Wednesday, April 28. 2010
Last night we launched the Big Potatoes Innovation Manifesto (main site here, summary of manifesto here).
For those who are not familiar with it, essentially we believe that "Innovation" today has often been watered down to not a lot more that "continuous improvement that won't rock the boats", and we need to do a lot better than that - and the view we can use today's technologies - to solve the problems today
from our point of view, the main thing is to create a debate, so we tend to the moer definite thought 0 ans ome of our views are counter intuitive and others are just plain provocative. Here are some of the interesting points that people made last night in response:
- The unmentioned "elephant in the room" in the manifesto is Organisational Behaviour - the reason Innovation is in trouble is due to the structure of modern institutions (cf The Corporation)
- Ethics: we are too light on ethics, in that not all innovation is "good" and we need to do more about that
- We are too rude about the Precautionary principle, tere is a place for it when the risks are very material
- Ditto the agreed level of Global warming science (our view is that its hubris to believe that the science is now settled and there is no space for further innovation, as the one thing history has proven is that the minute one believes the science is a done deal, along comes something that proves it isn't)
- We are also too rude about regulation. Our view is that it seems to always be either prone to creating the effect it was trying to avoid, or (and?) usurped by vested (usually traditional) interests
- We are not specific enough on defining the differenece betewwn Research, Development, Innovation, Invention etc. But then thsi person also said that Innovation is not risky if you know ewhat customers want and is all about making money - which is exactly the view of Innovation we object to - we unapologetically want to take Innovation back to what it meant up to 20-odd years ago, when it stood for change, and potentially creatively destructive, change.
- Intellectual Property laws are a big issue and we gloss over the ramifications of it on Innovation
- We are also too rude about Open Innovation (we believe it has distinct limitations and is not a panacea.)
- "Blue Sky" research needs to be aimed (we believe it is an option you play, investing a proportion of your resorce - and that any research doen to fix real problems is not wasted.
- Munita Mirza from the London Mayor's Office noted that "Creativity" has been abused and diluted in the Arts in a similar way that Innovation has in the enterprise world.
- Fewer potential MP's than ever before in 100 years have science or engineering a background in this election (I don't know if its true) so what chance has technology based innovation got vs the policy and regulation wonks
- The "Fetishisation" of youth and of lack of expertise today in popular society is a big problem, you have to know the rules to break them.
I'll leave you with this comment from afterwards.
"There is a deep disquiet in the population at large that current institutions, politicians etc can no longer deliver the srevices we need. People are recombining in new ways to solve this. You guys (ie Big Potatoes nnovation Mainifesto ) are not only a part of any solution set, but also and a part of this trend of people self organising to drive new ideas.
Thursday, April 22. 2010
Big Potatoes kicks off at the Royal Society 27th April 6.45pm
I have long believed that what many people these days call "Innovation" is often just "continuous improvement that won't rock the boat". Thus over the last year or so I collaborated with a team of talents - Norman Lewis, Nico Macdonald, Martyn Perks, Mitchell Sava, James Woudhuysen (we first worked together looking at the role of Innovation in the Great Depression for NESTA) - and we have authored Big Potatoes: The London Manifesto for Innovation
The Manifesto can be read on the Big Potatoes website and we want your responses to it - urgently. We are also on Twitter over here and on Facebook over here
We are going to launch it next Tuesday night from 6.45 at the The Royal Society (7 Carlton House Terrace, London - book here ) and over the next few months we will also be hosting public discussions and debates around the themes of the Manifesto in London and beyond. And during the forthcoming UK general election we will be challenging those who propose to lead us out of recession to respond to the Manifesto principles.
Later in the year we will publish an updated Manifesto, having determined the scope of the challenge we face and started to change the culture around and climate for innovation globally.
The link above goes to the main manifesto, but below is my precis of it:
We are not advocating any policies… at this point. ‘What policies are you advocating?’ is always the battle cry of the impatient entrepreneur or government official. This debate is too important for it to become enmeshed in policy discussions. We need this debate in order to clarify the issues at stake, and to scope what needs to be done to reinvigorate a culture of innovation in contemporary society. Innovation is not something that can be turned on and off like a tap. It is a complex interplay between economics, politics and culture – from how we inspire and educate younger generations, to our attitude towards scientific discovery and risk-taking, from the arts to long-term thinking and investment – and pursuing it requires clarity of thought and purpose.
We hope BIG POTATOES will help inspire a debate that illuminates the scope of this challenge. Only then will it be meaningful and practical to talk about the policy implications of these insights.
So - come along next Tuesday evening. Speakers so far include Steven Cousins, managing director, Axon Automotive Ltd; Eliot Forster, CEO, Solace Pharmaceuticals; Norman Lewis, Chief Innovation Officer, Open-Knowledge (and BIG POTATOES co-author); Munira Mirza, advisor for arts and culture to the Mayor of London; Stefan Stern, management columnist, Financial Times; and James Wilsdon, Director of the Science Policy Centre, The Royal Society.
So, will you chip in to the Big Potatoes debate? Should be a good night, we think!
Sunday, April 4. 2010
Kevin Anderson on the fluffy thinking by media companies that think the iPad is their Saviour Device:
Couldn't put it better (including the snark) so I won't
But of course, we have said it before now...........the slide said above is from the last talk I gave on the subject some weeks ago. Follow this link to the commentary on the slideset.
But to Kevin's point - the most cursory examination of the Schumpeterian creative destruction of the media over the last 10 years (make that 15) will tell you that the hope that a new internet based technology will maintain old media margins is a forlorn one. What is most shocking is that the Old Print Media choose still to believe it.
Saturday, March 20. 2010
Like Hitler, has Google over-reached itself?
There was a piece on Daring Fireball about the increasing rivalry between Google and Apple - commenting on an earlier NYT article he notes:
The article is called "Hope You Enjoy the Smell of Napalm in the Morning", and I thought it may be worth extending the military analogies.
At the same time as this, we have been following the rattling of virtual sabres as Google, via its proxy YouTube, squares off to Viacom in the hot/cold war between Olde Media and New. And then there is Buzz, aimed as other Social media players, there is Chrome and Google Docs aimed at Microsoft, there is a scrap brewing on data storage, handling and privacy with the European Union. Then there is the spat with China, the increasingly messy campaign against the Book Publishing industry, the start of a scrap with the ISP industry.
And all this against a backdrop of continuing skirmishes with Yahoo in the traditional battlegrounds of Search.
So what can Hitler teach Google? Quite simple - that it is possible to take on too enemies at once, over-reach oneself and the resulting implosion is not pretty. A quick recap:
At this point it all looks very sustainable - Germany with its conquests has the economic resources to fight Great Britain and her empire to a standstill, and the access to the French resources gives it a major advantage - over time it will be the major power, all it has to do is exert continuous pressure over time and it will achive European hegemony. But it is still worried, as it knows that over the horizon is a great fight that will eventually emerge, with Soviet Russia. This is winnable, but there is a risk with letting the Soviets re-arm, It is very tempting to attack them now, while they are weak (Stalin having shot many of his senior officers), comparatively ill equipped (their military technology is one generation earlier).
Translating this into Googleterms, this is the fight vs Microsoft - steady pressure will give Google hegemony in its area. They are economically comparable. Over the horizon is the Olde Media empire, who are still woefully disorganised and poorly equipped. All the visionaries within it have been fired or sidelined after dotcom One, and their assets are all of that era. Attacking them now is very tempting.
But the hubris and arrogance of all the easy wins pushes Hitler to greater and bigger dreams, and he starts to make strategic mistakes:
(v) The last thing Hitler should have gone for at this point is a diversion, but he does - he fights the Battle of Britain and loses, and props up Italy as it's African empire collapses to the British Empire's counterattacks. Propping up Italy is a major diversion of Germany's energy, and it finds itself having to fight all sorts of small actions against a major power.
These were the 2 major strategic mistakes Germany made, and were in themselves enough to doom it's expansion plans - there is no ways it has the resources to fight against Great Britain and Soviet Russia at the same time. But this is still a Good Old European War, and the likely outcome - arguably - can still be penning Germany back into its own historic boundaries and re-establishing the status quo until the next time. Europe has been doing this for 400 years, after all. This is not the time to get the USA to fight you too......
So, here we have Google fighting the TV/Movie industry and ViacomGrad is looming, the Microsoft fight is see-sawing back and forth, but at El AlaBing, Microsoft lands the first tanks on Google's turf. Google does not have the resources to take on Microsoft and the whole Entertainment industry, but it could still negotiate a reasonable settlement by ceding the more controversial terrain back to the major opponent industries, and coming to terms with them.
So why, at this point, do you want to then also go to war against huge powers from far way - the whole Apple spat, pushing Android panzers into the Mobile/Telecoms/ISP industry, trying to outfight the Social Media industry with Buzz-bombs and taking on the European Union over data privacy?. This is overexpansion of resources at a level that even Hitler would probably have admired.
From 1943 to 1945, an alliance of powers that were only the most uneasy of allies first got even and then surpassed German technology and methods, but their sheer economic size made eventual victory certain even if they only had "good enough" stuff, as this war was one of attrition which Germany could not win.
From 2010 to 2013, its is predictable therefore that this ring of opponents facing Google (see picture above) will be able to equal and then surpass them - and the threat that Google has posed will drive all of them to want a fairly terminal solution. Besides, the wealth that is up for grabs within the Googlereich is too, too tempting to be passed over.
Here endeth the (future) history lesson.....
Update - bit of backchannel conversation and a few additional thoughts around "So what should Google Do"?. Clearly they have been putting a lot of ooomph behind a wide range of strategic options, and at some point you have to cull. My thoughts would be:
Firstly, get out of unnecessary conflicts and try not to fight on more than one major front at a time .
Secondly, try and create alliances where they cannot win:
Thirdly, decide where your One Front will be
I don't have Google's internal economics so its hard to know the ROI of these various areas, but I suspect none are profitable right now. The question is which will return the greatest return and cost least to fund in the next 3-5 years
*Keith McMahon has pointed out that Google now taking on Apple is akin to Germany deciding to declare war on Japan.
Friday, March 19. 2010
I've been following the "YouTube Roolz" blogfest with extreme boredom, its clearly pre-emptive posturing before the Viacom court case - but this response shot from Viacom piqued my curiosity as its sets out the Viacom position:
YouTube was intentionally built on infringement and there are countless internal YouTube communications demonstrating that YouTube’s founders and its employees intended to profit from that infringement. By their own admission, the site contained “truckloads” of infringing content and founder Steve Chen explained that YouTube needed to “steal” videos because those videos make “our traffic soar.”
Its interesting because it is in essence implying that even adopting the piracy business model is a de Jure illegal act. It has a huge impact - if you go back to our work on the evolution of the Web TV world, you will see that we assume that the very turbulent "Pirate World" holds sway in the next few years, and quite a few of the winners longer term are effectively the corporates bankrolling these Pirates (what we call Privateer Plays as a more accurate term here than Pirates). Google and YouTube being the prime example.
This is significant - when we build scenarios we add in "milestones" or "signposts" you have to watch for, and one of them that signals a shift back to The Olde Worlde media is important.
This is such. One of the conditions in our "Pirate World" and "New Model Media" scenarios was that the regulatory regimes did not shift to the side of existing rightsholders (when we did the work in 2008 the regulatory regime was fairly hands off, but its behaviour globally has been by and large increasingly "for" the rights of the rightsholder since then as country after country has become unwilling to lose the revenues from these large industries).
Thus, a 2 year refresh of our work would be to increase the probability of Olde Media doing better, and if Viacom wins this - with significant enough damages - it may put the kibosh on Privateer plays completely.
Arrr, so the winds be a-shiftin, Jim Lad. That'll send a shiver down the corporate timbers at Social Media Central.....but the pure Pirates, it seems, will be forever with us.
Thursday, February 11. 2010
It would seem that the e-Book industry has taken a good, hard look at what happened to the music industry in the Noughties - and decided to follow down the same road - NYT:
In the battle over the pricing of electronic books, publishers appear to have won the first round. The price of many new releases and best sellers is about to go up, to as much as $14.99 from $9.99.
Like all good plans in this space though, this one will probably not survive contact with the enemy - that is, us:
...there may be an insurgency waiting to pounce: e-book buyers.
It is totally daft - as with digital music, the punters know it doesn't cost as much to produce so are buggered if they can see why they should pay top hardcover whack. And on the Kindle there is no discounted shelf, no second hand eBookstore, no paperback version (though it will probably come).
In other words, the publishers have calculated that the margin on selling overpriced eBooks to the suckers who bought Kindles etc will more than make up for the smaller volumes. Trouble is, the suckers know this too.
And of course, as has been proven over and over again, if the public don't like the price, they opt for Piracy.
My prediction - this is yet another market full of F*ckwits (sorry, professional managers) who, by their short sighted behaviour over the next 2-3 years, will guarantee that an Apple iPod type play with the iPad or something like it, and a decent media pricing plan, will take them out.
Like the Medieval French nobility who charged English longbowmen in three battles with the same sad result, the Publishing industry seems to have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from the slings and arrows of their past misfortunes.
attended the TED first morning screening in London this evening. David Cameron gave his talk live and we patched into Long Beach for the rest of the session. I will cover Cameron's talk separately as it has Government 2.0/Social Media implications. Two of the other three talks were on behavioural economics & happiness (which also featured heavily in Cameron's talk), these are my notes:
Happiness is the new black, but it has a number of cognitive traps:
There are two types of self - the rembering and experiencing self - that have different happiness optima
- experiencing self has very short lived units of memory, 3 seconds or so, happiness is now.
- the remembering self stores memories of happiness which drives choices
- thoughts of the future are an anticipation of memories
Thought Expereriment - if your memory afterwards was destroyed, would you go on the same vacation vs if your memory stayed?
Because of the 2 selves, there are 2 happiness states - different optima - can't reconcile
- Can measure happiness of experiencing self physiologically
- Much harder to measure satisfaction of the measuring self eg about your life
Satisfaction differs between the 2 selves so optimizing them differs
- money (doesn't impact experiencing self, does impact remembering self)
- spending time with people you like
0.5 correlation between the two statistically for any one "happiness" vector, for example:
- climate is not important to experiencing self but is to memory self
- Gallup survey - feelings vary with income - above $60k pa flatlines experienced happiness, but remembering self likes reflecting on wealth
My Thought - So what will be optimized by policy wonks? David Cameron started to lay out his stall, but I will deal with it separately
Michael Shermer Global Sceptic
Belief is the natural state of things, science/scepticism is uncomfortable - we have evolved this way by natural selection. We have two cognitively dissonanent traits:
- We find patterns with random rewards
Some behavioural psychology:
- Studies show that people who are more disposed to believe in ESP, UFOs etc are more likely to see patterns where there are none.
- Corporate environments study - people who feel they are out of control are more likely to see patterns in things
- More significant patterns seen by RH side of brain
2. Agenticity - the tendency to assume that its not chance or inanimate objects that do things
- We infuse patterns we see but don't understand with active agents eg angels, conspiracy theories, etc.
It is literally all in the mind - for example if you stimulate temporal lobe and you get Oot Of Body Experiences
Anyway, those are the notes.
Saturday, February 6. 2010
Forrester is cutting back on the ability of its analysts to create Personal MicroBrands, says Sage Circle:
Forrester CEO George Colony is well aware that savvy analysts can build their personal brands via their positions as Forrester analysts amplified by social media (see the post on “Altimeter Envy”). As a consequence, a Forrester policy that tries to restrict analysts’ personally-branded research blogs works to reduce the possibility that the analysts will build a valuable personal brand leading to their departure. In addition, forcing analysts to only blog on Forrester-branded blogs concentrates intellectual property onto Forrester properties increasing the value of the Forrester brand.
Dennis Howlett notes (that's where I read this) that Forrester may not have their Econometer correctly tuned:
Possibly, but the IP ownership issues go deep - expect more of this in future. I await the Forrester Report on the topic with Eager Anticipation
Update - not a Forrester Report, but a response of sorts on the Forrester blog Groundswell, which was started by one of those who have left (Charlene Li). Anyway, it says:
So, byelines on the company blog then. Seems like the best solution over all, after all newspapers and magazines have used it for many, many years.
Thursday, February 4. 2010
Very interesting discussion going on about a NYT article on Microsoft's inability to innovate vs Apple:
But the much more important question is why Microsoft, America’s most famous and prosperous technology company, no longer brings us the future, whether it’s tablet computers like the iPad, e-books like Amazon’s Kindle, smartphones like the BlackBerry and iPhone, search engines like Google, digital music systems like iPod and iTunes or popular Web services like Facebook and Twitter.
The NYT offer up:
Good old silo sieges....
...but you get those in every company, thats a given. What you need is something in the knitting that stops the legacy business silos (which have the big budgets) from squashing the New Things.
Unlike other companies, Microsoft never developed a true system for innovation. Some of my former colleagues argue that it actually developed a system to thwart innovation. Despite having one of the largest and best corporate laboratories in the world, and the luxury of not one but three chief technology officers, the company routinely manages to frustrate the efforts of its visionary thinkers.
But even then its not a Microsoft thing only, and its not enough just to squish the Barons - Apple was in the Doldrums after Jobs left, and perked up when he came back. Ballmer is no Jobs (nor a Gates, for that matter), he's an excellent Operator of What Is, but not a Visionary of What Is Not. Ozzie has not had enough impact (Vista, anyone?). Excellently executing the Status Quo makes not much issue over 2 years but makes a big difference over 10 years (to paraphrase Bill Gates), which is why share price has been falling for years. Take the endgame of that tablet story:
...even though our tablet had the enthusiastic support of top management and had cost hundreds of millions to develop, it was essentially allowed to be sabotaged. To this day, you still can’t use Office directly on a Tablet PC. And despite the certainty that an Apple tablet was coming this year, the tablet group at Microsoft was eliminated.
Thats not the fault of silos, thats an inability of top management to get the big battalion barons off the pot. That can only be solved by the absolutely resolute Top Management - ie the CEO.
I think this one is also a key point:
The value chain is now far more integrated. Its not clear to me that Microsoft needs to own the hardware (like Gates, I agree its very risky) but what they do need to do is be able to do is build great software as a fast follower.
Why is it Android, not a Microsoft OS in the competing smartphones to the iPhone? Where are they in lightweight e-Readers and tablets? As Stowe Boyd points out, they should (and could) have done a lot better in the Social Media tools arena.
No, I think this is Microsoft's top management being too keen on keeping the fat profits of the existing products but forgetting to watch the disruptive stuff closely enough. The irony is that Microsoft (and Sun et al) profited from the last generation of IT companies falling into the same trap. IBM and the BUNCH (Burroughs, Univac, NCR, etc), DEC et al were so wedded to the margins of their existing mini and mainframes they just couldn't bring themselves to invest (and cannibalise) their own revenues with DOS and UNIX boxes and got nailed. IBM had a cathartic shift - a Creative Destruction Moment if ever there was one- and the rest went to the wall. Microsoft now faces that challenge, and doesn't have a Jobs it can recall. Who will play Gerstner for Microsoft then?
And before anyone praises Google too much, that's them in 10 years or so - we are already seeing their inability to make money and great products outside of their core competence of search Ads.
(Incidentally, re Disruption Management, I spent some time last year working with Adriana Lukas (one of the other contributors to the Social Media in Enterprises event this week) trying to piece together how companies might manage themselves through all this. More Later, as they say.
Monday, January 25. 2010
I tried posting a comment on Mashable's post about 4 "Major Trends in Technology" but its one of those sites where you have to log in to comment, so I took my comment and posted it here instead
Anyway, the article posits 4 trends. But, while these look like "no brainer" trends, I'm afraid that they are falling into the classic trap of just assuming that what has happened in the immediate past will thus predict the future. I can think of a number of forces pushing against them - in brief, per trend these are:
1. Web accessible everywhere - requires infrastructure buildout, that's not cheap, and ROI is a diminishing returns game. Ignores developing world economic issues.
2. Web access not in the computer - in reality, you need computer power to make the Web more than barely usable (see Mobile phones, failure of till iPhone), and you keep on needing more - it's more accurate to say the computer will not always be in the computer anymore?
3. Web being Mediacentric - well, in the sense that it is all media, sure. But if you mean video as opposed to text I think that is less likely - for so many applications, text can be parsed far faster. And Time is the non renewable resource. In many ways time spent consuming video media is what we do with our "junk" - ie low value time. Follow the money.
4. Social Media will be its largest component - bah humbug - the "killer app" of the internet - apart from Porn - is that people just want to talk to each other. The current bottle this old wine is in is called "Social Media", in a few years time it will have morphed as the technology shifts. And of course email is dead, not
And then there are the "known" and "unknown" unknowns, where:
- "known" equal predictable surprise shifts that you can see coming, eg what happens when today's smartphone power is a $5 commodity and the size of a peppermint (Moore's law redux); and
The error here is a common one in pop-punditry - look at the last 10 years or so and assume the next 10 will be the same, just more so - the trick is to look at the last 100 years or so and see the patterns and waveforms. As Santayana said, those that forget the past are doomed to repeat it.
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