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jerryking : incrementalism   25

Why moonshots elude the timid of heart
February 14, 2020 | Financial Times | by Tim Harford.

* Loonshots — by Safi Bahcall.
* Major innovations tend to result from investment that is high-risk, high-pay-off.
* Executives at the Cambridge, UK outpost of an admired Japanese company fret that success rate of their research and development, at 70%, was far too high. It signals that research teams had been risk-averse, pursuing easy wins at the expense of more radical and risky long-shots.
* Disney, the belief is that Disney if you weren't failing at half of your endeavours, you weren’t being brave or creative enough.
* The problem is a societal/systematic preference for marginal gains over long shots---It is much more pleasant to experience a steady trickle of small successes than a long drought while waiting for a flood that may never come.
* marginal gains do add up, but need to be bolstered by the occasional long-shot breakthrough.....Major innovations such as the electric motor, the photo­voltaic cell or the mobile phone open up new territories that the marginal-gains innovators & tinkerers can further exploit.[JCK: from Simon Johnson, "public investments in research and development contribute to what the authors call the “spillover effect.” When the product of the research is not a private firm’s intellectual property, its impact flows across the economy."]
* the UK Conservative party’s promise to establish “a new agency for high-risk, high-pay-off research, at arm’s length from government” — a British version of the much-admired US Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency.
* DARPA's failure rate is often said to be around 85%.
* a low failure rate may indeed signal a lack of originality and ambition.
* Arpa hires high-quality scientists for short stints — often two or three years — and giving them control over a programme budget to commission research from any source they wish.
* the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a foundation, deliberately looks for projects with an unusual or untried approach, but a large potential pay-off.....HHMI gets what it pays for — more failures, but larger successes, compared with other grant-makers funding researchers of a similar calibre.
* how long will UK politicians tolerate failure as a sign of boldness and originality? Eventually, they will simply call it failure.
* the trilemma: Be cautious, or fund lots of risky but tiny projects, or fund a few big, risky projects from a modest budget and accept that every single one may flop.
audacity  big_bets  boldness  books  breakthroughs  Cambridge  DARPA  failure  game_changers  high-reward  high-risk  incrementalism  industrial_policies  innovation  jump-start  marginal_improvements  moonshots  originality  politicians  public_investments  publicly_funded  quick_wins  R&D  risk-aversion  science  small_wins  spillover  success_rates  thinking_big  Tim_Harford  timidity  United_Kingdom 
10 days ago by jerryking
The Zen of Weight Lifting
Nov. 22, 2019 | The New York Times | By Brad Stulberg.

There’s an old Eastern adage: “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” It’s great training advice too.......A favorite movements at the gym is called a farmer’s carry. You hold a heavy weight in each hand and attempt to walk with a solid, upright posture for between 30 and 60 seconds...... the farmer’s carries work your grip, core, arms, legs and even cardiovascular system — an utterly elegant full-body exercise. .......The physical and mental health benefits of weight lifting are well documented. Weight training can help us to maintain muscle mass and strength as we age, as well as better mobility and metabolic and cardiovascular health. It may help ease or prevent depression and anxiety, and promote mental sharpness.......lifting weights becomes a transformative practice to be undertaken primarily for its own sake, the byproduct of which is a nourishing effect on the soul.....Weight lifting offers participants a chance to pursue clear and measurable goals with outcomes that can be traced directly back to oneself.....In the weight room, however, it’s just you and the bar. You either make the lift or you don’t. If you make it, great. If not, you train more, and try again. Some days it goes well, other days it doesn’t. But over time, it becomes clear that what you get out of yourself is proportionate to the effort you put in. It’s as simple and as hard as that. A kind of straightforwardness and self-reliance that gives rise to an immense satisfaction, a satiating feeling that makes it easier to fall asleep at night because you know you did something real, something concrete, in the world. This doesn’t mean that progress happens fast or is always linear. Consistency and patience are key. If you try to rush the process or force heroic efforts, you invariably wind up getting hurt. Weight lifting, like so much in life, demands showing up day in and day out, taking small and incremental steps that, compounded over time, lead to big gains.
Whether you like it or not, there will be plateaus, which in my experience tend to occur right before a breakthrough. Weight lifting teaches you to embrace them, or at the very least accept them.....For most, the plateau is a form of purgatory. But to advance beyond the low-hanging fruit in any meaningful discipline — from weight lifting, to writing, to meditation, to marriage — you must get comfortable spending time there. Weight lifting shoves this reality in your face since progress, or in this case, lack thereof, is so objective.......
you don’t keep showing up and pounding the stone.

But here’s a paradox: Pound too hard or too often, and you’ll run into problems. The only way to make a muscle stronger is to stress it and then let it recover. In other words, you’ve got to balance stress and rest. Exercise scientists call this “progressive overload.” Too much stress, not enough rest, and the result is illness, injury or burnout. Too much rest, not enough stress, and the result is complacency or stagnation. It’s only when yin and yang are in harmony that you grow — another lesson that applies to a lot more than lifting weights.

It is true that from the outside, weight lifting can seem dull or boring — same movements, same barbells, same people at the same gym. 
Weight lifting fulfills three basic needs:
Autonomy: The ability to exert oneself independently and have control over one’s actions.
Mastery: A clear and ongoing path of progress that can be traced back to one’s efforts.
Belonging: Being part of a community, lineage or tradition that is working toward similar goals.
 
The Zen of weight lifting — the joy, fulfillment, hard-earned calluses and growth — lives in the process, in the journey. 
cardiovascular  compounded  consistency  core_stability  efforts  exercise  fitness  functional_strength  incrementalism  metabolism  movement-based  objective_reality  paradoxes  patience  plateauing  small_wins  soul-enriching  strength_training 
november 2019 by jerryking
Grand follies and the art of thinking big
February 22, 2019 |Financial Times| by Janan Ganesh.

Who would rather that Airbus had never made the bet at all? Who would live in a world that never risks over-reach?

A defender of grand follies is spoilt for examples that turned out well........Today’s vainglorious travesty is tomorrow’s untouchable fixture of the landscape. We are lousy judges of future tastes, including our own....Even if an audacious project fails, and fails lastingly, it can still trigger success stories of other kinds. Some of this happens through the sheer technical example set: the A380, like Concorde before it, forced engineers to innovate in ways that will cascade down the decades in unpredictable ways. Some of the most banal givens of daily life — dust busters, wireless headsets — can be traced back to that messianic project we know as the space programme.

Then there is the inspiring spectacle of just trying to do something big. Progress through tinkering counts no less than progress through great leaps, but only the second kind is likely to electrify people into venturing their own efforts. Without the grand gesture — and the risk of humiliation — any field of endeavour is liable to stagnate.....Perhaps an exhausted west now prefers to tinker all the same. Big ideas are often paid for out of idle wealth (think of Elon Musk’s fortune, or Alphabet’s cash pile) and the existence of this can seem almost distasteful in a culture that is newly sensitive to inequality. As for largeness of vision, there was plenty of the stuff in the forever wars and pre-crash banking. It would be strange if people who lived through those events did not now flinch at the sight of excitable visionaries brandishing schemes.
Airbus  audacity  big_bets  breakthroughs  Elon_Musk  fallacies_follies  game_changers  humiliation  incrementalism  inspiration  Janan_Ganesh  Jeff_Bezos  marginal_improvements  moonshots  overreach  risks  thinking_big  tinkerers  visionaries 
february 2019 by jerryking
Ten Ways Ridiculously Successful People Think Differently
December 4, 2017 | LinkedIn | Dr. Travis Bradberry Influencer.

Obstacles do not block the path; they are the path. This perspective helps successful people to think differently to everyone else, which is important, because if you think like everyone else, no matter how smart or experienced you are, you’ll hit the same ceiling. By thinking outside the box and going against the grain, successful people rise above their limitations.

They’re confident.
They’re composed. They know that no matter how good or bad things get, everything changes with time. All they can do is to adapt and adjust to stay happy and in control.

They’re honest.

They seek out small victories.

They’re always learning.

They expose themselves to a variety of people. There’s no easier way to learn to think differently than spending time with someone whose strengths are your weaknesses or whose ideas are radically different from your own. This exposure sparks new ideas and makes you well rounded. This is why we see so many great companies with co-founders who stand in stark contrast to each other. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak from Apple were a prime example. Neither could have succeeded without the other.

They keep an open mind.

They’re fearless.

They turn tedious tasks into games.

They dream big but remain grounded.
affirmations  thinking_big  gamification  self-confidence  fearlessness  self-control  honesty  Steve_Jobs  heterogeneity  incrementalism  negative_space  open_mind  think_differently  small_wins  quick_wins 
may 2018 by jerryking
Marginal gains matter but gamechangers transform
25 March/26 March 2017 | FT | by Tim Harford.

In the hunt for productivity, the revolutionary long shot is worth the cost and risk.

.............................As Olympic athletes have shown, marginal improvements accumulated over time can deliver world-beating performance,” said Andrew Haldane in a speech on Monday, which is quite true. Mr Haldane, the Bank of England’s chief economist
........The marginal gains philosophy tries to turn innovation into a predictable process: tweak your activities, gather data, embrace what works and repeat.......As Mr Haldane says, marginal improvements can add up.

But can they add up to productivity gains for the economy as a whole? The question matters. There is no economic topic more important than productivity, which in the long run determines whether living standards surge or stagnate.
........
The idea that developed economies can A/B test their way back to brisk productivity growth is a seductive one.

An alternative view is that what’s really lacking is a different kind of innovation: the long shot. Unlike marginal gains, long shots usually fail, but can pay off spectacularly enough to overlook 100 failures.
.....
These two types of innovation complement each other. Long shot innovations open up new territories; marginal improvements colonise them. The 1870s saw revolutionary breakthroughs in electricity generation and distribution but the dynamo didn’t make much impact on productivity until the 1920s. To take advantage of electric motors, manufacturers needed to rework production lines, redesign factories and retrain workers. Without these marginal improvements the technological breakthrough was of little use.
....Yet two questions remain. One is why so many businesses lag far behind the frontier. .......The culprit may be a lack of competition: vigorous competition tends to raise management quality by spurring improvements and by punishing incompetents with bankruptcy. ....
But the second question is why productivity growth has been so disappointing. A/B testing has never been easier or more fashionable, after all. The obvious answer is that the long shots matter, too.
.....In a data-driven world, it’s easy to fall back on a strategy of looking for marginal gains alone, avoiding the risky, unquantifiable research (jk: leaps of faith). Over time, the marginal gains will surely materialise. I’m not so sure that the long shots will take care of themselves.
adaptability  breakthroughs  compounded  economics  game_changers  incrementalism  innovation  leaps_of_faith  marginal_improvements  moonshots  nudge  organizational_change  organizational_improvements  organizational_structure  power_generation  production_lines  productivity  productivity_payoffs  slight_edge  taxonomy  thinking_big  Tim_Harford 
march 2017 by jerryking
The path to enlightenment and profit starts inside the office
(Feb. 2, 2016): The Financial Times | John Thornhill.

Competition used to be easy. That is in theory, if not always in practice. Until recently, most competent companies had a clear idea of who their rivals were, how to compete and on what field to fight.

One of the starkest - and scariest - declarations of competitive intent came from Komatsu, the Japanese construction equipment manufacturer, in the 1970s. As employees trooped into work they would walk over doormats exhorting: "Kill Caterpillar!". Companies benchmarked their operations and market share against their competitors to see where they stood.

But that strategic clarity has blurred in so many industries today to the point of near-invisibility thanks to the digital revolution and globalisation. Flying blind, companies seem happier to cut costs and buy back their shares than to invest purposefully for the future. Take the European telecommunications sector. Not long ago most telecoms companies were national monopolies with little, or no, competition. Today, it is hard to predict where the next threat is going to erupt.

WhatsApp, the California-based messaging service, was founded in 2009 and only registered in most companies' consciousness when it was acquired by Facebook for more than $19bn in 2014. Yet in its short life WhatsApp has taken huge bites out of the lucrative text messaging markets. Today, WhatsApp has close to 1bn users sending 30bn messages a day. The global SMS text messaging market is just 20bn a day.

Car manufacturers are rapidly wising up to the threat posed by new generation tech firms, such as Tesla, Google and Uber, all intent on developing "apps on wheels". Chinese and Indian companies, little heard of a few years ago, are bouncing out of their own markets to emerge as bold global competitors.

As the driving force of capitalism , competition gives companies a purpose, a mission and a sense of direction. But how can companies compete in such a shape-shifting environment? There are perhaps two (partial) answers.

The first is to do everything to understand the technological changes that are transforming the world, to identify the threats and opportunities early.

Gavin Patterson , chief executive of BT, the British telecoms group, says one of the functions of corporate leaders is to scan the horizon as never before. "As a CEO you have to be on the bridge looking outwards, looking for signs that something is happening, trying to anticipate it before it becomes a danger."

To that end, BT has opened innovation "scouting teams" in Silicon Valley and Israel, and tech partnerships with universities in China, the US, Abu Dhabi, India and the UK.

But even if you foresee the danger, it does not mean you can deal with it. After all, Kodak invented the first digital camera but failed to exploit the technology. The incentive structures of many companies are to minimise risk rather than maximise opportunity. Innovation is often a young company's game.

The second answer is that companies must look as intensively inwards as they do outwards (e.g. opposing actions). Well-managed companies enjoy many advantages: strong brands, masses of consumer data, valuable historic data sets, networks of smart people and easy access to capital. But what is often lacking is the ambition that marks out the new tech companies, their ability to innovate rapidly and their extraordinary connection with consumers. In that sense, the main competition of so many established companies lies within their own organisations.

Larry Page, co-founder of Google, constantly urges his employees to keep being radical. In his Founders' Letter of 2013, he warned that companies tend to grow comfortable doing what they have always done and only ever make incremental change. "This . . . leads to irrelevance over time," he wrote.

Google operates a 70/20/10 rule where employees are encouraged to spend 70 per cent of their time on their core business, 20 per cent on working with another team and 10 per cent on moonshots. How many traditional companies focus so much on radical ventures?

Vishal Sikka, chief executive of the Indian IT group Infosys, says that internal constraints can often be far more damaging than external threats. "The traditional definition of competition is irrelevant. We are increasingly competing against ourselves," he says.

Quoting Siddhartha by the German writer Hermann Hesse, Mr Sikka argues that companies remain the masters of their own salvation whatever the market pressures: "Knowledge can be communicated. Wisdom cannot." He adds: "Every company has to find its own unique wisdom." [This wisdom reference is reminiscent of Paul Graham's advice to do things that don't scale].

john.thornhill@ft.com
ambitions  brands  breakthroughs  BT  bureaucracies  competition  complacency  constraints  Fortune_500  incentives  incrementalism  Infosys  innovation  introspection  irrelevance  large_companies  LBMA  messaging  mission-driven  Mondelez  moonshots  opposing_actions  organizational_culture  outward_looking  Paul_Graham  peripheral_vision  radical  risk-avoidance  scouting  smart_people  start_ups  staying_hungry  tacit_knowledge  technological_change  threats  uniqueness  unscalability  weaknesses  WhatsApp  wisdom  digital_cameras  digital_revolution  historical_data 
april 2016 by jerryking
How to Avoid the Innovation Death Spiral | Innovation Management
By: Wouter Koetzier

Consider this all too familiar scenario: Company X’s new products developed and launched with great expectations, yield disappointing results. Yet, these products continue to languish in the market, draining management attention, advertising budgets, manufacturing capacity, warehouse space and back office systems. Wouter Koetzier explores how to avoid the innovation death spiral....
Incremental innovations play a role in defending a company’s baseline against competition, rather than offering customers superior benefits or creating additional demand for its products.
Platform innovations drive some market growth (often due to premium pricing rather than expanded volume), but their main function is to increase the innovator’s market share by giving customers a reason to switch from a competitor’s brand.
Breakthrough innovations create a new market that the innovator can dominate for some time by delivering new benefits to customers. Contrary to conventional wisdom, breakthrough innovations typically aren’t based upon major technological inventions; rather, they often harness existing technology in novel ways, such as Apple’s iPad.......A recent Accenture analysis of 10 large players in the global foods industry over a three-year period demonstrates the strategic costs of failure to innovate successfully. Notably, the study found little correlation between R&D spending and revenue growth. For instance, a company launching more products than their competitors actually saw less organic revenue growth. That’s because the company made only incremental innovations, while its competitors launched a balanced portfolio of incremental, platform and breakthrough innovations that were perceived by the market as adding value.
Accenture  attrition_rates  baselines  breakthroughs  correlations  disappointment  downward_spirals  howto  incrementalism  innovation  kill_rates  life_cycle  portfolios  portfolio_management  platforms  LBMA  marginal_improvements  Mondelez  moonshots  new_products  novel  product_development  product_launches  R&D  taxonomy 
march 2016 by jerryking
Why strategy is dead in the water - The Globe and Mail
HARVEY SCHACHTER
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Nov. 16 2014

Old line discussions of "strategy" assumed that one's competitors today will be one's competitors forever. It also assumed that companies can control distribution and send out targeted marketing messages to prospects and customers. These days, competition can come at you from all directions – witness, for example, the many companies with which Amazon.com, once just a book seller, competes. Distribution is wild and woolly, and in an era of social media, companies no longer control the messages about their offerings.

“Control and predictability have been greatly diminished,”
Here are seven factors that prevent you from being classically strategic:

1. Incrementalism has been disrupted
2. Outcomes are unpredictable.
3. The past is no longer a predictor.
4. Competitive lines have been dissolved.
5. Information is abundant (i.e. the commoditization_of_information)
6. It hard to forecast value.
7. Fast trumps long-term.
fast-paced  commoditization_of_information  strategy  Michael_Porter  Harvey_Schachter  long-term  unpredictability  GE  IBM  data  information_overload  incrementalism  Amazon  kaleidoscopic 
november 2014 by jerryking
If I was...setting out to be an entrepreneur - FT.com
January 15, 2014 | FT | By Daniel Isenberg.

“Worthless Impossible and Stupid: How Contrarian Entrepreneurs Create and Capture Extraordinary Value”.

...If I were setting out as an entrepreneur today, I would buy an existing company to scale up rather than build a start-up from scratch. I would make incremental tweaks of improvement rather than innovate, exercise cool judgment rather than hot passion and build my departure plan from day one...a lot of great businesses, such as PayPal [the online payments system] and Kaspersky [the internet security company] are carved out of, or combined from, existing assets, or are family businesses taken sky-high by the second or third generation...Rather than start a new company, I would buy a rusty old business to fix up and grow as fast as I could. I want a discarded company that is undervalued but can be dusted off, refurbished with vision and talent, and scaled up. I would be talking to venture capitalists....I know that proprietary technology is not a market maker by itself. Great marketing and management almost always trump big innovation.

Minnovation – small tweaks on existing products – is what moves the ball of economic growth forward. Neither Facebook nor Google, for example, were technology pioneers.

Big innovations are few and far between and are often the stuff of large companies with long patience and deep pockets....Next, I would drain my venture of passion and replace it with commitment, hard work and realistic and relentless self-assessment....start with a stark test of harsh neon lights, exposing every flaw and crack long before the market does so that I can fix them before the customers vote with their feet....plan one's passionless departure from the start, creating a platform to allow the talented people and partners I hire to outperform me very soon.
entrepreneur  entrepreneurship  rules_of_the_game  unglamorous  books  Daniel_Isenberg  advice  howto  passions  exits  lessons_learned  turnarounds  contrarians  scaling  minnovation  undervalued  under-performing  carveouts  family_business  proprietary  incrementalism  self-assessment  customer_risk  breakthroughs  large_companies  vision  refurbished  spin-offs  hard_work  dispassion  marketing  management  commitments  marginal_improvements  unsentimental  outperformance 
january 2014 by jerryking
How to leave your company better off than you found it - The Globe and Mail
VINCE MOLINARO

Special to The Globe and Mail

Published Thursday, Jan. 02 2014

How can you ensure that you are leaving your organization in better shape than when you took the reins? True leaders typically take the following steps:

1. Commit to making things better every single day – in ways that position your organization for both short- and long-term success. Don’t be a bystander and watch problems fester; have the courage to tackle them head on.

2. Guard the interests of the whole organization. Don’t just focus on your own department or self-interests.

3. Try to anticipate threats that can put your organization at risk. Stay plugged into what you hear from customers or employees close to customers. This is often where the early warning signs exist.
4. Build strong relationships both inside and outside your organization.
5. Develop an unyielding commitment to building a strong culture that drives high employee engagement.
6. Develop leaders for the future.
legacies  leadership  RBC  Gord_Nixon  stewardship  companywide  leaders  CEOs  employee_engagement  organizational_culture  leadership_development  relationships  anticipating  threats  thinking_holistically  long-term  short-term  incrementalism  nobystanders  warning_signs 
january 2014 by jerryking
Lee Kai-Fu, China's Innovation Idol
August 22, 2013 | Businessweek | By Lauren Hilgers.

“I know what I can’t say, so I don’t go over the line,” Lee says. “Of course, if you don’t push the line sometimes, the line will never change.” He says censorship is not his overriding concern. His chief goal is to get Chinese entrepreneurs to think creatively. He insists that incremental innovations will open more doors and, over time, change more people’s thinking. Other innovation watchers, such as Segal at the Council on Foreign Relations, doubt that the formula will work outside China’s domestic market. “Some companies are managing to get close enough to the line and managing to innovate. When they move abroad, however, there will be more competition and increasing demand for transparency and good corporate governance,” Segal says. “The barriers are incredibly high.”
CFR  China  creativity  entrepreneur  innovation  incrementalism  Kai-Fu_Lee 
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
Thinking Small
Aug 1, 2004 | Inc.com | John Grossmann.

Alan G. Robinson and Dean M. Schroeder "Ideas Are Free: How the Idea Revolution Is Liberating People and Transforming Organizations".
Her six-show-room chain thrives on new ideas. Fishbein collects them in three-ring binders. Since 1995, she's filled four such binders -- at 10 to 20 ideas per page and 200-plus pages per binder, that's more than 10,000 ideas. And the best ones, she says, often turn out to be those that at first appeared simple, even mundane. "The point," she says, "is not the big hit but incremental improvements all the time."

What about the killer app, the bold, outside-the-box brainstorm that is supposed to transform organizations? If you really care about making ideas work for you, forget such ambitious notions, say Alan G. Robinson and Dean M. Schroeder in their new book Ideas Are Free: How the Idea Revolution Is Liberating People and Transforming Organizations. Rather than big, competition-leapfrogging advances, the authors argue that one of the keys to business success is the constant implementation of small ideas -- just like the steady stream of employee suggestions Fishbein collects in her binders. Why singles instead of home runs? The competition inevitably copies or counters your home runs, rendering those gains ephemeral. But after studying idea-generation tactics at 150 companies in 17 countries, Robinson and Schroeder concluded that small ideas, especially those particular to processes or systems, improve companies in almost Darwinian fashion with ongoing small adaptations that are often impossible to copy.
business  innovation  idea_generation  execution  small_business  slight_edge  ideas  process_improvements  books  minnovation  breakthroughs  incrementalism  marginal_improvements  adaptability  leapfrogging  Darwinian 
july 2012 by jerryking
Why Modern Innovation Traffics in Trifles
July 6, 2012| WSJ | By NICHOLAS CARR.
Why Our Innovators Traffic in Trifles
An app for making vintage photos isn't exactly a moonshot. Are we too obsessed with 'tools of the self'?

What's behind innovation's turn toward the trifling? Declinists point to several possible culprits: America's schools are broken, investors and executives have become shortsighted, taxes are too high (sapping the entrepreneurial spirit), taxes are too low (preventing the government from funding basic research). Or maybe America has just lost its mojo.

But none of these explanations is particularly compelling. In all sorts of ways, the conditions for ingenuity and enterprise have never been better, and more patents were granted last year than ever before in American history. In the past few years, companies have decoded the human genome, shrunk multipurpose computers to the size of sardine tins and built cars that can drive themselves. The Internet itself, a global computer network of mind-blowing speed, size and utility, testifies to the ability of today's engineers to perform miracles....... What we are seeing is not a slowdown in the pace of innovation but a shift in its focus. Americans are as creative as ever, but today's buzz and big-money speculation are devoted to smaller-scale, less far-reaching, less conspicuous advances. We are getting precisely the kind of innovation that we desire—and deserve..........Knowing that the cause of our innovators' faltering ambitions lies in our own nature does not make it any less of a concern. But it does suggest that, if we want to see a resurgence in big thinking and grand invention, if we want to promote breakthroughs that will improve not only our own lives but those of our grandchildren, we need to enlarge our aspirations. We need to look outward again. If our own dreams are small and self-centered, we can hardly blame inventors for producing trifles.
America_in_Decline?  breakthroughs  Facebook  incrementalism  ingenuity  innovation  Instagram  Mark_Zuckerberg  moonshots  Nicholas_Carr  shortsightedness  thinking_big 
july 2012 by jerryking
Innovation and the Bell Labs Miracle
By JON GERTNER
February 25, 2012

Why study Bell Labs? It offers a number of lessons about how our country’s technology companies — and our country’s longstanding innovative edge — actually came about. Yet Bell Labs also presents a more encompassing and ambitious approach to innovation than what prevails today. Its staff worked on the incremental improvements necessary for a complex national communications network while simultaneously thinking far ahead, toward the most revolutionary inventions imaginable.

Indeed, in the search for innovative models to address seemingly intractable problems like climate change, we would do well to consider Bell Labs’ example — an effort that rivals the Apollo program and the Manhattan Project in size, scope and expense. Its mission, and its great triumph, was to connect all of us, and all of our new machines, together....Consider what Bell Labs achieved. For a long stretch of the 20th century, it was the most innovative scientific organization in the world. On any list of its inventions, the most notable is probably the transistor, invented in 1947, which is now the building block of all digital products and contemporary life. These tiny devices can accomplish a multitude of tasks. The most basic is the amplification of an electric signal. But with small bursts of electricity, transistors can be switched on and off, and effectively be made to represent a “bit” of information, which is digitally expressed as a 1 or 0. Billions of transistors now reside on the chips that power our phones and computers.

Bell Labs produced a startling array of other innovations, too. The silicon solar cell, the precursor of all solar-powered devices, was invented there. Two of its researchers were awarded the first patent for a laser, and colleagues built a host of early prototypes. (Every DVD player has a laser, about the size of a grain of rice, akin to the kind invented at Bell Labs.)

Bell Labs created and developed the first communications satellites; the theory and development of digital communications; and the first cellular telephone systems. What’s known as the charge-coupled device, or CCD, was created there and now forms the basis for digital photography.

Bell Labs also built the first fiber optic cable systems and subsequently created inventions to enable gigabytes of data to zip around the globe. It was no slouch in programming, either. Its computer scientists developed Unix and C, which form the basis for today’s most essential operating systems and computer languages.

And these are just a few of the practical technologies. Some Bell Labs researchers composed papers that significantly extended the boundaries of physics, chemistry, astronomy and mathematics. Other Bell Labs engineers focused on creating extraordinary new processes (rather than new products) for Ma Bell’s industrial plants. In fact, “quality control” — the statistical analysis now used around the world as a method to ensure high-quality manufactured products — was first applied by Bell Labs mathematicians.
innovation  history  AT&T  Bell_Labs  R&D  lessons_learned  incrementalism  breakthroughs  quality_control  inventions  moonshots  trailblazers  digitalization  high-quality 
february 2012 by jerryking
We are stone heads on medicare
Feb 28, 2005 | G &M Page A13 | By WILLIAM THORSELL. In
his bestseller, Collapse, Jared Diamond asks: "Why do societies make
disastrous decisions?" He is referring primarily to the environment, but
the answers apply to other things as well. Societies make disastrous
decisions because: We fail to anticipate big problems. It's hard to see
them in advance. But you can't say that about Canada's debt crisis, or
the rising crush of medicare. They were predicted for yrs., and yet we
barged on into them. We fail to perceive problems when they do arrive
because they are too small to see, or because they arrive slowly and we
get used to them....But the most potent of Mr. Diamond's reasons is "core values" -- the insistence on holding to certain defining values in the face of even mortal threats.

He cites the cult on Easter Island (cutting down trees to erect giant stone heads) as an example of bovine loyalty to core values in the face of compelling problems (deforestation).

Isn't that the case with medicare in Canada? We have raised the monopoly-pay/provider model to the status of a defining icon -- a core value of Canada itself. No matter how self-destructive and ineffective this approach may be, we are too invested in its symbolism to change it. It's a classic case of dumb loyalty to dysfunction, with deserved consequences.
William_Thorsell  Medicare  Jared_Diamond  incrementalism  anticipating  Canada  healthcare  creeping_normality  complacency  selfishness  values  self-destructive  slowly_moving  core_values  imperceptible_threats  societal_collapse 
october 2010 by jerryking
MASTERING THE ART OF GIVING ADVICE
Fall 2008 | Leader to Leader. : Vol. Iss. 50; pg. 45 | by
James E Lukaszewski. Having influence means being remembered, being
asked in on decisions and strategy well before the strategies are
selected and the decisions need to be made. Those with influence make an
impact on their organizations and the larger world and can advance more
rapidly in their careers. Your advice may be perceptive, even wise, but
if it falls on deaf ears, it helps no one. Beyond the actual quality of
your advice, how you communicate that advice plays a major role in
ensuring that others can and will listen to it and act on it. The six
approaches suggested can help achieve this goal: 1. Be positive. 2.
Eliminate criticism as a coaching and advising practice. 3. Urge prompt
action. 4. Focus on outcomes. 5. Be an incrementalist. 6. Be pragmatic.
howto  advice  ProQuest  indispensable  guidelines  influence  leadership  managing_people  Managing_Your_Career  pragmatism  incrementalism  outcomes  action-oriented  coaching  upbeat 
march 2010 by jerryking
How to Be a Smart Innovator - WSJ.com
SEPTEMBER 11, 2006 | Wall Street Journal | by Nicholas Carr,
who talks about the right way to be creative --and the wrong way. Mr.
Carr says, companies need to be prudent --even conservative --in where
and how much they encourage innovation. He reminds us that innovation
isn't free, that it's quite expensive and quite risky. Managers need to
bring the same kind of discipline to deciding where to innovate as they
would normally bring to any other kind of management question.
Innovation initiatives and innovation investments should be connected to
a firm's broader business strategy and its areas of competitive
advantage: mfg. processes or its supply chain or its products themselves
or branding and marketing areas. You don't need to always shoot for
home runs in innovation. Further, innovations can be useful if, instead
of causing disruptions, mend those disruptions or help regular customers
(late majority) adapt to new technologies or new innovations--bridging.
adaptability  breakthroughs  bridging  competitive_advantage  contrarians  Daniel_Pink  disruption  Freshbooks  howto  incrementalism  innovation  innovators  Nicholas_Carr  smart_people  strategy  taxonomy 
february 2010 by jerryking
RETHINKING EVERY RULE OF REINVENTION
May 1, 2006 | Advertising Age | by Scott Bedbury. Great
brands like Nike and Starbucks have transcended the commodity nature of
their categories and become global brand leaders. Essential to both
brands is a nontraditional view toward marketing, particularly in the
area of consumer research, and a cultural commitment to risk taking and
the inevitable mistakes that happen through continuous innovation. For
these brands reinvention is not a one-time event but an ongoing
commitment. Here are four things to keep in mind as you consider ways to
reinvent your brand: 1. Study your competition above all else. 2. Test
your way into it. 3. Think in terms of current distribution. 4. Avoid
mistakes.
consumer_research  branding  risk-taking  incrementalism  innovation  reinvention  Nike  Starbucks  organizational_culture  brands  experimentation  trial_&_error  competition  distribution_channels 
january 2010 by jerryking
Think Small - WSJ.com
FEBRUARY 14, 2007 | Wall Street Journal | by RAJAN
VARADARAJAN. Article touting the merits of incremental--versus
radical-- approaches to innovation. Incremental innovations can: help
support radical innovations; play a major role in helping companies
enter new markets, by modifying existing products to suit new customers;
help take charge of fragmented industries -- those with lots of small,
regional competitors; help companies on their home turf (i.e. line
extensions); help a company increase the price premium on its products;
help companies neutralize the impact of competitors' innovations; help
companies respond to big changes in their industry.
innovation  radical  P&G  incrementalism  breakthroughs  fragmented_markets  small_wins  structural_change  taxonomy  new_markets  marginal_improvements  quick_wins 
january 2010 by jerryking
Book Review: "The Laws of Disruption" - WSJ.com
OCTOBER 12, 2009 | Wall Street Journal | by JEREMY PHILIPS who
reviews The Laws of Disruption, By Larry Downes
Basic, 298 pages, $26.95. The central thesis of "The Laws of
Disruption" is that "technology changes exponentially, but social,
economic and legal systems change incrementally." When it comes to the
digital revolution, Mr. Downes says, our laws have not kept pace with
the changes that it has brought about. Downes counsels that authorities
(regulators and judges) use a light touch--as opposed to introducing
ever new laws and regulations --because the rapid pace of change makes
it impossible to predict the course of technology.
book_reviews  disruption  innovation  Internet  technological_change  intellectual_property  structural_change  regulation  competitive_landscape  incrementalism  regulators  books  digital_disruption  digital_revolution 
october 2009 by jerryking
Six Deadly Orthodoxies of Recessions | Articles | Homepage
Jan./Feb. 2009, article in CEO Magazine by Pierre Loewe and
Dave Jones
* Reduce costs selectively, not indiscriminately, monitor carefully the
impact of cost cuts on staff.
* Don't stop investing - seek undervalued assets and opportunities to
upend rivals who only think of retrenching.
* De-risk and lower the costs of innovation efforts by reaching outside
company and by conducting well-designed experiments.
*If your company has developed a new product or business that
significantly enhances the customer value proposition, a recession is
the time to introduce it and get a lasting advantage over more timid
competitors.
*A recession is the time to bypass incremental cost reduction efforts
and to focus employees' energy on innovation aimed at dramatic cost
reduction.
*Even if you have to curtail innovation efforts to conserve cash,
maintain a sufficient level of activity so you can ramp-up efforts
quickly, retain your key innovators, and tap the pulse of the changing
dynamics of the mkt.
innovation  rethinking  lessons_learned  recessions  Michael_McDerment  counterintuitive  CEOs  Daniel_Pink  Freshbooks  economic_downturn  orthodoxy  conventional_wisdom  breakthroughs  new_products  de-risking  cost-cutting  new_categories  undervalued  incrementalism  marginal_improvements  experimentation  moonshots 
february 2009 by jerryking

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