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Business leaders are blinded by industry boundaries
April 22, 2019 | Financial Times | Rita McGrath.

Why is it so hard for executives to anticipate the major shifts that can determine the destiny of their organisations? Andy Grove called these moments “strategic inflection points”. For some, he wrote, “That change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end.”

Industry leaders would do well to focus on productive opportunities, even when they lie outside a fairly well-bounded industry. Want to survive a strategic inflection point? Stop focusing on traditional metrics and find new customer needs that your organisation can uniquely address.

Why do business leaders so often miss these shifts? Successful companies such as BlackBerry maker Research In Motion and Nokia did not heed the early signs of a move to app-based smartphones. Video rental chain Blockbuster failed to acquire Netflix when it had the chance, in 2000.

Senior people rise to the top by mastering management of the KPIs in that sector. This, in turn, shapes how they look at the world. The problem is a strategic inflection point can occur and render the reference points they have developed obsolete. Take traditional retail. Its key metrics have to do with limited real estate, such as sales per square metre. Introduce the internet and those measures are useless. And yet traditional systems, rewards and measures are all built around them.....British economist Edith Penrose grasped this crucial link, she asked, “What is an industry?” In her studies, executives did not confine themselves to single industries, they expanded into any market where their business might find profitable growth.

Consider the energy sector: Historically, most power generators and utilities were heavily regulated...The sector’s suppliers likewise expected steady demand and a quiet life....that business has been rocked by slow-moving shifts many players talked about, but did not act upon. The rise of distributed energy generation, the maturing of renewable technology, increased conservation and new rules have eroded the traditional model. Many failed to heed the warnings. In 2015, General Electric spent about $10bn to acquire Alstom’s power business. Finance chief Jeff Bornstein crowed at the time that it could be GE’s best acquisition ever. Blinded by traditional metrics, GE doubled down on fossil-fuel-fired turbines just as renewables were becoming cost competitive.

Consider razor blades: Procter & Gamble’s Gillette brand of razors had long enjoyed a competitive advantage. For decades, the company had invested in developing premium products, charged premium prices, invested heavily in marketing and used its clout to get those razors into every traditional retail outlet. A new breed of online rivals such as Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s have upended that model, reselling outsourced razors that were “good enough” and cheaper, online via a subscription model that attracted younger, economically pressured customers...... Rather than fork out for elaborate marketing, the upstarts enlisted YouTube and Facebook influencers to get the word out.
Andy_Grove  BlackBerry  blindsided  Blockbuster  brands  cost-consciousness  customer_insights  Dollar_Shave_Club  executive_management  GE  Gillette  good_enough  Harry's  industries  industry_boundaries  inflection_points  Intel  irrelevance  KPIs  metrics  millennials  movingonup  myopic  obsolescence  out-of-the-box  P&G  power_generation  retailers  reward_systems  sales_per_square_foot  shifting_tastes  slowly_moving  warning_signs 
april 2019 by jerryking
Losing the Signal: How BlackBerry’s bid to one-up the iPhone failed - The Globe and Mail
JACQUIE MCNISH AND SEAN SILCOFF
The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, May. 22 2015,
BlackBerry  RIM  iPhone  history  books 
may 2015 by jerryking
The end of BlackBerry as we know it - The Globe and Mail
RYAN CALIGIURI
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Feb. 03 2015
Blackberry  innovation  Ryan_Caligiuri 
february 2015 by jerryking
A Snowier Silicon Valley in BlackBerry’s Backyard - NYTimes.com
By IAN AUSTEN
Published: December 22, 2013

Stacy Tozer : While friends and relatives were skeptical about her plan to return, Ms. Tozer had several job offers. In the end, she took a 75 percent pay cut to become director of marketing at MappedIn, a start-up that creates online interior maps of large buildings like airports and shopping malls. At 30, Ms. Tozer is her new company’s oldest employee. She believes that she will ultimately surpass her old salary, but that will depend on MappedIn’s prospering.

“In Seattle, I was very connected and I’d been headhunted by a number of major companies,” she said. “As much as I love Seattle, it was an individualistic, career-driven situation. Here it’s not about competition. It’s about building a community helping other companies grow.”
start_ups  Blackberry  bouncing_back  Second_Acts  MappedIn  Kitchener-Waterloo 
january 2014 by jerryking
Upstart Canadian chat service Kik logs 100 million users
SEAN SILCOFF | The Globe and Mail | Dec. 12 2013.

Kik Interactive, a Waterloo, Ont.-based instant messenger service started in 2009, said Thursday it now has more than 100 million registered users – a 233-per-cent increase in 12 months, and ahead of rival BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). “We’re probably one of two Canadian companies ever to get 100 million regular users,” said Ted Livingston, Kik’s 26-year-old founder and CEO....Kik is one of several instant messenger services, or “chat apps,” to pick up where BBM left off after the smartphone maker pioneered the mobile-only chat service, an application than enables smartphone users to send rapid messages to one another while bypassing their carriers’ texting service.

For years, BlackBerry Ltd. resisted making its hugely popular BBM available on other platforms, leading to the emergence of rival chat apps that could be used on Apple and Android devices. As those platforms took off and BlackBerry waned, the rival apps surged – including market leader WhatsApp, which boasts 350 million users. BlackBerry finally launched a cross-platform version of BBM this fall, but it now lags its upstart rivals.

These chat services have been tabbed the “killer app” of mobile computing and, along with social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter, are redefining how people communicate in the mobile age.
milestones  BBM  BlackBerry  Kitchener-Waterloo  mobile_applications  WhatsApp  Kik  IM  messaging  cross-platform 
december 2013 by jerryking
Management shuffle at BlackBerry ‘just the beginning’ - The Globe and Mail
SEAN SILCOFF, ERIC ATKINS

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Published Monday, Nov. 25 2013,
John_Chen  BlackBerry  CEOs 
november 2013 by jerryking
Hundreds of former BlackBerry staff hunt for Canadian tech jobs -
Nov. 14 2013 | The Canadian Press via The Globe and Mail |David Friend

Published Thursday,

Mobile payments firm Square Inc. has established a local office that will eventually house 30 to 40 Canadian employees, said Jack Dorsey, the company’s CEO who also founded Twitter.

“We’re really inspired by the engineers up here, so we want to invest in it,” he said in a recent interview, pointing to local schools as a key resource.

“There’s a skill level that was extremely impressive to us right away.”
BlackBerry  RIM  job_search  Square  alumni  Kitchener-Waterloo  engineering  talent 
november 2013 by jerryking
Patent Wars Erupt Again in Tech Sector - WSJ.com
By
Ashby Jones
connect
Nov. 3, 2013

After a brief hiatus for major new litigation, a joint venture owned by Apple Inc., AAPL +0.10% Apple Inc. U.S.: Nasdaq $520.53 +0.50+0.10% Nov 4, 2013 10:01 am Volume (Delayed 15m) : 9.66M P/E Ratio 13.03 Market Cap $467.89 Billion Dividend Yield 2.35% Rev. per Employee $2,127,850 52552051510a12p2p4p6p 11/03/13 Patent Wars Erupt Again in Tec... 11/01/13 Short Lines for Apple iPad Lau... 10/31/13 Morning MoneyBeat: Are Buyback... More quote details and news » Microsoft Corp. MSFT +0.49% , BlackBerry Ltd. BB.T -1.70% , Ericsson Inc. and Sony Corp. 6758.TO -11.13% launched a barrage of new lawsuits against a group of defendants that include Samsung Inc., GOOG -0.25% Samsung Electronics Co. 005930.SE -0.07% , LG Electronics Inc., 066570.SE +1.03% HTC Corp. 2498.TW +4.86% and Huawei Technologies Co.
litigation  patent_law  patents  Huawei  LG  HTC  Samsung  Google  Sony  Ericsson  BlackBerry  Microsoft 
november 2013 by jerryking
BlackBerrys once ruled the world - The Globe and Mail
The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, Sep. 24 2013

BlackBerries ruled the world briefly, but their maker failed to see that future growth lay in the consumer market and in social media, not in the e-mail-obsessed business world.

When BlackBerry tried to adapt, it did so too slowly. It took years instead of the requisite months to launch an operating system that competed with the dominant players. Its corporate DNA was as unevolved as its products, and now the world has passed it by – even though its newest products can do virtually all the same things a Samsung or Apple smartphone can do.
BlackBerry  blindsided  RIM  PalmPilot  editorials  evolution  obsolescence  adaptability  windows_of_opportunity 
october 2013 by jerryking
Lenovo Approaches Blackberry - WSJ.com
Oct. 17, 2013 | WSJ | By Dana Mattioli and Dana Cimilluca
Lenovo  BlackBerry 
october 2013 by jerryking
Place a call on hold
If your BlackBerry® device is connected to a CDMA network, you cannot place a call on hold.

During a call, press the Menu key.
Click Hold.

To resume a call, press the Menu key. Click...
Blackberry  tips  productivity  howto  instructions 
october 2013 by jerryking
Make a conference call
Make a conference call
If your BlackBerry® device is connected to a CDMA network, you cannot join more than two contacts to a conference call.

During a call, press the Menu key.
Click Ad...
BlackBerry  conferences  howto  instructions  productivity  tips  tools 
october 2013 by jerryking
Don’t expect BlackBerry’s patents to stay in Canada - The Globe and Mail
BARRIE McKENNA

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Published Sunday, Sep. 29 2013

The way to extract real value from BlackBerry’s IP is to use the patents in cross-licensing deals between tech companies, allowing players to use each others’ technologies. Patents can also be used in litigation – either on offence to protect turf, or to defend against infringement by others.
Blackberry  cross-licensing  defensive_tactics  intangibles  intellectual_property  IP_retention  litigation  patents  patent_infringement  patent_litigation  portfolios  portfolio_management  property_rights  offensive_tactics  sellout_culture  value_extraction 
october 2013 by jerryking
How Not to Stay on Top - NYTimes.com
By JOE NOCERA
Published: August 19, 2013

Was BlackBerry’s fall from grace inevitable? When you look at the history of dominant companies — starting with General Motors — it is easy enough to conclude yes. There are companies that occasionally manage to reinvent themselves. They are nimble and ruthless, willing to disrupt their own business model because they can sense a threat on the horizon. But they’re the exception.

Wang Laboratories is the rule. And so is BlackBerry.

Wang went from an 80% market share in word-processing among the top 2,000 corporations to bankruptcy in about a decade, and BlackBerry of course went from inventing the cellphone and wireless email category, and utterly dominating it, to a a shadow of its former self today, with a “for sale” sign on outside corporate headquarters and a 2.7% global smartphone market share. What happened?

To rudely condense history, IBM’s PC happened to Wang and the iPhone happened to BlackBerry. At a somewhat more nuanced level, however, what happened to both Wang and BlackBerry is that when the storm clouds appeared they did not take their competitors seriously, they failed to understood what their customers wanted on the new landscape, and finally and most unforgivably they thought they knew what was best for their customers better than the customers themselves. More specifically, both firms thought their core customers were mistaken—wrong—to express a preference for the new, inferior arrival.
competitive_landscape  Wang_Labs  BlackBerry  blindsided  RIM  disruption  reinvention  failure  GM  IBM  iPhone  market_share  disproportionality  nimbleness 
september 2013 by jerryking
If BlackBerry is sold, Canada faces an innovation vacuum - The Globe and Mail
Aug. 17 2013 | The Globe and Mail | KONRAD YAKABUSKI.

The sale and breakup of a flagship technology company is a reoccurring theme in Canadian business. But this time is different. If BlackBerry Ltd. goes, there is no ready replacement. That’s a telling switch from the situation Canada faced with the sale of Newbridge Networks in 2000 and the demise of Nortel Networks in 2009....Canada has an innovation bottleneck. An abundance of science is generated in university labs and start-up firms but most of it never finds its way into commercial applications. Risk-averse banks and too many businesses of the bird-in-the-hand variety remain the weak links in Canada’s innovation system.

“We punch above our weight in idea generation,” observes Michael Bloom, who leads the Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for Business Innovation. “But the further you move towards commercialization, the weaker we get as a country.”....Innovation can be driven by any sector, even the old-economy resource extraction business of the oil sands. But tech firms remain by far the most R&D-intensive players in any economy.

Hence, the tech sector is a key barometer of a country’s innovation strength. And innovation matters because it has a profound influence on our living standards – it is “the key long-run driver of productivity and income growth,” ...Canadian businesses remain oddly complacent.

“We tend in this county not to look at the true market opportunity of innovation,” Mr. Bloom adds. “If you only see a market of 35 million people, you’re going to see more risk than if you see the market as Europe, the U.S. and Asia. Americans see risk, but also great opportunity.”

It’s no coincidence that many of Canada’s greatest entrepreneurs and innovators have been immigrants. Unlike his American counterpart, the average Canadian business graduate does not dream of becoming the next Sergey Brin, Steve Jobs or, for that matter, Peter Munk.

Mr. Lazaridis and ex-BlackBerry co-CEO Jim Balsillie notwithstanding, how many Canadian entrepreneurs and innovators have truly changed the world, or aspire? By all accounts, not that many. A Conference Board study released last month found that only 10 per cent of Canadian firms (almost all of them small ones) pursue “radical or revolutionary” innovations. Large firms focus at best on “incremental” innovations.
Blackberry  bottlenecks  commercialization  competitiveness_of_nations  complacency  hollowing_out  Konrad_Yakabuski  Newbridge  Nortel  innovation  idea_generation  ecosystems  breakthroughs  incrementalism  large_companies  sellout_culture  Jim_Balsillie  moonshots  immigrants  Canada  Peter_Munk  market_opportunities  weak_links  thinking_big  oil_sands  resource_extraction  marginal_improvements  innovation_vacuum  punch-above-its-weight  This_Time_is_Different 
august 2013 by jerryking
The decline and fall of Canada’s global corporate superstars - The Globe and Mail
Aug. 16 2013 | The Globe and Mail | Eric Reguly.

Here’s a depressing exercise: Scan the upper reaches of the Top 1000 companies in the July-August issue of Report on Business magazine and try to spot Canada’s global winners.

You could call them Canada’s corporate ambassadors, if they existed.

The short list is exceedingly short:
...Why does Canada, a Group of Seven country that encourages open markets, celebrates innovation and risk-taking, pumps fortunes into R&D, votes in business-friendly governments, is blessed with skilled workers and globally competitive tax rates and sits on the doorstep of the world’s largest market produce so pathetically few global corporate superstars?....It can take decades, a century even, to build a company like Inco or Dofasco. Don Argus, the former chairman of BHP Billiton of Australia, the world’s largest mining group, was right to denounce Canada’s sellout culture. “Canada has lost more head offices than any other country,” he said in 2008, at the height of the resources’ buying and selling spree. “Canada has already been reduced to an industry branch office and is largely irrelevant to the global mining stage.”

Of course, BlackBerry doesn’t really play into the hollowing out story. In retrospect, it should have foisted itself on Microsoft, Nokia or Amazon shortly after it became apparent to investors and tech geeks, if not to the deluded executives at BlackBerry itself, that the iPhone was here to stay. BlackBerry’s value destruction since then has been awe-inspiring. Mr. Lazaridis and Mr. Balsillie were superb entrepreneurs, but failed at keeping the company competitive.

So why does Canada lack global champions? Don’t blame government policies. Blame the sellout culture, nice-guy directors with a propensity to protect the wrong executives at the wrong time and Canada’s classic lack of corporate self-confidence. The upshot is a country that turned into a one-trick pony – oil sands – with a few decent, protected banks and insurers at its side. If Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden can churn out global champions, Canada should be able to at least double the rate. The next BlackBerry is not just around the corner.
Blackberry  boards_&_directors_&_governance  brands  branch_plants  competitiveness_of_nations  decline  Eric_Reguly  G-7  global_champions  head_offices  hollowing_out  large_companies  multinationals  oil_sands  sellout_culture  superstars  value_destruction 
august 2013 by jerryking
BlackBerry’s future is in pieces - The Globe and Mail
SOPHIE COUSINEAU

MONTREAL — The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, Aug. 13 2013,
Sophie_Cousineau  Blackberry  Fairfax 
august 2013 by jerryking
globeadvisor.com: Fairfax leads move to buy BlackBerry
August 13, 2013 | G&M | OMAR EL AKKAD
Investment company among potential suitors of struggling smartphone company that has put itself up for sale
Fairfax  BlackBerry  private_equity  Prem_Watsa  investors  institutional_investors 
august 2013 by jerryking
Where the BlackBerry still reigns supreme - The Globe and Mail
PAUL CHRISTOPHER WEBSTER AND IAIN MARLOW

JAKARTA/LAGOS — The Globe and Mail

Published Thursday, Nov. 29 2012,
BlackBerry  RIM  Nigeria  Indonesia  3rdworld 
december 2012 by jerryking
RIM Innovates and Then Waits as Apple Moves Ahead - NYTimes.com
September 20, 2012, 10:50 amComment
RIM Innovates and Then Waits as Apple Moves Ahead
By IAN AUSTEN
BlackBerry  Apple  iPhone 
september 2012 by jerryking
BlackBerry Services Hit by More Disruptions - WSJ.com
OCTOBER 13, 2011 | WSJ | By WILL CONNORS, BEN DUMMETT and CHRISTOPHER LAWTON.

Research In Motion Ltd. scrambled to restore service to millions of BlackBerry users around the world Wednesday as the company's worst-ever outage vexed office workers, government officials, emergency responders and others who rely on the messaging device.

The intermittent service disruptions come at a vulnerable time for RIM, which has been struggling with dwindling BlackBerry shipments as it competes with Apple Inc.'s iPhone and gadgets powered by Google Inc.'s Android software.
RIM  BlackBerry  outages  intermittency 
october 2011 by jerryking
iPhone 4S unleashes more creative destruction | Considered View | Breakingviews
04 October 2011 | By Robert Cyran.

Apple has an astonishing ability to casually unleash creative destruction. Its latest iPhone, the 4S, offers faster data-processing and downloads, as well as voice-powered software. This may not have lived up to the most feverish expectations of investors: Apple shares fell while the market rallied. But it will do more than enough to create headaches for companies ranging from Research In Motion to American Greetings.

Smartphones started by devouring the personal digital assistant, as any former Palm Pilot aficionado can testify. They terrorized the market for fixed-line phones, which are now in sharp decline. Apple’s newest gadget shows just how hungry smartphone makers, and Apple in particular, are to eat rivals’ lunches.

The new iPhone’s camera offers sharply better video. That will further hurt sales of digital still and video cameras. Its software allows easy and free texting to other Apple devices. That’s bad news for telephone operators, who make fat margins on such services. Instant messaging has also been the killer app for BlackBerry users.
Apple  iPhone  creative_destruction  smartphones  wireline  margins  staying_hungry  RIM  BlackBerry  blindsided  voice_assistants  voice_interfaces  text_messages  free  investors'_expectations  bad_news 
october 2011 by jerryking
It's good to be smart
Nov 30, 2010 |The Globe and Mail. pg. A.24 | editorial.

It may be 20 years, or 50, before there is a direct payoff from the BMO Sir Isaac Newton Chair in Theoretical Physics at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ont. Or from similar chairs to be named after Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Paul Dirac and James Clerk Maxwell. But the chairs are a wise investment that deserve emulating in other institutions in Canada.

It is not easy to be forward-looking in difficult times, but now is actually an excellent time to be investing in long-range projects that expand our intellectual capital. Why now? Because while other countries are hamstrung by economic problems, Canada is in decent enough shape to get a jump on attracting talent and stimulating innovation. In a borderless world economy, the value in becoming a magnet for scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs is immeasurable.

Abstract (Summary) Theoretical physics (the description of natural
phenomena in mathematical form) may seem like knowledge for knowledge's
sake. It is anything but, as Mike Lazaridis, the founder and co-chief
executive officer of the BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion Ltd., tells
it. The "next generation of value" will be intellectual capital, rather
than natural resources, he says.
Blackberry  BMO  borderless  broad-based_scientific_enquiry  editorials  endowments  forward_looking  hard_times  intellectual_capital  knowledge  Mike_Lazaridis  natural_resources  Perimeter_Institute  physics  physicists  RIM 
april 2011 by jerryking
Clinton Says BlackBerry Bans Hinder Rights - WSJ.com
AUGUST 5, 2010 | Wall Street Journal | By PHRED DVORAK in New
York and MARGARET COKER in Abu Dhabi. Clinton Voices Support for RIM.
Citing Right of 'Free Use,' Secretary of State Enters Fight Over U.A.E.
Plan to Curb BlackBerry Access
Hillary_Clinton  RIM  BlackBerry  U.S.foreign_policy  Internet_freedom  U.A.E. 
august 2010 by jerryking
BlackBerry Vs. iPhone: The ultimate showdown
July 30, 2010 | The Globe and Mail | Omar El Akkad
funnies  humour  BlackBerry  iPhone 
august 2010 by jerryking
Opening New Fronts in Smartphone Turf War - WSJ.com
JUNE 23, 2010 | Wall Street Journal | By YUKARI IWATANI KANE And BEN WORTHEN. IPhone Advances Inside Companies BlackBerry Had.
smartphones  iPhone  BlackBerry  Ben_Worthen 
june 2010 by jerryking
Alberta GPS company bent on making teens miserable
Jan. 09, 2010 | The Globe and Mail | by Omar El Akkad
(Technology Reporter). “My basic thesis is that the smart phone has
become people's most personal computer,” said Fixmo Co-founder Rick
Segal. “And like personal computers, they need utilities to make them
better.”

Mr. Segal and his partners are hoping users find the suite of tools
useful enough to pay for. The company will roll out its BlackBerry
software first, followed by versions for the iPhone, Android and Windows
Mobile devices. Fixmo is one of a number of companies that was spawned
in whole or in part by Extreme Labs, a Toronto-based venture capital
firm.
Rick_Segal  Fixmo  BlackBerry  RIM  Bumptop  Extreme_Labs  venture_capital  Toronto  smartphones 
january 2010 by jerryking
Creating A Killer Product
10.13.03 | Forbes Magazine | by Clayton M. Christensen & Michael E. Raynor.

Three in five new-product-development efforts are scuttled before they ever reach the market. Of the ones that do see the light of day, 40% never become profitable and simply disappear.

Most of these failures are predictable--and avoidable. Why? Because most managers trying to come up with new products don't properly consider the circumstances in which customers find themselves when making purchasing decisions. Or as marketing expert Theodore Levitt once told his M.B.A. students at Harvard: "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole." ...Managers need to segment their markets to mirror the way their customers experience life--and not base decisions on irrelevant data that focus on customer attributes. Managers need to realize that customers, in effect, "hire" products to do specific "jobs."...Why not put in tiny chunks of real fruit to add a dimension of unpredictability and anticipation--attacking the boredom factor. A thicker shake would last longer. A self-service shake machine that could be operated with a prepaid card would get customers in and out fast.

Improvements like this would succeed in building sales--but not by capturing milk shake sales from competing quick-service chains or by cannibalizing other products on its menu. Rather, the growth would come by taking business from products in other categories that customers sometimes employed, with limited satisfaction, to get their particular jobs done. And perhaps more important, the products would find new growth among "nonconsumers." Competing with nonconsumption often offers the biggest source of growth in a world of one-size-fits-all products. ...One option would be for RIM to believe its market is structured by product categories, as in: "We compete in handheld wireless devices." WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!...But what if RIM structured the segments of this market according to the jobs that people are trying to get done? Just from watching people who pull out their BlackBerrys, it seems to us that most of them are hiring it to help them be productive in small snippets of time that otherwise would be wasted, like reading e-mails while waiting in line at airports....Features that do not help customers do the job that they hire the BlackBerry for wouldn't be viewed as improvements at all. ...Brands are, at the beginning, hollow words into which marketers stuff meaning. If a brand's meaning is positioned on a job to be done, then when the job arises in a customer's life, he or she will remember the brand and hire the product. Customers pay significant premiums for brands that do a job well.
Clayton_Christensen  Michael_Raynor  Innosight  prepaid  innovation  market_segmentation  customer_experience  arms_race  branding  product_development  education  Colleges_&_Universities  Theodore_Levitt  disruption  new_products  customer_segmentation  observations  nonconsumption  hiring-a-product-to-do-a-specific-job  one-size-fits-all  BlackBerry 
september 2009 by jerryking
Address by Mike Lazaridis, PI Board Chair, to the Public Policy Forum - Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
April 2, 2009 | Address by Mike Lazaridis, PI Board Chair, to the Public Policy Forum

First Principles: The Crazy Business of Doing Serious Science (Paperback)
by Howard Burton (Author) . It's an account of how the Perimeter Institute was built from scratch.

This year’s testimonial dinner was held on April 2, 2009, and honoured several Canadian leaders, including Mike Lazaridis, Founder and Board Chair of Perimeter Institute, who conveyed the importance of long-term thinking by those involved with shaping policy relating to science and technology. The following text, building on those remarks as reported by the national media, shares the messages provided to the PPF.
+++++++++++++++

So imagine this story. A granting council has been tasked with driving the economy, really building commerce and commercializing technology and doing important things for the country. And so, of course, what are they thinking? They’re thinking we need more horses, we need better ways to clean up the streets, and we need to figure out ways to build better stagecoaches and carriages. Now this physicist comes into the room and he sits down. And they ask him, "Dr. Einstein, why are you here?" He says, "Oh, I’d like to have an office and a stipend." "For what?" they want to know. So he explains, "Well, I need a desk and blackboard and maybe a shelf for my books and my papers. And I need a small stipend, so I can go to a few scientific conferences around the world and have a few postdoctoral researchers." They ask, "Why?" And he says: "Well, I have these ideas about light and it’s very complicated, but light can …" And the council members start wondering, "What’s that got to do with horses?"

So, that gentleman actually had to go and get a day job. He went to work at a patent office, where he came up with, a few years later, the four most important papers of all time. Ideas that transformed everything we knew and put mankind in a new direction. He came up with one of the basic ideas leading to quantum technology, when he predicted the quantum properties of light, explaining an observation called the photo-electric effect. He came up with special relativity, a new understanding of space and time. He also discovered that mass and energy are the same thing at a fundamental level. By thinking and calculating the way he did, he came up with E=mc2, the most famous equation of all time. These discoveries, over time, led to nuclear energy, semiconductors, computers, lasers, medical imaging, DVDs and much more. The powerful ideas happened from pure thought and research by someone who basically would have had to give up a comfortable salary at the patent office to take a research or teaching position at a university.

Now let’s fast-forward to today. We have all these issues. We’re running out of energy any way you slice it. And the energy sources that we have today are changing our climate and the environment catastrophically and irreparably. At the same time, we have this enormous need for value creation because our financial system basically ran onto a coral reef. We’re taking on debt to try to get ourselves off the reef, and there’s all this need for value creation and innovation. It’s kind of staring us in the face.

We only have to flashback to that gentleman thinking about light to realize that we need to fund our scientists and our researchers and our students. We not only need to fund them imaginatively, we need to have faith that what they are doing is going to be important in 20, 30, 40 or 50 years from now, and that we haven’t got a chance of understanding its relevance today.

And so we need to be very careful with policy, not to try to put everything in short-term context – not to try to figure out how something is only relevant today – because, if we do, we will make a mistake. We will go the wrong way. We will be investing in horses, carriages, and cleaning manure in the streets instead of fostering the research that can give rise to an idea or super technology that’s going to change the world.

Right now, there is some pandemonium in physics because we are running up against some paradoxes and some data that don’t make any sense. For example, Moore’s Law, which describes the miniaturization of computer chips, will reach its limit in 10 years. Everything we built our telecommunications industry and information age on is going to hit this limit, if we don’t find a new base. We need a new discovery. It’s going to happen, and we need to put major investments in these esoteric studies like quantum computing, quantum information science, quantum gravity, string theory and other areas, because I can guarantee you that one of the discoveries that will emerge is going to solve one of those scientific paradoxes and make sense of that weird data. And when that happens, 20 or 30 years from now, you won’t recognize things.
Albert_Einstein  Blackberry  books  broad-based_scientific_enquiry  first_principle  fundamental_discoveries  Mike_Lazaridis  miniaturization  Moore's_Law  paradoxes  Perimeter_Institute  physicists  public_policy  quantum_computing  RIM  semiconductors 
april 2009 by jerryking

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