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jerryking : organizational_improvements   2

What the history of the electric dynamo teaches about the future of the computer.
JUNE 9 2007 6:18 AM
By Tim Harford

David's research also suggests patience. New technology takes time to have a big economic impact. More importantly, businesses and society itself have to adapt before that will happen. Such change is always difficult and, perhaps mercifully, slower than the march of technology.

More recent research from MIT's Erik Brynjolfsson has shown that the history of the dynamo is repeating itself: Companies do not do well if they spend a lot of money on IT projects unless they also radically reorganize to take advantage of the technology. The rewards of success are huge, but the chance of failure is high. That may explain why big IT projects so often fail, and why companies nevertheless keep trying to introduce them.

Brynjolfsson recently commented that the technology currently available is enough to fuel a couple of decades of organizational improvements.
technology  Alfred_Chandler  historians  IT  productivity  productivity_payoffs  Erik_Brynjolfsson  organizational_improvements  organizational_change  organizational_structure  Tim_Harford  business_history 
may 2017 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

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