Monthly Archives: December 2016

Innovate or Leave

Innovation seems to be the buzz word these days. Everyone seems to be following & applying it. From big corporations to the small start up entrepreneurial ventures, everyone’s using the term, following blindly, wasting resources & getting nowhere. Browse through the internet & you will find the word written on every consulting & client website. But the question one should ask is, are we having the appetite for innovation? Or is it that its being followed as a fad? What are the innovations required for my business? Would it be a good idea to follow company X innovation strategy, which is in some other unrelated sector? How can I institutionalize innovation in my organization? Is technology innovation meant for me?

If you carefully observe & read between the lines, the above questions boil down to two points – meaning of innovation for your organization & attitude towards it. For example, for GE, innovation would be to come up with a great idea on climate control or emission reduction, while the same term for Apple would mean to come up with something creatively innovative & useful for its target audience at the same time, & which would satisfy some kind of a latent demand. For some other businesses, like food processing industry it would mean to come up with some kind of new ready to paste which can be added to any Asian food being prepared to increase the shelf life of the dish. While for some others like Stan Chart, it can mean great ideas that can improve their efficiency & customer convenience at the same time.

Now getting back to the agenda, innovation means any improvement, small or big, radical or disruptive, slow or fast, that improves any of your metrics in any function of business. For example, anything that can lead to increased consumer value, increase in revenues, increase in turnover, decrease in manufacturing cost, decrease in operational costs, decrease in lead times etc. are innovations. Amazon.com, Sony walkman, Apple IPod, Hotmail etc. were sudden disruptive innovations that changed the rules of the game. They forever changed the industry norms & killed competition like no other company did. Dell, FedEx etc. were slow innovations that changed the way the industry operates. Now they have become the benchmarks, every other company in their sector is following them. Ford assembly line was a sudden big innovation whereas the Gramin Microfinance was the slow big innovation. Both these companies brought about new sectors or operations in existence. So, innovation changes/ improves processes, creates new segments/ industry sectors, adds value to the consumer. Benefits of innovation are meant for the consumer, directly as in Apple IPod case or indirectly as in the case of GE, where consumers get the benefit of clean atmosphere/ air as a result of environmental friendly aircraft engines.

Some companies have come over innovation. These big corporations are so much drenched in over confidence due to their industry leadership that they cannot think anything innovative anymore. For them innovation means to come up with costly marketing campaigns that don’t have any effect on buying behavior. In fact these type of useless strategies add to consumer distraction & irritation by getting exposed to media messages repeatedly. Moreover, these branding & advertising campaigns add to the cost of the product. Had some money been saved on these activities, the value to consumers could have been increased. Branding is important but not more than innovation. ‘If you wear Scabal suit but the body inside is same as that of your neighbour who wears a school uniform, then sooner or later, a comparative test would prove it. & your customers would come to know that they are the ones who are paying for the costly suit. Also they would rather pay less for the package than get mesmerized by the suit.’ So, by focusing on continuous innovation, you can focus on adding value to the package rather than to the cost of the suit of the package that is much cheaper than what its labeled.

The basic starting step towards building an innovation centric organization is having the right attitude. Rectifying the mistakes, calls for admitting that you have done a mistake in the first place. If you don’t accept your mistake, 99% chances are that you won’t take any remedial action. Same goes for bloated & over confident companies, who think that they are the best. But believe me, none of the top 100 organizations of the past century were on the list of in the 40’s & neither are 80% among the ones that featured on that list in the 50’s, now. So does that give you some hint to what was happening to the top corporations then & what’s happening now & what will happen I the future?

We Can’t Have Everyone in Our Society Be a Creative Innovative Genius

Okay so, we’ve heard a lot of complaints about the lack of creativity and innovation in our schools. I find this fascinating in many regards because we’ve spent the last few generations conditioning our children in the education system to respect authority and get in line. Even the standardized testing seems to suggest that we are getting our kids ready for the workforce and to be obedient corporate employees and to listen to the boss and the government, to pay their taxes on time, and to do as every other American does. Now then let’s talk about this for second shall we?

We have many who have suggested that we need more people like Steve Jobs in industry so that America can lead the technological innovative future. However, Steve Jobs was highly disruptive in almost everything he did, and every industry he participated in. In fact, many companies were destroyed, and many industries were changed, and tens of thousands of jobs were lost in his wake. Just think about it for second, the music industry changed, the movie animation business changed, the personal computer changed, mobile communication technology changed, and consider all the companies that shed tens of thousands of employees.

How about Hewlett-Packard, Nokia, Blackberry, and what about companies in the publishing industry due to the advent of e-books, and the Apple I-store? Apple TV is being followed by others in the tech industry, so what about the television industry and cable industry? Okay so, if we had creative geniuses running around every single industry, there will be so much disruption that there would be no such thing as steady employment any more. Are we sure we want that? And are we sure we want that type of change at that level of chaos?

Can our country even remain stable if it were so? Now then, I was highly creatively destructive in my own industry, and I changed the way it operated, and added a new sector to it. Of course, it played havoc on the competition and the established status quo of that industry when I invented mobile car washing, and franchised it in 23 states. So is the world ready for creative geniuses in every industry, I don’t think so. We are also going to need people who are not creative, but can follow those who are, just as we need workers to run government services, and we must maintain at least some standardization.

Calling for “Winning the Future,” which comes with “creative distraction” as Larry Ellison from Oracle recently stated when interviewed at the All Things Digital Conference in 2012. In fact, his direct quote was; “it’s all about creative destruction.” Does that mean we have to destroy to create? And if so aren’t we calling for the destruction of society and industry as we know it in that case, as we make the claim that we need more creativity in education? Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on.

Impact of New Technologies

According to the 2012 report, Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds, published the US National Intelligence Council, four technology arenas will shape global economic, social and military developments by 2030. They are information technologies, automation and manufacturing technologies, resource technologies, and health technologies.

Information technologies

Three technological developments with an IT focus have the power to change the way we will live, do business and protect ourselves before 2030.

1. Solutions for storage and processing large quantities of data, including “big data”, will provide increased opportunities for governments and commercial organizations to “know” their customers better. The technology is here but customers may object to collection of so much data. In any event, these solutions will likely herald a coming economic boom in North America.

2. Social networking technologies help individual users to form online social networks with other users. They are becoming part of the fabric of online existence, as leading services integrate social functions into everything else an individual might do online. Social networks enable useful as well as dangerous communications across diverse user groups and geopolitical boundaries.

3. Smart cities are urban environments that leverage information technology-based solutions to maximize citizens’ economic productivity and quality of life while minimizing resources consumption and environmental degradation.

Automation and manufacturing technologies

As manufacturing has gone global in the last two decades, a global ecosystem of manufacturers, suppliers, and logistics companies has formed. New manufacturing and automation technologies have the potential to change work patterns in both the developed and developing worlds.

1. Robotics is today in use in a range of civil and military applications. Over 1.2 million industrial robots are already in daily operations round the world and there are increasing applications for non-industrial robots. The US military has thousands of robots in battlefields, home robots vacuum homes and cut lawns, and hospital robots patrol corridors and distribute supplies. Their use will increase in the coming years, and with enhanced cognitive capabilities, robotics could be hugely disruptive to the current global supply chain system and the traditional job allocations along supply chains.

2. 3D printing (additive manufacturing) technologies allow a machine to build an object by adding one layer of material at a time. 3D printing is already in use to make models from plastics in sectors such as consumers products and the automobile and aerospace industries. By 2030, 3D printing could replace some conventional mass production, particularly for short production runs or where mass customization has high value.

3. Autonomous vehicles are mostly in use today in the military and for specific tasks e.g. in the mining industry. By 2030, autonomous vehicles could transform military operations, conflict resolution, transportation and geo-prospecting, while simultaneously presenting novel security risks that could be difficult to address. At the consumer level, Google has been testing for the past few years a driverless car.

Resource technologies

Technological advances will be required to accommodate increasing demand for resources owing to global population growth and economic advances in today’s underdeveloped countries. Such advances can affect the food, water and energy nexus by improving agricultural productivity through a broad range of technologies including precision farming and genetically modified crops for food and fuel. New resource technologies can also enhance water management through desalination and irrigation efficiency; and increase the availability of energy through enhanced oil and gas extraction and alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power, and bio-fuels. Widespread communication technologies will make the potential effect of these technologies on the environment, climate and health well known to the increasingly educated populations.

Health technologies

Two sets of health technologies are highlighted below.

1. Disease management will become more effective, more personalized and less costly through such new enabling technologies as diagnostic and pathogen-detection devices. For example, molecular diagnostic devices will provide rapid means of testing for both genetic and pathogenic diseases during surgeries. Readily available genetic testing will hasten disease diagnosis and help physicians decide on the optimal treatment for each patient. Advances in regenerative medicine almost certainly will parallel these developments in diagnostic and treatment protocols. Replacement organs such as kidneys and livers could be developed by 2030. These new disease management technologies will increase the longevity and quality of life of the world’s ageing populations.

2. Human augmentation technologies, ranging from implants and prosthetic and powered exoskeleton to brains enhancements, could allow civilian and military people to work more effectively, and in environments that were previously inaccessible. Elderly people may benefit from powered exoskeletons that assist wearers with simple walking and lifting activities, improving the health and quality of life for aging populations. Progress in human augmentation technologies will likely face moral and ethical challenges.

Incredible Technology That Will Change the World

The term ‘memristor circuits’ might sound new to many, but it is a word that will certainly create a buzz in the world of technology in the future. It is undoubtedly the ‘Next Big Thing’! Memristor, a technology that is expected to be much cheaper and faster than flash storage, is a microscopic component that has a unique ability to remember electrical states even when in a ‘turned off’ mode.

Although the concept of these microscopic circuits was theorized in the year 1971 by UC Berkeley researcher Leon Chua, it is only recently that this technology has been created in labs. Hewlett-Packard (HP) is the first to have built it. In fact, it has already started to revolutionize almost everything we are aware of in the field of computing and is expected to supersede RAM, flash memory, and hard drives within a decade.

Among all the amazing technological innovations, ranging from the ones that promise to make paperless offices a reality to those that deliver wireless power, a memristor circuit is one such incredible innovation that claims to send shock waves through the computing world by turning your modest Personal Computer (PC) into a far different beast.

Memristor is the fourth type of circuit component after resistors, inductors, and capacitors. As its name suggests, it can not only remember the amount of current that passes through it, but can also alternate it. Allowing greater memory densities, these revolutionary one-element circuits have the potential to replace RAM chips. In other words, after you turn off your PC, it will remember exactly what it was doing when you turn it back on, and return to work instantly. Thus, lowering of cost and consolidating of components might lead to affordable, solid-state computers that can fit in our pockets and run many times faster than today’s computers.