A look at how companies find unique ways to embrace innovation and invest in new ways of thinking.
Innovation / Opinions
Let's face it, not every company will succeed. Sometimes there's a fine line between success and failure. Many factors can stop a good idea in its tracks – sometimes it's just dumb luck. There are countless examples of failed business attempts that you can learn from, but we've picked five notable businesses from Autopsy - Lessons from Failed Startups -- a website that documents the demise of startups and the reasons they fail -- that seemingly had it all but couldn't gain traction with their customers.
Most of us have experienced the "career creepies," those moments of intense anxiety about our place in the work world. I had one of those a few months ago when The Associated Press said it would use computer-generated stories to supplement its coverage of corporate earnings announcements. Yikes! If a writer isn't safe from automation, who is?
Stuart Haselden, director of IT services at Victoria University of Wellington, suggests organisations should ask this question when making important decisions.
The challenges CIOs face require imagination before analysis, story before spreadsheets, brilliance before process, and conversation before solutions.
I recently read an interesting post evidently written by a Microsoft employee who had left that company to join Google and then returned after finding the grass wasn't so green on the other side of the fence. Google is well-recognized for providing one of the best working environments in the world, but like many companies that have been similarly revered, they appear to be systematically killing it, according to this post. This all sounded very familiar, and in Google I see the repeat of catastrophic mistakes made by IBM, Apple, Microsoft, Netscape, Sun and Yahoo.
Do you Yammer … and if so, should you? Growth in adoption of this collaboration tool in the corporate and government enterprise sectors seems to have gone viral this year – demonstrating the power of a new breed of cloud-based platforms. I've spoken to many CIOs during the year that have remarked on the way Yammer has sprung up in their organisation – like a weed, some would say. But whether it's a weed to eradicate or a wildflower to be nurtured is a matter of judgment.
Yammer's viral adoption sales model means that any user can germinate a social network for their enterprise on Yammer without charge. The network can spread freely – anyone with the enterprise email domain name can join. Payment is only required once somebody works out that admin controls are desirable (such as the ability to moderate posts and terminate members from the network if they no longer work for the business).
During a recent tour of Sydney, Mumbai, Seoul and Beijing, I was fascinated to note that a consistent theme that came up in discussion with CIOs was innovation.
In each of these very different cities, across a range of commercial or government-owned enterprises, in a wide variety of segments, innovation was of major interest - whether innovation for its application in the continuing theme of “doing more with less”, or whether as a lever to demonstrate the value of IT, or as a platform for reuse of data, systems and processes to achieve efficiency and lower time to market, it was obvious that many Asia Pacific CIOs retain a laser focus on innovation.
Most of the CIOs I speak with are looking at the year ahead as an opportunity to drive innovation within their organisations, usually by automating back office activities. That's a good place to start. But the most aggressive are looking beyond running the IT shop more efficiently and effectively; they're also experimenting with new technologies that can increase profitability, improve competitiveness and attract new customers. We call them ambidextrous innovators.
Here are five areas for experimentation that seem to have value potential for both the back and the front office.
Organisations continue to be plagued by the tension that US academics Paul Lawrence and Jay Lorsch defined forty-three years ago - the need to balance “differentiation and integration”. On the one hand the business units of complex organisations need to differentiate to meet the needs of their different markets and customers. On the other hand the organisation as a whole needs to create more value via integration, than if the business units acted independently.
Discussion of how this tension is balanced is as relevant in 2010 as it was in the late 1960s, with the holy grail of competitive advantage being to optimise for both. All too often, however, achieving a sustainable balance is a triumph of hope over experience, and we see the pendulum swinging back and forth between the apogees of decentralisation (differentiation) and centralisation (integration) each time there is a change of organisational leadership.
Last year cloud computing started to pick up some serious momentum, with the IT industry playing catch-up to a book retailing company providing computing infrastructure as an online service. Amazon continued to push its innovation pedal to the metal all year, surprising us all by launching the ultimate commoditised IT service into beta in December – the EC2 Spot Instances service.
The service operates in a similar manner to demand-side bids in the spot electricity market. Customers place orders, or bids, for a virtual machine instance at a specified price. The system dynamically sets the spot price at a level matching supply and demand, and if your bid is at or above the spot price your workload runs. If not, it remains pending until the spot price falls to your bid price or below.
Creativity is today's ultimate black box; a Rorschach blot onto which there are projected innumerable meanings.
When academic Richard Green reviewed the literature, he found so much variation that he concluded the creativity field was "so attenuated, extenuated, or misunderstood that operationalising of the key concepts is missing or impossible".
The technology industry, indeed business in general, is enamoured with innovation. Any business-oriented magaszine you pick up talks about innovation and how to be more innovative. Innovate or die is our mantra and we are constantly on the look out for bright ideas. If you judge us by our actions, it seems we all believe that the person with the most ideas will win and all others are doomed.
The result is we are constantly looking for and implementing new initiatives. If something is wrong then start a project to fix it. If your competition seems to be better at something than you are then start a project to fix it. If there is a hot, new technology out there you better have an innovation fund available to be able to explore it and get ahead. Change is constant and if you can’t change faster than your competition then you will lose.
Clayton Christensen's book, The Innovator's Dilemma, is a touchstone here in Silicon Valley. His book examines the process of innovation as it attempts to answer the question "why do most new technologies seem to come from startups and not from established companies that are also familiar with the technology?" He cites many markets as examples, including tube table radios (displaced by transistor radios), cable-driven steam diggers (displaced by hydraulic diggers), and disk drives (where successive waves of technology were represented in shrinking form factors) that brought new companies to the fore at each new wave. In each of these markets, according to Christensen, innovation shook up the established way of doing things and propelled new market entrants past companies that had dominated the previous technology.
Medieval Chinese rulers favoured certain industries over others and they suppressed any new enterprise.
When the Australian Science Minister, Kim Carr, announced his innovation review, the first thing I thought of was the Victoria and Albert design museum in London - not just because the V&A is a monument to innovation, but also because the museum contains valuable lessons for any erstwhile government minister.