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.