

What is a proxy battle?  A proxy battle is one where the executive layer of the company is vying and fighting for the top spot.  That creates a war, which disseminates down the hierarchical chain turning in proxy battles between the various organizations.

Generational characteristics

From The Economist here.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Entrepreneurs - break your bad

"A Harvard MBA will set you back $90,000 (plus two years’ lost income). You can buy a deluxe edition of all five seasons of “Breaking Bad”, complete with a plastic money barrel, for $209.99, or a regular edition for less than $80."

I had to pay attention when Schumpeter in the latest Economist called the television series "Breaking Bad" - "... one of the best studies available of the dynamics of modern business."

Using "Breaking Bad", Schumpeter highlights why successful entrepreneurs are able to turn insights, ideas, way of looking at the world in a contrarian way, into businesses:
  • Huge ambition.
  • Product obsession.
  • Partnerships and alliances.
Sounds like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and the like!

So, what is the draw back: Hubris - "An impressive volume of social-science studies suggests that leaders are more willing to break the rules than followers. There is no shortage of corporate examples, from Enron to Olympus, to illustrate this."  Fortunately, or unfortunately, this is human nature, and it will not change.  Of course, exceptions are there to prove the rule.

Enjoy the complete article here.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Gensler surveys design in work space

One of the design and architecture companies I follow is Gensler.  Most of their work shows that they comprehend the user and the consumer of the space well.  See Gensler here.

Mr. Gerald Gehm, Managing Director, Gensler, forwarded the this work space survey to me "2013 U.S. Workplace Survey; Key Findings."  Worth reading!

I took the liberty of pulling the following visual from one of Gensler's publications.  It describes the "work modes" an office worker lives.  Key is focus versus what has become the goal of work spaces i.e., collaboration.

See my previous blog "Design in work space" here; see my blogs on design in general here.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Design in work spaces

Are you working in an open office environment where the only thing the collaborative spaces drive you to is a deep desire to make another version of the Harlem Shake?

"Excessive collaboration can lead to the very opposite of creativity; groupthink, conformity and mediocrity."

Google's Venice Beach, California, USA offices.

The laggards in the industry, not revenue based but ones who do not have an impetus to relentlessly innovate, are trying to be Googlist in the environments they create for their employees.  With neither an understanding of their employees behavior nor how the users or consumers of the spaces they design, these faux Bauhaus architectures lie around as relics as soon as they are birthed.

"Over the past five years Gensler, a design firm, has asked more than 90,000 people in 155 companies in ten industries what they think of this way of working. It has found an astonishing amount of antipathy. Workers say that open-plan offices make it more difficult to concentrate, because the hubbub of human and electronic noise is so distracting. What they really value is the ability to focus on their jobs with as few distractions as possible."

Design is driving the question of who is the user and the consumer of whatever we engage in, and interior design for professional work environments is no exception.  The corporations that do not live on the leading edge are trying to copy experiments in employee environment development from the bleeding edge companies that are not best practices.  If you are not a Google, which innately has the DNA of allowing to fail fast to learn, you should consider caution as in Schumpeter's article in The Economist here.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Design in engineering

"... without the proper design, without considering how new products and services fit into people’s day-to-day lives, any new technology can be terrifying."

States the article in Wired here.

How many engineers in the world comprehend the power of design in bringing the intuition to life in a product?  Why do I ask? Because all products offer services, and if a product does not, it ceases to exist.

I welcome challenges to my belief above.

"The task of making this new world can’t be left up to engineers and technologists alone—otherwise we will find ourselves overrun with amazing capabilities that people refuse to take advantage of. Designers, who’ve always been adept at watching and responding to our needs, must bring to bear a better understanding of how people actually live. It’s up to them to make this new world feel like something we’ve always wanted and a natural extension of what we already have."

"Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect."

Design was introduced into my life when I was working at NCR Human Interface Technology Center. There were sociologists and psychologists working on designing experiences in virtual spaces.  It was fascinating to learn about how and why human beings act and behave the way they do and how to incorporate it via HCI and UXUI.

"But as designers move off of screens and into the larger world, they’ll need to consider every nuance of our everyday activity and understand human behavior every bit as well as novelists or filmmakers. (Otherwise they may engender the same kind of backlash as Google Glass, a potentially cool product that has unleashed a torrent of privacy concerns.)"

So, where can the engineer impact design?  Just look at a Mac logic board and one for a PC; the beauty of the Mac board makes grown up electrical engineers cry, or hide in their cubicles because they know such marvels are not their realm.

And for the software engineer:

"“AI is the new UI.” That is, the effort and attention that designers once poured into interfaces should be extended to code that doesn’t just react to the push of a button but anticipates your actions."

Human memories are of experiences; experiences are part art, part science; the right and the left brain has to come together for such to be accomplished.  We are steadily on our way.  I am afraid the industry doesn't have leaders like Steve Jobs to drive it.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Analytics Information

Couple of excellent education links from my Procter & Gamble colleague and friend Mr. Franz Dill on "Types of analytics" here and "Videos for learning R" here.

What is a "True Entrepreneur"?

I asked the directors at not one but three of the "12 Business Incubators Changing The World" in Forbes here, how many failures they have had?  (With incredulous looks on their faces) the directors basically said that they only accept applicant entrepreneurs who have an above 50% to 75% chance of success and that the incubator's successful functioning companies output rate is above 95%.  Are you kidding me?  Forbes put you in the Top 12 incubators!?

"... entrepreneurs are contrarian value creators. They see economic value where others see heaps of nothing. And they see business opportunities where others see only dead ends."

"Equally, there is a world of difference between the typical small-business owner (who dreams of opening another shop) and the true entrepreneur (who dreams of changing an entire industry)."

From a brilliant article form Schumpeter in July's The Economist on entrepreneurism, "Crazy diamonds" (quotes in this blog are from the article).

I believe in the "true entrepreneur".  Over the past three decades I have started, built, and sold companies, and lost out as well.  The ones I am talking about have been my ideas, and my investments.  My first functioning company was at the age of 10.  I carry the badge because I created two breakthrough successes out of the ashes of 2008, when most "untrue" entrepreneurs ran for the hills.  Specifically, on one of my ventures I was told failure was guaranteed!  Sorry that did not happen.

"True entrepreneurs" as defined above in Schumpeter's statement are rare, and think fundamentally differently about basic constructs.  A specific example in case is incremental approach to resolving a need versus continuously discovering ways to leapfrog the status quo to get an advantage.  Incrementalism is not a true entrepreneurs domain.

Mr. Daniel Isenberg states "that successful contrarians also need the self-confidence to defy conventional wisdom ... and the determination to overcome obstacles. Indeed, some of the best entrepreneurs are distinguished more by their ability to achieve the impossible than by the originality of their thinking."

These cannot be created through education, they are born with the genes.  Events and experience refine and carve them out.  They cannot be "grown" as in a crop; they cannot be "herded" to form large groups; and they cannot be told what to do and how to do it.

In drops policy makers to help as they may:

"The G20 countries hold an annual youth-entrepreneurship summit. More than 130 countries celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week. Business schools offer hugely popular courses on how to become an entrepreneur. Business gurus produce (often contradictory) guides to entrepreneurship: David Gumpert wrote both “How to Really Create a Successful Business Plan” and “Burn Your Business Plan!”."

"The policymakers are as confused as the gurus. They assume that it must mean new technology; so they try to create new Silicon Valleys. Or that it is about small businesses; so they focus on fostering start-ups. Both assumptions are misleading."

The super democratization of the true entrepreneur to "we are all entrepreneurs" is incorrect as well.  At least the market economics to some extent cleans out the wheat from the chaff in the entrepreneurs' case, most of the time.

The contrarians should not be reigned in or democratized.  Or perhaps that is what has happened to the US?

"Politicians and bureaucrats do not just confuse entrepreneurship with things they like—technology, small business—they also fail to recognise that it entails things that set their teeth on edge. Entrepreneurs thrive on inequality: the fabulous wealth they generate in America makes the country more unequal. They also thrive on disruption, which creates losers as well as winners."

The global corporate has recognized the power of the entrepreneur.  The corporate development organizations are out there hunting for the next breakthrough they know will not be created within their own borders.  Please see my previous blog "Large corporations and the desire to innovate" here.

In conclusion, "Joseph Schumpeter once argued that economic progress takes place in “cracks” and “leaps” rather than “infinitesimal small steps” because it is driven by rule-breaking entrepreneurs."

Please link to "Crazy diamonds" here... enjoy!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Large corporations and the desire to innovate

About a year ago, I read a three part blog series on large corporation's inability to innovate, particularly the breakthroughs that produce growth versus value results, at the Harvard Business Review website.  There are a few bits of information in the blogs that are valuable to be reminded of:

From the first blog here:

"Big companies are really bad at innovation because they're designed to be bad at innovation."

This is a generalization and perhaps shows a lack of experience on the author's part.  There are large companies like Procter & Gamble who have turned the model of innovation on its head.  While I was at P&G with its $84B in revenue, the company was spending over 5% on R&D, though interestingly over half of the funding was capturing innovation from the outside and being applied into its products.

In the second blog here:

"Mature corporations are designed to execute on the science of delivery — not engage in the art of discovery. They're bad at innovation by design: All the pressures and processes that drive them toward a profitable, efficient operation tend to get in the way of developing the innovations that can actually transform the business."

I cannot disagree with the above statement.  An ideal example of incrementalism driving efficiency is the much touted Six Sigma methodology.  It superbly squeezes out the last ounce of productivity from the humans and machines in the process, but it does not deliver any transformative breakthroughs.

From the third blog in the series here:

"No company ever dazzled the world by lackadaisically going after a market. Executives never reach the pinnacle of their industry by consistently taking timid action. So why, despite all the evidence to the contrary, do we see so many corporations dip their toes into the pool of innovation instead of diving in? Corporate innovation is already a difficult proposition; why doom it to failure by pursuing it half-heartedly?"

In this blog the author discusses Xerox PARC and how it has been the precursor to significant number of todays breakthroughs; while Xerox itself today is a poor reflection of what it could have been.  Another example of course is Kodak.

I believe that most large corporations live a self fulfilling prophecy of inevitably trapping themselves into linear cycle of starting with a breakthrough idea to accelerated growth to growth to value to sustain to divest (or bankruptcy) and ending in ceasing to be what they were or could have been. Yet, rare it is, exceptions do exist to prove the rule!  Perhaps perpetual growth is simply not possible.  Can Apple continue to wow the consumer forever?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What business can learn from military

One of the delights each week for me is to read Schumpeter in The Economist.

"Military mottoes make strong men cry:("The few, the proud"; "Who dares wins"). Most corporate mission statements make desk warriors cringe with embarrassment."

Military in however small or large a form or design has been one of the oldest institutions in the world.  They have always had a special forces concept and the general armed forces.  That is what the astute corporations are doing as well - creating a front end of innovation arm feeding the products or services development and deployment organizations.

Schumpeter's article here highlights the wealth of experience a military men and women bring to the table and their value to today's businesses.  The education provided to the military has tremendous knowledge embedded in it, with a few millennia of detailed case studies to learn from.

"An officer must never issue an order that will not be obeyed, so he must learn to gauge the mood of his men."

I had the opportunity to work with three corporate leaders across four companies who interestingly all were West Point graduates. Another individual, a colonel gave me the best advice when I choose to build two companies out of the ashes of the economic meltdown of 2008; "Recon ten times before you attack."  Because once the battle has begun, you are in it - in business, or otherwise.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bank balance of corporations

From The Economist back in February, 2013.  This is indeed thought provoking.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Design and customer experience

"No one buys a Swiss watch to find out what time it is.  The allure is intangible: precise engineering, beautifully displayed."

So states an article in The Economist.  Why does one drive a BMW versus a Ford?  "Precise engineering beautifully displayed."

See the graph to illustrate the point.

See more of my blogs related to design here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Random is a better pattern

I am sure the 2010 Nobel Prize winners Drs. Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo are well known for demonstrating mathematically that organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random. See details here.  See a Java based simulator to create your own organization and experiment here.

Now, (from the Wired) Drs. Pluchino and Alessio Biondo "took 15 years of data from four of the world’s biggest stock exchanges and pitted four top trading algorithms against one programmed to trade at random. The random algo did at least as well as the others—and it experienced a lot less day-to-day volatility."

Science is exploring new grounds. Is there true randomness or only unpredictability?

Read my related blogs "Predictions - Who to trust" here, and "Gorilla hiding in plain sight" here.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Power of Vision

Mr. Elon Musk is in the rocket business! A brilliant and serial entrepreneur, he heads SpaceX.  In all his ventures, I believe he looks at a future he wants to create, which most will not believe, or disagree with, yet he delivers.

Take for example the two companies that NASA has awarded International Space Station resupply contracts to - Orbital Sciences and SpaceX.  While reading an article on both, it was clear that SpaceX's rocket Falcon is designed with a breakthrough vision while Orbital Sciences' Antares is for the immediate.  The Article states:

"Musk's Falcon is designed to be scalable, with more engines - because ultimately he plans to send this space Ferrari to Mars.  The ISS is just a stepping stone."

Creative vision is the impetus to human innovation.

Please read more about Mr. Musk here.  Please read the Wired article here.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Creative Destruction from outside the sector

Joseph Schumpeter's Creative Destruction comes from the outside of the sector most of the time.  Vacuum tubes versus transistors; newspapers and print media versus digital content providers; etc.

Here is one in the making, which may up end a part of the medical sector: non-invasive surgery.  And it is not a medical doctor but a physicist who has come up with the breakthrough.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Innovation is coming from outside the sector

Breakthroughs emerge from within as much as from outside an industry. Mostly, inside the sector, the incumbent products market share forces Kodak's of the world to hide the digital camera they could have developed, or the Xerox's of the world to not create what could have transformed the company. The list goes on.

Yet, this lesson is not lost on the leaders in the oil and gas sector. It was delightful to read Mr. Gerald Schotman comments when he was asked recently, "What is an example of a freaky idea that became successful?" Mr. Schotman's replied:

"In the offshore business, there was a guy who went with his kids and bought one of these small plastic reptiles toys. If you put them in a bottle, they expand. Someone realized that if you want to seal off water zones in an offshore well, that is exactly the material you need. You put it next to the well, when the oil starts to turn to waters, then that material swells and closes off that water and the water will not interfere. It is a nice way of shutting off water zones. The thought required to develop that material and do tests – that was a nice freaky thing which is now a reality."

Read the complete conversation here.

Procter & Gamble has made this art into science a while back, see an article "Innovating from the outside in" here explaining some of the thought process and in market results.  The article states:

"We don't corner the market on good ideas and every good idea doesn't have to be ours," said Vice President of Business Development, Jeff Weedman. "The goal is to identify and collaborate with innovators who can help us consistently improve existing brands and create new products that delight the world's consumers."

See Procter & Gamble's Open Innovation program Connect + Develop here.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Visualization of Data

Previous Procter & Gamble colleague, Mr. Franz Dill writes about the Harvard Business Review article on visualization of data for decision support at P&G, "How P&G Presents Data to Decision-Makers".  The article states:

"... (Procter & Gamble) has institutionalized data visualization as a primary tool of management...  — over 50,000 P&G employees now have access to a "Decision Cockpit"..."

The author Dr. Thomas Davenport, a visiting professor at Harvard Business School, and a senior adviser to Deloitte Analytics, is particularly taken with heat maps.  I though am more aligned with Franz on this subject who states:

"In general, heat maps distort comparisons between data, so they are readily scan-able, but are not a good means for interacting with complex data. Other graphics shown in the article are more typical dashboard visualization styles."

Read Franz's complete blog here.

The author highlights a key insight:

"P&G's CIO Filippo Passerini calls it "getting beyond the what to the why and the how." If decision-makers have to spend too much time with the data figuring out what has happened in an important area of operations, they may never get to why it happened, or how to address the issue."

I previously wrote about the Business Sphere here.  Read the complete HBR article here.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Predictions - Who to trust?

Harvard Business Review publishes ""Experts" - Who beat the odds are probably just lucky".

"People whose predictions were most in line with conventional wisdom proved the most accurate overall. But those who made contrarian predictions that paid off big once or twice were viewed as the real market sages—even though their forecasts were incorrect more often than not."

Jerker Denrell answers the questions to prove the about point with his research. He is a professor of behavioral science at the Warwick Business School. One of the more interesting questions was:

"What leads people to make wild predictions? Personality? In the lab, that seems to be the case. In the world there are any number of incentives to make bold predictions. TV ratings, for example. Think of sports prognosticators. Being right about the upcoming game is much less important than getting people to tune in to their outrageous predictions. This is why we used Wall Street Journal inflation and interest rate predictions—those forecasters had no incentive to make optimistic predictions."

Read the complete article here.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Future of our identities

United Kingdom's Department of Business, Innovation & Skills provides an excellent study "The Future of Identity".  The report published by Sir John Beddington, UK's last Chief Scientist describes the trends, predicts changes, and suggest areas for actions related to our "notion of identity"!

Mr. Pallab Ghosh, science correspondent for the BBC discusses the report in his article "Web 're-defining' human identity says chief scientist".  He states specific to the impact of online social applications and role playing games:

"One consequence could be communities becoming less cohesive... This change could be harnessed to bring positive changes or if ignored could fuel social exclusion, says the study."

In specific, I enjoyed reading the part of the report on "Hyper-Connectivity".  Sir John Beddington said in his comments to BBC News:

""The most dynamic trend (in determining identity) is hyper-connectivity," ... "The collection and use of data by government and the private sector, the balancing of individual rights and liberties against privacy and security and the issue of how to tackle social exclusion, will be affected by these trends," he said. "I hope the evidence in today's report will contribute to the policy making process.""

I am curious to see the action UK's government plans to take as a result of the report.  There are generations alive today to whom the speed of change is excessively fast.  While the latest crop of tweens expect faster, smaller, cheaper, embedded, always on, realtime, push relevant content, etc. devices to continuously emerge every year.  A simple example is, some of today's tweens don't know what is laser disk, or any rotating digital storage device; they only understand unlimited storage and that too available to them wherever they are, independent of geography!  Absolutely fascinating.

Mr. Ghosh's article can be read here. The report can be downloaded here.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Copying innovation

The Economist's Schumpeter defends the claim that for businesses, being good at copying is at least as important as being innovative.

Let's start with the "Not invented here" syndrome:

"Some business people are willing to talk about the limitations of innovation. Kevin Rollins, a former chief executive of Dell, a computer-maker, asked, “If innovation is such a competitive weapon, why doesn't it translate into profitability?” But most remain obsessed with their own inventions. Copying is taboo. Praise and promotion do not go to employees who borrow from other firms."

How fascinating! In contrast, the entrepreneurial world, the entrepreneur is hard dependent on his predecessors failures for his own successes.  The breakthroughs of the fast moving startup company is based on its leapfrog innovation that is built on the last failure or poor execution.

"History shows that imitators often end up winners. Who now remembers Chux, the first disposable nappies, whose thunder was stolen by Pampers? Ray Kroc, who built McDonald's, copied White Castle, inventor of the fast-food burger joint. ... A study by Peter Golder and Gerard Tellis, “Pioneer Advantage: Marketing Logic or Marketing Legend”, found that innovators captured only 7% of the market for their product over time."

Excesses in any direction do not serve, though for the astute corporate, there are times to drive extremes on inventions and at times it works to simply copy.  An example is GM; it was a copy and paste platform for japanese front wheel drive cars, specifically in the 1980s and the 1990s.  They captured the revenue, though the product was poor.

Schumpeter ends with:

"Excessive copying, of course, could be bad for society as a whole. Joseph Schumpeter worried that if innovators could not get enough reward from new products because imitators were taking so much of the profit, they would spend less on developing them (hence the justification for granting inventors temporary monopolies in the form of patents). But that is not the immediate concern of corporations. Copying is here to stay; businesses may as well get good at it."

Read the complete article "Pretty profitable parrots" here.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Measuring Innovation

Ms. Kathleen Papageorgiou, old GE colleague passes along a HBR blog post on "How to really measure a company's innovation prowess" by Mr. Scott Anthony.

A fanscinating subject indeed!  Creativity driven innovation remains an art.  Artists are the least understood among human capital.  In our drive to understand the "artist", we are incrementalizing innovation so it can be made generic, and all can feel they are innovators.  Just as leaders are born, and circumstances enable them to emerge such as George Washington and Ghandi, similarly, innovators like Mr. Steve Jobs of Apple and Dr. Gordon Moore, founder of Intel, are born to be one.

Mr. Anthony highlights the reality of innovators below:

"Until they do, at least be wary of the next company that graces a magazine cover. After all, half of the top 20 companies traded on U.S. equity markets* on BusinessWeek's 2008 list ended up underperforming broader market indices between March 2008 and March 2013. While strong performance by and Apple meant an investment in those 20 companies beat an investment in the S&P 500, Blackberry (see Research in Motion), General Motors, Nokia, Sony, and Toyota certainly have had their share of difficulties over that time period."

Read the complete article here.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Fail Fast" - Can the corporate begin to think about it?

Colleague Mr. Aali Raza passes along an article "Oh, the joys of screwing up".  Though a delight to read, the reality on the ground for the corporations when it comes to the concept of "fail fast" remains a stretch.  The deliverables are quarter bound, Christianson's middle manager is a bottle neck most of the time, and "the" street must be satisfied in case of publicly traded companies. What is the answer? And who is leading the way?

See my previous blog "Branson, redefining capitalism" here for further interesting insights.

"Our ability to "think different" may be as much a result of what we stop doing as what we start. Learning to do anything new requires sufficient time to acquire the capability. Learn to play an instrument or speak a foreign language and the point becomes clear. All learning is developmental regardless of age. The point is that real innovation requires that we get to a destination we have never been to before and by a new route. We make it up as we go along. Otherwise it's just another lap around the planning circuit."

Read the complete article here.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Be Inspired to Create

Dean Haroon, my son forwards to me the impossible, creation of music from garbage.  Perhaps we can learn from the video below from Paraguay's Landfill Harmonic - The Recycled Orchestra.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Invention Trading

From multiple legal battles between Oracle and Google over patent and copyright claims related to Java programming language, to Apple, Samsung, and others fighting over smartphone patents, the Economist writes here:

"Accusations abound that innovation is taking a back seat to litigation. Only the lawyers are smiling."

Enter Intellectual Property Exchange International (IPXI), a financial exchange that let's organizations trade and hedge patents like assets.  See IPXI here.

"The idea is to offer a patent or group of patents as “unit licence rights” (ULRs), which can be bought and sold like shares. A ULR grants a one-time right to use a particular technology in a single product: a new type of airbag sensor in a car, say. If a company wants to use the technology in 100,000 cars, it buys 100,000 ULRs at the market price."

The concept has traction and continues to sign up members such as Panasonic, see further news on it here.  The article concludes with:

"Good news for innovators, perhaps, but bad news for lawyers."


In support of SXSW, here is an excellent info graphic showing the impact of SXSW and to persuade you to consider going. Well done Rocksauce Studios!

Please move your cursor on the image for options to view.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

World Economic Forum & Global Leadership's Integrity

At one point I used to admire most of the discussions from the World Economic Forum.  In 2006, I found the excitement at WEF hit hyperbole levels, and insights from a very few, such as Mr. Nouriel Roubini, were ignored, if not outright neglected.  See Mr Roubini's article in the EconoMonitor here regarding his 2006 speech at Davos.

In the January, 2013, The Economist's Schumpeter brought this hyperbole into reality:

"...when the public look at what is on offer [WEF at DAVOS], they are not impressed. Many of the bankers and politicians caught dozing by the financial crisis were regulars at Davos. Ordinary folk trust Davos Man no more than they would a lobbyist for the Worldwide Federation of Weasels. A survey by Edelman, a public-relations firm, finds that only 18% of people trust business leaders to tell the truth. For political leaders, the figure is 13%."

The article goes on to question the current global leadership and its various pitfalls today.

What I am interested in highlighting is that a corporate and political leadership that has grown up during the times when the past pretty consistently and with regular intervals repeated itself, are unable to comprehend the the continuous flux of economics, need for flexibility with sustainability, and the march of technology driving democratization.  The days of living the efficiency and effectiveness mantra do exist though without extreme agility across all aspect of business and government, only create dilemmas such as two economic crisis within a decade (2002 and 2009).

"...there is still a flaw with the very notion of global leadership. Abraham Lincoln observed that “nearly all men can stand adversity but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Similar temptations afflict those who are given the title of “young global leader”. Clever businesspeople have a tendency to be arrogant at the best of the times; telling them that they are masters of the universe can only magnify it. Arrogance breeds mistakes: look at all the empire-building bosses who attempt ambitious mergers despite ample evidence that such mergers usually fail."

It is a time for a 21st century global leadership to emerge, and I believe it will not be crafted through the amalgamation of the old to drive the status quo.  Key to this new leadership in the corporate and political worlds will be to know that they do not know the unknowns that are to challenge them.

So... the question is, how does one prepare for the unknown unknowns?  One thing is for certain, it will not be learned by extrapolating the past!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Gorilla hiding in plain sight

It is proven fact that through training, individuals improve upon a particular type of learned behavior.  The learned behavior inherently disables the individual, the more they train, to not look at what is outside the boundaries of their learned behavior; it is not important.

Yet, that is where the breakthroughs exist today, just beyond the boundaries.  Technology has enabled the availability of knowledge that was created and retained within an individual over years.

Researchers at Harvard recently conducted experiments to further validate the above fact, and more commonly known as the Invisible Gorilla.

""If you watch radiologists do what they do, [you're] absolutely convinced that they are like superhuman," says Trafton Drew, an attention researcher at Harvard Medical School."

"He took a picture of a man in a gorilla suit shaking his fist, and he superimposed that image on a series of slides that radiologists typically look at when they're searching for cancer. He then asked a bunch of radiologists to review the slides of lungs for cancerous nodules. He wanted to see if they would notice a gorilla the size of a matchbook glaring angrily at them from inside the slide."

"But they didn't: 83 percent of the radiologists missed it, Drew says."

"This wasn't because the eyes of the radiologists didn't happen to fall on the large, angry gorilla. Instead, the problem was in the way their brains had framed what they were doing. They were looking for cancer nodules, not gorillas, so "they look right at it, but because they're not looking for a gorilla, they don't see that it's a gorilla.""

Read further details, videos, and references here.

Monday, February 11, 2013


Previous Procter & Gamble colleague Franz Dill writes about gamification here.  Collaboration and competition driving management of behavior to direct and produce specific results... magic, gold dust, music to the ears of corporate managers?

And here is a TED talk by Jane McGonigal on the subject.

The Economist's Schumpeter pipes in with some insights here, though it warns:

"Level-headed management types, meanwhile, say that many of the aspects of gamification that do work are merely old ideas in trendy new clothes. High-score lists for sales staff, for example, have been around for decades, as have employee-of-the-month contests. Airlines were giving points and perks to loyal customers long before anyone had heard of “Farmville”."

Needless to say, angel investors, and venture capitalists are jumping on the hype cycle.  Get ready to for gamification of cooking to shampooing of your hair to gamifying consumption of utterly repulsive food and that too for babies.  I am interested in seeing what do the management consultants come up with!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Prediction Markets and Elections

Rather than developing mathematical models for prediction and decision support, should organizations consider designing methods for managed betting!  It seems like betting has continued to predict the election outcomes in the USA correctly, and companies like InTrade may just set the next transformation driven by leveraging social behavior in how to think about the future.

Visit Intrade's website here, it is worth a visit.

Though do note from The Economist article here:

"It now appears that the spotlight may have done Intrade more harm than good. On November 26th America’s Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) sued the company for allowing betting on the prices of products, such as oil and gold, which trade on derivatives markets it regulates. (In 2005 Intrade had promised the CFTC not to offer such contracts.) In response to the suit, the firm announced it would no longer let Americans trade on its site."

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Entrepreneurship in Healthcare

The health law passed in 2010, now come to be known more commonly as Obamacare, seems to have inspired a bourgeoning of health care centric entrepreneurial activity.

The Economist writes:

"Smaller companies are coming up with ways to help bigger ones cope. Venture-capital firms see at least two promising areas: companies that serve consumers directly and those that help hospitals provide better, cheaper care. For some firms, Obamacare is a direct boon. For example,, which helps people choose health insurance online, is also helping set up California’s insurance exchange. Since the election more states have asked about its services. Peter Hudson of iTriage, which lets a patient tap symptoms into a mobile app and search for doctors nearby, thinks Obamacare will add to his firm’s growth. By directing patients to general practitioners rather than pricey specialists, iTriage may cut costs for ACOs."

I continue to keep an ear out to this sector to see if Obamacare does truly enable a resurgence of creativity where it usually comes from, the one or two man shop, the tinkerer, the thinker of impossible concepts, ... the entrepreneur.

Perhaps, here the political aisles are being crossed?

"The most interesting model may belong to athenahealth, which offers hospitals and doctors billing, electronic health records and other services. Start-ups pitch to athena’s customers at the company’s “More Disruption Please” conference. The winners get to offer their products to the 35,000 doctors in athena’s network, alongside athena’s own. HealthFinch and iTriage are both due to join. Jonathan Bush, athena’s boss (and a cousin of George W.) favours young companies that help hospitals work better by doing the jobs “that all doctors hate and suck at”."

Read the complete article here.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Business Model: Tata Sons

The Economist publishes excellent articles.  Yet, at times, a disappointment does emerge.  While discussing the $100 billion conglomerate and the transition of Mr. Cyrus Mistry to the Chairman of the company, the magazine disappointed in completely missing the history of why Tata Sons' ethos are as they are, while complaining about it sustained growth rates of 3% to 4%.

Tata was founded by Mr. Jamsetji Tata, a Parsi (or Zoroastrian).  The core of Tata companies has always been social sustainability and ethical conduct.

A founder of one of the largest private equity firms in the USA told me recently that he will not work with any company in India, except for a Tata company.  He said simply, "They don't take or give bribes, and they don't lie."

The article states:

"The Jack Welch comedy club
This is the sort of approach that Tata veterans disdain. They see the “kill, cure or sell” philosophy of famous Western managers of conglomerates, such as Jack Welch of GE, as comically macho and short-sighted. One divisional head admits: “Return on capital is not at the centre of our business. Our purpose is nation-building, employment and acquiring technical skills.” This benevolence even applies to staff abroad. Embattled Tata Steel Europe has 33,000 employees."

Perhaps it is time for Capitalism driven on quarterly returns to have a longer term view for the health and well being of its employees and the society.  But then it may not be considered Capitalism with a capital 'C'.

Read the complete article here.  Read the "Purpose and values" of Tata here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Innovation in practice

I prescribe to the following definition of innovation: "A novel idea, put into practice that offers value to the customers and/or the society." Fisher, Biviji, & Nair, 2011.

Dr. Sebastian Thrun's (top, right) Stanford University team won the 2005 DARPA Challenge for an autonomous automotive. I choose to kick-off 2013 with this example of innovation in practice as it highlights two foundational facts regarding product innovation:
  • Traditional product development methods with unlimited resources and funding can produce results, but not necessarily innovation.
  • Innovation is about novel ways of doing things, which must disrupt with very large positive margins the cost of doing business, or time to market or resource requirements or all.
Dr. Thrun's team was substantially smaller than his competition Dr. Whittaker who had over one hundred strong team.  Dr. Whittaker had a war chest of $3,000,000.  It is simply delightful to see how different the two approaches are and how Dr. Thrun won the DARPA Challenge.

A key highlight of Dr. Thrun's approach was to quickly identify commoditized processes and technologies, leverage the power of commoditization to focus on the breakthrough from the start.  As stated in "Stanley: The Robot that Won the DARPA Grand Challenge":

"Before both the 2004 and 2005 Grand Challenges, DARPA revealed to the competitors that a stock 4WD pickup truck would be physically capable of traversing the entire course. These announcements suggested that the innovations necessary to successfully complete the challenge would be in designing intelligent driving software, not in designing exotic vehicles. This announcement and the performance of the top finishers in the 2004 race guided the design philosophy of the Stanford Racing Team: Treat autonomous navigation as a software problem."

Read the complete paper "Stanley: The Robot that Won the DARPA Grand Challengehere.  Watch the PBS video of the race and be inspired to innovate.  The transcript of the video is available here.