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jerryking : moonshots   31

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 
7 days ago by jerryking
Venture capital investors should harpoon more whales
February 3, 2020 | Financial Times | by John Thornhill.

*VC: An American History by Tom Nicholas.
* The worry for Silicon Valley is that the impulse for creative destruction is now fading
* It is easy to be rude about the venture capital industry. So here goes. The criticism runs that the VC sector is full of too many over-funded, ill-disciplined chancers who pass off hype for reality, groupthink for insight and luck for good judgment.....What’s more, a staggering 95 per cent of VC firms fail to make a decent enough return to justify the risks their investors run......the current mindset of the VC industry is responsible for the slowdown in new business formation and lack of economic dynamism in the US. All too often, addicted to capital-light, metric-heavy software businesses, VCs are failing to bet big enough on the breakthrough technologies that tackle our biggest challenges, such as climate change or cancer.........Katie Rae, chief executive and managing partner of The Engine, a Boston-based “tough tech” venture fund, says that many VCs have lost sight of their original purpose......VCs were all about funding tech breakthroughs but that has got lost,” ...... “A lot of VCs look more like private equity companies that do not want to lose any money so they end up backing dog-walking apps rather than quantum computing.”......Historically, the best venture capitalists have performed a vital capitalistic function: turning seemingly outlandish ideas and transformative technologies into everyday realities. Semiconductors, recombinant insulin and internet search engines have all come to market largely thanks to VC backing........“The VC industry is cut-throat. .....It provides the capital and expertise for start-ups to succeed.”.......In VC: An American History, Tom Nicholas traces VC’s high-risk, high-reward mentality back to the 19th-century whaling industry, which developed a novel form of venture financing. The idea was to back an expert captain who could fit out a robust ship, hire the best crew and endure an average of 3.6 years at sea. On landing a whale, the captain would return investors’ money several times over. But many ships returned empty-handed or sunk.........the pattern of financial returns made by Gideon Allen & Sons, the smartest backers of whaling ventures, were almost identical to those achieved by Sequoia Capital, one of the best VC firms operating today..........one of the striking features of the subsequent evolution of the VC industry.......was how contingent it was on time, circumstance and people. The west coast model of VC investing, owed an enormous amount to massive government investments in technology during the cold war, the expansion of world-beating universities in California and the emergence of some remarkable entrepreneurs and visionary investors, such as Arthur Rock, Tom Perkins and Don Valentine.......The worry for Silicon Valley is that some of that Schumpeterian impulse for creative destruction is now fading. One argument has it that Silicon Valley is becoming increasingly “corporatised” with Big Tech firms, such as Google, Facebook and Apple, championing the mantra that “big is beautiful” in the face of emerging competition from China.

The benign view is that Big Tech may be internalising much of the innovation once carried out by start-ups; the malign interpretation is that Cupertino, California [JCK: that is, "Big Tech"] is snuffing out smaller rivals.......

“Silicon Valley is overdue a disruption. It is not a hotbed of start-ups any more,” ..........Metaphorically, at least, the VC industry needs to get back in the business of funding wildly ambitious entrepreneurs intent on harpooning some more whales.
19th_century  Arthur_Rock  big_bets  Big_Tech  books  breakthroughs  broad-based_scientific_enquiry  cancers  climate_change  creative_destruction  disruption  Don_Valentine  entrepreneur  finance  financing  fundamental_discoveries  funding  HBS  high-risk  high-reward  innovation  investors  Joseph_Schumpeter  moonshots  public_investments  semiconductors  Sequoia  Silicon_Valley  thinking_big  Tom_Perkins  tough_tech  whaling  vc  venture_capital  visionaries 
18 days ago by jerryking
Two MIT Economists Share A Bold Plan To Jump-Start The Economy In New Book
April 9, 2019 | Boston Public Radio | By Arjun Singh

On paper, America’s economy seems to be excelling. In March, the economy added 196,000 new jobs while the unemployment rate sat at 3.8 percent. Meanwhile, American startups like Uber and Pinterest are expected to go public with multi-million or higher valuations. But MIT economists Jonathan Gruber and Simon Johnson believe this hides a darker truth about the American economy: It’s slowly falling behind the rest of the world.

In their new book, “Jump-Starting America: How Breakthrough Science Can Revive Economic Growth and the American Dream,” Gruber and Johnson lay out their plan for how the United States can reclaim its mantle as a leader in not just gross domestic product, but also innovation and science. The key, they say, is government investment and encouragement in the scientific sector.......The economists are optimistic, however, that the United States can regain its lead and eventually develop a robust economy that sees economic growth and investment in the sciences. And not just in places like Boston or San Francisco, but throughout the rest of the country, where Johnson says there is a wealth of untapped talent and potential. They estimate there are at least 102 potential scientific hubs scattered across the U.S.

“The coastal superstar cities have become extremely expensive, but there’s a tremendous amount of talent spread across the U.S.,” Johnson said. “Good living conditions also matter. People also want to live in a place [with a] good climate, much better commute times than you have in the megacities, and low crime rates. Those are our very simple, transparent criteria.”..... 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.
books  breakthroughs  coastal  competitiveness_of_nations  economists  industrial_policies  innovation  jump-start  MIT  moonshots  NSF  public_investments  R&D  science  Simon_Johnson  spillover  superstars  U.S. 
august 2019 by jerryking
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
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
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
Silicon Valley Stumbles in World Beyond Software
DEC. 6, 2016 | WSJ | BY JACK NICAS

In software, programmers can control their environment. The physical world is messy and unpredictable. Even the smartest computers can’t prepare for every possibility. Add to that the burden of public safety and regulation and it is easy to see why the tech industry hasn’t been able to replicate its success in the digital realm.

“The world is so unforgiving. You can’t just ask it to be more organized,” said Astro Teller, the ponytailed chief of X, Alphabet’s research lab that has investigated—and decided against—space elevators and jetpacks.

Moreover, digital progress is rapid, because computing power increases dramatically over time and software can be replicated endlessly. In the physical world, advances are constrained by physics.
physics  analog  Google  drones  challenges  cyberphysical  Silicon_Valley  software  meat_space  moonshots  Amazon  physical_world 
december 2016 by jerryking
Philanthropy in Silicon Valley: Big Bets on Big Ideas - The New York Times
By VINDU GOELNOV. 4, 2016
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philanthropy  Silicon_Valley  due_diligence  moonshots  big_bets 
november 2016 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
Lunch with the FT: Mariana Mazzucato - FT.com
August 14, 2015 12:07 pm
Lunch with the FT: Mariana Mazzucato
John Thornhill

* Mazzucato’s book The Entrepreneurial State

As Mazzucato explains it, the traditional way of framing the debate about wealth creation is to picture the private sector as a magnificent lion caged by the public sector. Remove the bars, and the lion roams and roars. In fact, she argues, private sector companies are rarely lions; far more often they are kittens. Managers tend to be more concerned with cutting costs, buying back their shares and maximising their share prices (and stock options) than they are in investing in research and development and boosting long-term growth.
“As soon as I started looking at these issues, I started realising how much language matters. If you just talk about the state as a facilitator, as a de-risker, as an incentiviser, as a fixer of market failures, it ends up structuring what you do,” she says. But the state plays a far more creative role, she insists, in terms of declaring grand missions (the US ambition to go to the moon, or the German goal of creating nuclear-free energy), and investing in the early-stage development of many industries, including semiconductors, the internet and fracking. “You always require the state to roar.”
... Some tech and pharmaceuticals companies are going to extravagant lengths to reduce their taxes, one of the ways in which they pay back the state. The more libertarian wing of Silicon Valley is even talking of secession from California so they can pay no tax at all. “Won’t it be nice when there’s the next tsunami and these guys call the coastguard,” she says....
One criticism of Mazzucato’s work is that she fetishises the public sector in much the same way that rightwing commentators idolise the private sector. She appears stung by the suggestion: “I’m from Italy, believe me, I don’t romanticise the state.” The challenge, she says, is to rebalance the relationship between the private sector, which is all too often overly financialised and parasitic, and the public sector, which is frequently unimaginative and fearful. “When you have a courageous, mission-oriented public sector, it affects not just investment but the relationships and the deals it does with the private sector,” she says. Europe’s left-wing parties could have run with this agenda. Instead, she says, they have “absolutely failed” to change the political discourse by obsessing about value extraction rather than value creation, by focusing more on taxing big business than fostering innovation.

====================================================
The Chinese get the state to do that risky and costly, research and the development to keep them ahead.

The US does the same, but just keeps quiet about it so it doesn’t spoil the narrative.
“The parts of the smart phone that make it smart—GPS, touch screens, the Internet—were advanced by the Defense Department. Tesla’s battery technologies and solar panels came out of a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Google’s search engine algorithm was boosted by a National Science Foundation innovation. Many innovative new drugs have come out of NIH research.!” http://time.com/4089171/mariana-mazzucato/
activism  books  breakthroughs  DARPA  de-risking  Department_of_Energy  early-stage  economists  fracking  free-riding  innovation  Mariana_Mazzucato  mission-driven  moonshots  NIH  NSF  private_sector  public_sector  semiconductors  Silicon_Valley  sovereign-risk  state-as-facilitator  value_creation  value_extraction  women 
august 2015 by jerryking
Search for a Market Niche, and You Might Find a Crowd - NYTimes.com
By JENNA WORTHAM FEB. 8, 2014

Tristan Walker decided that his moon shot would be revolutionizing the skin-care and beauty-product industry for African-Americans....Kartik Hosanagar, a professor of online commerce at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said that even the smallest companies would soon have to start paying attention to so-called unconventional markets.

“There are still two Silicon Valleys,” Mr. Hosanagar said. “Young entrepreneurs in San Francisco, working at a tech firm, surrounded by the tech 1 percent, solving problems for the 1 percent. And there are companies that manage to break through that and become relevant. The Googles, Twitters and Facebooks of the world.”

The companies that break out, he said, are successful because they are adept at appealing to all users. But even those tech giants must think ever more broadly if they are to have continued success and growth. Signs suggest that these companies are trying to extend their reach and understand the complexity and diversity of their users and potential users.
African-Americans  niches  entrepreneur  moonshots  Foursquare  Andreessen_Horowitz  unconventional_thinking  personal_care_products  personal_grooming  underserved  Bottom_of_the_Pyramid  Jenna_Wortham  Tristan_Walker  pay_attention 
february 2014 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
How to Think Big,
April 11, 2013 | Businessweek | by 'Titanic' Replica Builder Clive Palmer.

There are no barriers to having great ideas and thinking big. Whether rich or poor, privileged or disadvantaged, everybody is capable of changing their lives and the lives of others by thinking big. It takes imagination, courage, and the will to work hard. Don’t listen to the knockers and the critics, the naysayers and the negativity. To my knowledge, nobody ever built a monument to a critic. They come and go, but big ideas last forever. The great John F. Kennedy said words to this effect: “A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.”

I’ve had my share of failures along the way, but they’ve only made me stronger and smarter and the successes all the more sweet. The secret to thinking big is capturing the imagination of the people. That’s where the power lies. It’s like harnessing the tide. If you can cultivate the right idea that resonates on an individual level, it will surge through the population like a wave. The best ideas are highly contagious. They can cross borders and cultures.
ideas  thinking  howto  storytelling  persuasion  virality  idea_generation  chutzpah  failure  individual_initiative  ideaviruses  moonshots  negativity_bias  imagination  courage  hard_work  thinking_big  JFK 
july 2013 by jerryking
Clayton Christensen Wants to Transform Capitalism | Wired Business | Wired.com
By Jeff Howe
02.12.13

Howe: You’re working on a new book now, right? The Capitalist’s Dilemma. How is that related to the Innovator’s Dilemma?

Christensen: I wrote a piece for The New York Times just before the election. I was wrestling with a paradox. If you look at the financial measures of prosperity in the economy, things seem to be going just great, especially company balance sheets. They haven’t been so strong in decades.

Howe: High market caps all around.

Christensen: It looks like the economy is emerging from the recession in an exciting way, but we’re not creating more jobs or income for the average person. And in all humility, I think I articulated a simple model that explains why. The bad actors are business school professors like me who have been teaching people what I call the Doctrine of New Finance. We’ve encouraged managers to measure profitability based on a return on net assets, or return on capital employed. That encourages companies to liberate their capital, so they invest in efficiency innovations, which means they can make more money with fewer resources. But what the economy ultimately needs are empowering innovations—like the Model T, the transistor radio. Empowering innovations require long-term investments, which tie up capital for years and years. So companies are using capital to create more capital, and consequently the world is awash in capital but the innovations we need to advance aren’t there.

Howe: What’s the solution?

Christensen: I don’t know the solution, but I believe solutions exist. The government can’t dictate, “Oh, that’s an empowering innovation and that’s not.” But what government can do is create tax rates that transform what I call migratory capital into productive capital. Migratory capital flows to investments that will maximize the speed with which it can then be withdrawn, which plays to the doctrine of new finance. Productive capital wants to stay on the job and not go truant after 366 days.

Howe: Can we structure a tax code that encourages that?

Christensen: Absolutely. The idea would be to peg a tax rate to the length of time the capital is deployed. The longer the capital is invested, the lower rate it’s taxed at, until it gradually approaches zero and maybe goes negative
disruption  Clayton_Christensen  capitalism  innovation  books  ROCE  management  capital_flows  sweating_the_assets  moonshots  breakthroughs  tax_codes 
february 2013 by jerryking
H.P.’s Misstep Shows Risk in the Push for Big Ideas - NYTimes.com
November 21, 2012 | NYT | By QUENTIN HARDY.

The ill-fated marriage of the companies is a lesson for H.P. and other older technology giants as they throw billions at supposedly game-changing acquisitions, trying to gain a foothold in the future.

In that future, smartphones and tablets, connected to cloud-computing data centers, are the essential tools of work and play. Companies rent software over the air, rather than buying it with expensive maintenance contracts.

And vast streams of data are continually analyzed to find new patterns and make predictions about consumer behavior and product design. Autonomy, for instance, makes software that can analyze marketing patterns and advise a company on matters like where it should increase marketing resources.

These forces threaten older businesses, like H.P.’s traditional personal computer and data storage products. Other companies, like Oracle, Microsoft and Cisco, also face pressure. They are all trying to buy the future — and have the cash to do it..... But identifying the next big thing can be difficult, said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor of management at Yale University. Likely as not, he said, deals like the one for Autonomy have “maybe a 40 percent success, 60 percent failure rate.”

He added, “The odds are against you succeeding, but the odds are also worth taking.”

The real hazard, he said, is in the way companies describe these acquisitions as “natural, inevitable victories.” They should be seen, he said, as “an investment, like in research and development.”
Autonomy  big_bets  breakthroughs  cloud_computing  cultural_clash  failure  game_changers  HP  ideas  M&A  Meg_Whitman  mergers_&_acquisitions  mistakes  missteps  moonshots  Quentin_Hardy  risks  SaaS  subscriptions  success_rates 
november 2012 by jerryking
The Launching Pad - NYTimes.com
July 21, 2012 | NYT | By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN.

Obama should aspire to make America the launching pad where everyone everywhere should want to come to launch their own moon shot, their own start-up, their own social movement. We can’t stimulate or tax-cut our way to growth. We have to invent our way there. The majority of new jobs every year are created by start-ups. The days when Ford or G.E. came to town with 10,000 jobs are over. Their factories are much more automated today, and their products are made in global supply chains. Instead, we need 2,000 people in every town each starting something that employs five people.

We need everyone starting something! Therefore, we should aspire to be the world’s best launching pad because our work force is so productive; our markets the freest and most trusted; our infrastructure and Internet bandwidth the most advanced; our openness to foreign talent second to none; our funding for basic research the most generous; our rule of law, patent protection and investment-friendly tax code the envy of the world; our education system unrivaled; our currency and interest rates the most stable; our environment the most pristine; our health care system the most efficient; and our energy supplies the most secure, clean and cost-effective.

No, we are not all those things today — but building America into this launching pad for more start-ups is precisely what an Obama second term should be about, so more Americans can thrive in a world we invented. If we can make America the best place to dream something, design something, start something, collaborate with others on something and manufacture something — in an age in which every link in that chain can now be done in so many more places — our workers and innovators will do just fine.
Tom_Friedman  Obama  Campaign_2012  start_ups  entrepreneurship  Cambrian_explosion  product_launches  rule_of_law  interest_rates  institutional_integrity  currencies  moonshots  tax_codes 
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
Look to Giants, Not Start-Ups, for Innovation
From the Wall Street Journal
Informed Reader
November 20, 2007; Page B8

When people think of radical innovations, they usually think of start-ups that shake an industry from the ground up. Some sectors are hobbled with "intractable, industry-wide problems" that only a large company can solve, says Mr. Grove, the co-founder of Intel. Mr. Grove, who has been researching the phenomenon with Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Robert Burgelman, calls this "cross-boundary disruption." Crucially, the industry on the other side of the boundary is "stagnant and populated with companies that cling to doing business the way they always have."
Andy_Grove  Apple  brands  breakthroughs  cross-boundary  disruption  industry_boundaries  innovation  large_companies  moonshots  Fortune_500  GE  stagnation  start_ups  Wal-Mart 
june 2012 by jerryking
Gingrich's Long Game
April 2006 | The Atlantic | By Ross Douthat

If you trade in big ideas, he adds a moment later, "you have to be a very long-range player."
Newt_Gingrich  CompStat  New_York_City  moonshots  ideas  long-term  long-range 
may 2012 by jerryking
How outsiders solve problems that stump experts
May. 02, 2012 | The Globe and Mail| by ERIN MILLAR Special to Globe and Mail Update.

“Radical innovations often happen at the intersections of disciplines,” write Dr. Karim Lakhani and Dr. Lars Bo Jeppesen, of Harvard Business School and Copenhagen Business School respectively, in the Harvard Business Review. “The more diverse the problem-solving population, the more likely a problem is to be solved. People tend to link problems that are distant from their fields with solutions that they've encountered in their own work.”....“We assume that technical problems can be solved only by people with technical expertise,” writes Jonah Lehrer, who discusses InnoCentive in his new book Imagine: How Creativity Works. “But that assumption is wrong. The people deep inside a domain – the chemists trying to solve a chemistry problem – often suffer from a type of intellectual handicap. It's not until the challenge is shared with motivated outsiders that the solution can be found.
creativity  heterogeneity  innovation  polymaths  problem_solving  InnoCentive  books  Jonah_Lehrer  cross-pollination  interdisciplinary  outsiders  intellectual_diversity  moonshots  breakthroughs  industry_expertise 
may 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
Fly Me to the Moon
December 5, 2004 | NYT | By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN...."give me an America that is energy-independent and I will give you sharply reduced oil revenues for the worst governments in the world. I will give you political reform from Moscow to Riyadh to Tehran. Yes, deprive these regimes of the huge oil windfalls on which they depend and you will force them to reform by having to tap their people instead of oil wells. These regimes won't change when we tell them they should. They will change only when they tell themselves they must....If President Bush made energy independence his moon shot, he would dry up revenue for terrorism; force Iran, Russia, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to take the path of reform - which they will never do with $45-a-barrel oil - strengthen the dollar; and improve his own standing in Europe, by doing something huge to reduce global warming. He would also create a magnet to inspire young people to contribute to the war on terrorism and America's future by becoming scientists, engineers and mathematicians. "This is not just a win-win," said the Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum. "This is a win-win-win-win-win."
career_paths  deprivations  energy  energy_independence  energy_security  engineering  mathematics  moonshots  NSF  oil_industry  petro-politics  SAIS  STEM  Tom_Friedman  win-win  youth  young_people 
january 2012 by jerryking
Jobs's Legacy: Changing How We Live - WSJ.com
AUGUST 25, 2011 | WSJ | By WALT MOSSBERG. Jobs changed the
way people live by being willing to take big risks on new ideas, and not
be satisfied with small innovations fed by market research. He insisted
on high quality and had the guts to leave out features others found
essential and to kill technologies, e.g. the floppy drive & the
removable battery. [JCK: An example of "culling"?] And he has been a brilliant marketer, personally
passionate about his products.. he introduced the dominant digital music
player, the iPod, & created the most successful digital media
service, iTunes. He introduced the first super-smartphone, the iPhone,
the only truly successful tablet computer, the iPad, which is in the
process of replacing the laptop, at least in part. He built the world's
largest app store and he built a phenomenally successful chain of retail
stores, too.

Jobs has dramatically changed the mobile phone industry, the music
industry, the film and TV industries, the publishing industry and
others.
Apple  breakthroughs  CEOs  culling  dissatisfaction  gut_feelings  high-quality  imagination  legacies  marginal_improvements  moonshots  resignations  risk-taking  Steve_Jobs  Walter_Mossberg 
august 2011 by jerryking
Schumpeter: Bamboo innovation | The Economist
May 5, 2011 | The Economist | Anonymous. China’s lack of
originality matters less than you may think, believe Dan Breznitz &
Michael Murphree of the Georgia Institute of Technology. In a new book,
“Run of the Red Queen”, they argue that it is wrong to equate innovation
solely with the invention of breakthrough products. In an emerging
economy, other forms of innovation can yield bigger dividends. One is
“process innovation”: the relentless improvement of factories and
distribn. sys. Another is “product innovation”: the adaptation of
existing goods to China’s unique requirements.

The biggest threat to the Chinese model comes from India.
innovation  China  industrial_policies  strategies  books  patents  breakthroughs  portfolios  process_improvements  product-orientated  taxonomy  moonshots  marginal_improvements 
may 2011 by jerryking
Master Planner: Fred Brooks Shows How to Design Anything
July 28, 2010 | Wired Magazine | By Kevin Kelly who
interviews Fred Brooks who has written a new book, The Design of Design.
It’s a collection of essays that extends his ideas into the fields of
architecture, hardware systems, and leadership..Know Your
Scarcity.....Brooks: The critical thing about the design process is to
identify your scarcest resource. Despite what you may think, that very
often is not money. For example, in a NASA moon shot, money is abundant
but lightness is scarce; every ounce of weight requires tons of material
below. On the design of a beach vacation home, the limitation may be
your ocean-front footage. You have to make sure your whole team
understands what scarce resource you’re optimizing.
design  advice  books  failure  programming  creativity  scarcity  Kevin_Kelly  interviews  moonshots  constraints  NASA  optimization 
july 2010 by jerryking
Why focus groups tell you the obvious
Mar 24, 2010. | Financial Times. pg. 14 | Luke Johnson. Great
breakthroughs in fields such as new product development are frequently
achieved by avoiding surveys and committees altogether. Constant testing
can lead to blandness and safety-first choices. In creative affairs,
corporate brainstorming sessions usually end up with groupthink
dullness, all originality squeezed out because of the fear of failure or
through the influence of office politics. As Steve Jobs said: "It's
really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people
don't know what they want until you show it to them."
ProQuest  Luke_Johnson  research_methods  product_development  surveys  market_research  breakthroughs  moonshots  Steve_Jobs  unarticulated_desires 
april 2010 by jerryking
Googling Growth - WSJ.com
APRIL 9, 2007 | Wall Street Journal | by CHRIS ZOOK. Rapid
shifts in markets and technologies are forcing companies of all sorts to
change direction faster than ever. Many management teams are tempted
by "big bang" solutions: dramatic, transformative mergers or aggressive
leaps into sexy new markets. The success rate for major, life-changing
mergers is only about one in 10. For most companies, reinvention of a
core business doesn't have to involve such high levels of risk. The
solution lies in mining hidden assets -- assets already possessed but
not being tapped for maximum growth potential.
One way to open management's eyes to hidden assets is to identify the
richest hunting grounds, usually camouflaged as hidden business
platforms, untapped customer insights, and underused capabilities.
accelerated_lifecycles  Apple  assets  Bain  big_bang  business_models  Chris_Zook  core_businesses  customer_insights  GE  growth  hidden  high-risk  iPODs  latent  life-changing  M&A  mergers_&_acquisitions  moonshots  Nestlé  Novozymes  rapid_change  reinvention  resource_management  Samsung  success_rates  transformational  underutilization 
february 2010 by jerryking
In search of the black swans
Apr 1, 2009 | - physicsworld.com | Mark Buchanan
In search of the black swans

The publish-or-perish ethic too often favours a narrow and conservative
approach to scientific innovation. Mark Buchanan asks whether we are
pushing revolutionary ideas to the margins.
black_swan  Nassim_Taleb  human_innovation  discoveries  risk-taking  ideas  moonshots  breakthroughs 
april 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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