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How to keep creative geniuses in check and in profit
March 10, 2019 | Financial Times | by Andrew Hill.

The story of how Eastman Kodak invented a digital camera in 1975 but failed to develop it is one of the most notorious misses in the annals of innovation. (It’s more complicated than that, but never mind.)

Polaroid, the instant-photo pioneer, took a slower path to the technology: its first digital camera appeared only in 1996. It filed for bankruptcy in 2001, 11 years before Kodak.
Polaroid’s founding genius, Edwin Land, could, though, have been first to the digital party. In 1971, as part of a secret panel advising the US president, he advocated digital photography, which the US eventually adopted for its spy satellites.
But Land was blind to the promise of digital cameras for the consumer.

This tale of failures of leadership, innovation and organisation is well told by Safi Bahcall, a physicist, former consultant and biotech entrepreneur, in Loonshots. There are four types of failure:
(1) Leadership failure. Edwin Land was guilty of leading his company into a common trap: only ideas approved by an all-powerful leader advance until at last a costly mis-step trips up the whole company.
(2) Innovation failure. Bahcall distinguishes between product-type and strategy-type innovation. Classic P-type innovators are the folks at innovation conferences conversing about new gadgets with less attention being paid to the analysis of innovative business models. Indeed, at some forums, P-type innovations also crowd the lobby. Delegates line up to try the latest shiny robot, electric car, or 3D printer.

(3) Organizational failure. Loonshots is based, refreshingly, on the idea culture does not necessarily eat strategy for breakfast. In fact, bad structure eats culture. Bahcall gives this a scientific foundation, explaining that successful teams and companies stagnate in the same way water turns to ice. A perfectly balanced innovative company must try to keep the temperature at the point where free-flowing bright ideas are not suddenly frozen by bureaucracy. How? Since the success of Bell Labs, companies have been told they should set up “a department of loonshots run by loons, free to explore the bizarre” separately from the parent. The key, though, is to ensure chief executives and their managers encourage the transfer of ideas between the mad creatives in the lab and the people in the field, and (the culture part) ensure both groups feel equally loved.

As for the assumption companies always ossify as they get larger, that risk can be mitigated by adjusting incentives, curbing office politics, and matching skills to projects, for which Loonshots offers a detailed formula.

Success also requires a special type of leader — not a visionary innovator but a “careful gardener”, who nurtures the existing franchise and the new projects. Though not himself an inventor, Steve Jobs, in his second phase at Apple, arguably achieved the right balance. He also spotted the S-type potential of iTunes. Even if Tesla’s Elon Musk is not losing that balance, in his headlong, top-down pursuit of loonshot after loonshot, he does not strike me as a born gardener.

Persuading charismatic geniuses to give up their role as leaders of organisations built on their inventions is hard. Typically, such people figure out themselves how to garden, as Jobs did; or they are coached by the board, which may install veteran executives to help; or they may be handed the title of “chief innovator” or “chief scientist” and nudged aside for a new CEO.

(4) They may find themselves peddling a fatally flawed product.
Bell_Labs  books  breakthroughs  business_models  creativity  digital_cameras  Edwin_Land  Elobooks  Elon_Musk  failure  genius  howto  incentives  innovation  inventors  Kodak  leaders  moonshots  office_politics  organizational_failure  organizational_innovation  Polaroid  product-orientated  Steve_Jobs 
march 2019 by jerryking
Skeuomorphs: our little digital helpers
February 27, 2019 | Financial Times | by Lucy Watson.

Skeuomorphs are design elements that mimic older, precursor objects. They crop up everywhere, but especially in software interfaces: consider the shutter-release sound of a digital camera or the original yellow legal pad of an iPhone Notes app, or the Windows MP3 player that looked like an amp and speakers. Interactive icons that are shaded to look like 3D buttons, floating above your home screen, are a minimalist species of skeuomorph......On the iPhone, skeuomorphs acted as a guide for users unfamiliar with touchscreens: the bulbous shading of an icon meant it could be pressed, a representation of a leather-bound Filofax was where phone numbers were kept, and so on. These visual elements act as little markers of a shift in our development: they were designed to make the devices that they populated look as if they had one foot in the pre-digital era (i.e. analog). Which is almost a lifetime ago.....Yet for all Apple’s efforts to fetishise the immaculately virtual, the smartphone is still a physical object that demands some haptic interaction — even if it’s just a swipe.....In order to create a more watertight device, the home button had been replaced by a dimple. It cannot be depressed as a button would, but a vibrating motor within the phone called a “taptic engine” recreates the physical feedback a button would provide. It’s another type of skeuomorph: an electronic interface given the familiar feel of a mechanical component
skeuomorphs  design  GUI  icons  iPhone  millennials  software  analogies  haptics  senses  prompts  cues  digital_cameras 
february 2019 by jerryking
Polaroid. Walkman. Palm Pilot. iPhone?
Jan. 11, 2019 | WSJ | By John D. Stoll.

The iPhone is arguably the most valuable product in the world, representing the backbone of Apple Inc.’s AAPL -0.98% half-trillion-dollar hardware business and undergirding its software-peddling App store. It remains the envy of consumer-product companies world-wide.

If history is any indication, though, America’s favorite handheld device will someday take up residence with the digital camera, the calculator, the pager, Sony’s Walkman and the Palm Pilot in a museum. Although it’s hard to imagine the iPhone dying, change can sneak up rapidly on contraptions that are deeply entrenched in American culture......“Over time, every franchise dies,” said Nick Santhanam, McKinsey’s Americas practice leader in Silicon Valley. “You can innovate on an amazing mousetrap, but if people eventually don’t want a mousetrap, you’re screwed.” Kodak, Polaroid and Sears are all examples from the recent past of companies that held too tightly to an old idea.....Apple, for the better part of the 2000s, was the master of the next big thing: the iPod, the MacBook Air, the iPad, the iPhone. Apple wasn’t always first, but its products were easier to use, thinner, cooler.

With the success of the iPhone since it arrived on the scene, the next big thing has been harder to find. Apple has had no breakthrough on TV, a modest success with its watch, a stumble in music and a lot of speculation concerning its intentions for autonomous cars or creating original programming. Can Apple’s greatest strength could be its biggest weakness?.....Whatever shape it takes, Apple’s evolution will be closely watched if only because reinvention is so hard to pull off. A decade ago, Nokia’s dominance in handheld devices evaporated after executives failed to create a compelling operating system to make their pricey smartphones more user-friendly. Finnish executives have told me on several occasions that Nokia knew it needed to rapidly change, but lacked the urgency and resources to do it....The Model T almost entirely underpinned Ford Motor Co.’s rise a century ago, when the Detroit auto maker owned roughly half of the U.S. car market. ....Both Ford and Microsoft adapted and survived. Iconic vehicles like Ford’s Mustang coupe or F-150 pickup prove companies can live a productive life after the initial hit product fades. Microsoft’s transition to cloud computing with its Azure product, meanwhile, has vaulted the company back near the top of the race for the title of world’s most valuable company.
Apple  change  CPG  decline  Ford  iPhone  Microsoft  Nokia  reinvention  Tim_Cook  inventions  rapid_change  next_play  Polaroid  digital_cameras 
january 2019 by jerryking
The opportunities left behind when innovation shakes up old industries
November 28, 2018 | The Globe and Mail | GUY NICHOLSON.

early meetings and phone calls were casual conversations with a couple of landscape photographers who specialize in golf.

The very nature of their business had changed fundamentally...After the Internet disrupted print magazines and media, they recast themselves as digital marketers, selling online rights to images created with high-tech arrays of digital cameras, drones and processing software. But even while embracing technology to take their work to new artistic heights, there were dramatically fewer places left for golfers to come across this art in print......Had their little corner of publishing been so thoroughly disrupted and abandoned that it now had more demand than supply? .....Technological innovation can be extremely disruptive and painful – and in the digital era, capable of changing entire industries seemingly overnight. But when creative destruction puts good things in peril, slivers of opportunity can emerge. After the masses and the smart money have flocked to newer technologies, formerly ultra-competitive spaces can be left wide open for innovation – abandoned fields for small businesses, start-ups and niche players to occupy.

It helps to offer a level of quality or service the bigger players consider uneconomical. Look at the travel industry, which has been thoroughly remade under waves of innovation: cellphones, digital cameras, GPS, Google Maps. Between internet comparison shopping and Airbnb, travel agents could have gone the way of the traveller’s cheque. But in the wake of all that disruption, tiny bespoke agencies specializing in advice, unique experiences, complicated itineraries and group travel have re-emerged to offer services too niche for the big digital players.....Similar things are happening in industries such as gaming, where video games have cleared the way for board-game cafes, and vinyl music, which survived the onslaught of MP3s and streaming music on the strength of nostalgia, millennial fascination and sound quality. As the rest of the industry moved into digital, neighbourhood record stores and small manufacturers picked up the pieces, catering to an enthusiastic subset of music buyers.

“We were growing very rapidly, not because vinyl was growing, but because a lot of pressing plants were going out of business,” Ton Vermeulen, a Dutch DJ and artist manager who bought a former Sony record plant in 1998, told Toronto journalist David Sax in his 2016 book The Revenge of Analog. Vinyl is back in the mainstream, but its disruption cleared the field for smaller players.

Abandoned fields aren’t for everyone. Building a business around an off-trend service or product can be a tough slog (jck: hard work)for fledgling businesses and entrepreneurs, and risky. In the case of the golf photographers, two dozen artists signed up to create a high-end subscription magazine. It’s beautiful, but with two years of work riding on a four-week Kickstarter campaign, there’s no guarantee this particular field will prove to have been worth reclaiming.

Of course, risk has always been part of small business. But a market waiting to be served – that’s a precious thing. As long as there is disruption, it will create opportunities for small businesses to reoccupy abandoned fields
abandoned_fields  analog  bespoke  books  counterintuitive  creative_destruction  David_Sax  digital_artifacts  digital_cameras  disruption  hard_work  high-risk  high-touch  innovation  Kickstarter  new_businesses  niches  off-trends  opportunities  photography  print_journalism  small_business  start_ups  structural_decline  travel_agents 
december 2018 by jerryking
Why big companies squander good ideas
August 6, 2018 | | Financial Times | Tim Harford

.....Organisations from newspapers to oil majors to computing giants have persistently struggled to embrace new technological opportunities, or recognise new technological threats, even when the threats are mortal or the opportunities are golden. Why do some ideas slip out of the grasp of incumbents, then thrive in the hands of upstarts?.....“Disruption describes what happens when firms fail because they keep making the kinds of choices that made them successful,” says Joshua Gans, an economist at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto and author of The Disruption Dilemma. Successful organisations stick to their once-triumphant strategies, even as the world changes around them. More horses! More forage!

Why does this happen? Easily the most famous explanation comes from Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School. Christensen’s 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, told a compelling story about how new technologies creep up from below: they are flawed or under-developed at first, so do not appeal to existing customers. Holiday snappers do not want to buy digital cameras the size of a shoebox and the price of a car.

However, Christensen explains, these technologies do find customers: people with unusual needs previously unserved by the incumbent players. The new technology gets better and, one day, the incumbent wakes up to discover that an upstart challenger has several years’ head start — and once-loyal customers have jumped ship.
............Within academia, Rebecca Henderson’s ideas about architectural innovation are widely cited, and she is one of only two academics at Harvard Business School to hold the rank of university professor. The casual observer of business theories, however, is far more likely to have heard of Clayton Christensen, one of the most famous management gurus on the planet.

That may be because Christensen has a single clear theory of how disruption happens — and a solution, too: disrupt yourself before you are disrupted by someone else. That elegance is something we tend to find appealing.

The reality of disruption is less elegant — and harder to solve. Kodak’s position may well have been impossible, no matter what managers had done. If so, the most profitable response would have been to vanish gracefully.

“There are multiple points of failure,” says Henderson. “There’s the problem of reorganisation. There’s the question of whether the new idea will be profitable. There are cognitive filters. There is more than one kind of denial. To navigate successfully through, an incumbent organisation has to overcome every one of these obstacles.”

......Henderson added that the innovators — like Fuller — are often difficult people. “The people who bug large organisations to do new things are socially awkward, slightly fanatical and politically often hopelessly naive.” Another point of failure......The message of Henderson’s work with Kim Clark and others is that when companies or institutions are faced with an organisationally disruptive innovation, there is no simple solution. There may be no solution at all. “I’m sorry it’s not more management guru-ish,” she tells me, laughing. “But anybody who’s really any good at this will tell you that this is hard.”
Apple  blitzkrieg  disruption  ideas  IBM  innovation  iPod  missed_opportunities  hard_work  Rotman  Steve_Jobs  theory  Tim_Harford  upstarts  large_companies  WWI  Xerox  Walkman  Clayton_Christensen  organizational_change  organizational_structure  MPOF  militaries  digital_cameras 
september 2018 by jerryking
Innovation: less shock and more awe
And al­though people say they like new things, often what they want is mere­ly for existing things to work better.

Innovations must be bought repeatedly if they are to succeed commercially. As Simon Roberts, an anthropologist and director of Stripe Partners, an innovation agency in London, puts it: “Businesses often look on innovations as ‘new things’. But to understand how new things become part of the everyday, it’s more helpful to think of them as skills and habits consumers ac­quire.”

Innovations that fit current circumstances may stand a better chance of bedding in than those that tear up the rule book.

How to turn an innovation into a consumer habit

●Respect social norms and work around any existing infrastructure. Even disruptive innovations need to fit into the world as it is – at least initially.

●Choose your words Analogies can help people grasp how innovations work and by referencing familiar things make the unfamiliar less daunting – for instance using “checkout” for online shopping.

●Show, not tell Bombarding people with data rarely helps. Concentrate instead on creating opportunities for people to experiment with innovations first hand.

●Engage the senses Building prompts and cues into new technologies – the swoosh signifying a text message has been sent, the artificial shutter click on digital cameras – is reassuring for novices.

●Get verbal Names that sound good as verbs − as in Skyping or Googling − encourage consumers to think of innovations as things others are embracing, which they should perhaps do too.
robotics  automation  autonomous_vehicles  innovation  habits  prompts  cues  adaptability  anthropologists  experiential_marketing  skills  customer_adoption  cultural_divides  analogies  social_norms  experimentation  haptics  senses  digital_cameras 
november 2017 by jerryking
Google Correlate: Your data, Google's computing power
Google Correlate is awesome. As I noted in Search Notes last week, Google Correlate is a new tool in Google Labs that lets you upload state- or time-based data to see what search trends most correlate with that information.

Correlation doesn't necessarily imply causation, and as you use Google Correlate, you'll find that the relationship (if any) between terms varies widely based on the topic, time, and space.

For instance, there's a strong state-based correlation between searches for me and searches for Vulcan Capital. But the two searches have nothing to do with each other. As you see below, the correlation is that the two searches have similar state-based interest.

For both searches, the most volume is in Washington state (where we're both located). And both show high activity in New York.

State-based data

For a recent talk I gave in Germany, I downloaded state-by-state income data from the U.S. Census Bureau and ran it through Google Correlate. I found that high income was highly correlated with searches for [lohan breasts] and low income was highly correlated with searches for [police shootouts]. I leave the interpretation up to you.

By default, the closest correlations are with the highest numbers, so to get correlations with low income, I multiplied all of the numbers by negative one.

Clay Johnson looked at correlations based on state obesity rates from the CDC. By looking at negative correlations (in other words, what search queries are most closely correlated with states with the lowest obesity rates), we see that the most closely related search is [yoga mat bags]. (Another highly correlated term is [nutrition school].)

Maybe there's something to that "working out helps you lose weight" idea I've heard people mention. Then again, another highly correlated term is [itunes movie rentals], so maybe I should try the "sitting on my couch, watching movies work out plan" just to explore all of my options.

To look at this data more seriously, we can see with search data alone that the wealthy seem to be healthier (at least based on obesity data) than the poor. In states with low obesity rates, searches are for optional material goods, such as Bose headphones, digital cameras, and red wine and for travel to places like Africa, Jordan, and China. In states with high obesity rates, searches are for jobs and free items.

With this hypothesis, we can look at other data (access to nutritious food, time and space to exercise, health education) to determine further links.

Time-based data

Time-based data works in a similar way. Google Correlate looks for matching patterns in trends over time. Again, that the trends are similar doesn't mean they're related. But this data can be an interesting starting point for additional investigation.

One of the economic indicators from the U.S. Census Bureau is housing inventory. I looked at the number of months' supply of homes at the current sales rate between 2003 and today. I have no idea how to interpret data like this (the general idea is that you, as an expert in some field, would upload data that you understand). But my non-expert conclusion here is that as housing inventory increases (which implies no one's buying), we are looking to spiff up our existing homes with cheap stuff, so we turn to Craigslist.

Of course, it could also be the case that the height of popularity of Craiglist just happened to coincide with the months when the most homes were on the market, and both are coincidentally declining at the same rate.

Search-based data

You can also simply enter a search term, and Google will analyze the state or time-based patterns of that term and chart other queries that most closely match those patterns. Google describes this as a kind of Google Trends in reverse.

Google Insights for Search already shows you state distribution and volume trends for terms, and Correlate takes this one step further by listing all of the other terms with a similar regional distribution or volume trend.

For instance, regional distribution for [vegan restaurants] searches is strongly correlated to the regional distribution for searches for [mac store locations].

What does the time-trend of search volume for [vegan restaurants] correlate with? Flights from LAX.

Time-based data related to a search term can be a fascinating look at how trends spark interest in particular topics. For instance, as the Atkins Diet lost popularity, so too did interest in the carbohydrate content of food.

Interest in maple syrup seems to follow interest in the cleanse diet (of which maple syrup is a key component).

Drawing-based data

Don't have any interesting data to upload? Aren't sure what topic you're most interested in? Then just draw a graph!

Maybe you want to know what had no search volume at all in 2004, spiked in 2005, and then disappeared again. Easy. Just draw it on a graph.

Apparently the popular movies of the time were "Phantom of the Opera," "Darkness," and "Meet the Fockers." And we all were worried about our Celebrex prescriptions.

(Note: the accuracy of this data likely is dependent on the quality of your drawing skills.)

OSCON Data 2011, being held July 25-27 in Portland, Ore., is a gathering for developers who are hands-on, doing the systems work and evolving architectures and tools to manage data. (This event is co-located with OSCON.)

Save 20% on registration with the code OS11RAD

Related:

Data science democratized
Dashboards evolve to meet social and business needs
A new focus on user-friendly data analysis
Social data is an oracle waiting for a question
causality  Data  Future_of_Search  analytics  datatool  googlecorrelate  via:moon  house  LBMA  OPMA  correlations  time-based  geographic_sorting  tools  digital_cameras 
july 2015 by jerryking
Loblaw’s big bet on thinking small - The Globe and Mail
Jul. 16 2013 | G&M | SUSAN KRASHINSKY AND JOSH KERR.
(Charles Waud & WaudWare)
The push into the small-format direction is driven by changing consumer habits, as demands on time force consumers to look for more one-stop shopping solutions in their neighbourhoods, without having to drive to bigger retailers. The convenience store industry has already responded by attempting to alter its down-market image and offering more fresh foods. Loblaw has integrated pharmacies, as well as health and beauty products, into its locations. And along with Shoppers, drugstores have increasingly been selling everything from digital cameras and iPods to milk and dry goods, household items, and expanded beauty products.

This not only helps those retailers to market themselves to busy, younger urban shoppers, but it also addresses Canada’s aging population. Seniors are the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, and prefer to stick closer to home when running errands, Mr. Tyghe observed. “It’s very much about proximity and convenience.”

While the new general store model has worked for Shoppers – the price per share of Loblaw’s offer represents a 27-per-cent premium to Shoppers’ closing price a day before the announcement – there is room for Shoppers to improve in its food offerings, said Doug Stephens, author of The Retail Revival. The challenge, he said, will be to augment that section with some of Loblaw’s products without disrupting the overall shopping experience.

“They have to be very careful with the Shoppers Drug Mart model – a lot of allegiance there,” Mr. Stephens said.

Ultimately, the advantages for Shoppers stem from the buying power the chain inherits, which will allow it to provide whatever product mix works for changing consumer habits at a lower cost.

The “buying clout and synergies” Shoppers would gain post-acquisition will prompt competitors to find ways to match these benefits, said Kevin Grier, a senior market analyst at the George Morris Centre
big_bets  buying_power  convenience_stores  digital_cameras  downsizing  grocery  Loblaws  mergers_&_acquisitions  one-stop_shop  pharmacies  post-deal_integration  proximity  retailers  Shoppers  size  small_spaces  store_footprints  supermarkets  supply_chains  Susan_Krashinsky  synergies  time-strapped 
august 2013 by jerryking

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