The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Blindsided by strategy?

strategic questions.pngI’ve mentioned before the relationship of abundance, scarcity and their role in strategy. As I was catching up on my reading this weekend, I came across the post: Where Are the Sinkholes in Your Strategy? Which touched on many of the same points I was thinking about but with better examples.

 

One great point brought out in the post was:

“Strategy is a lot like IQ for many people: to challenge their strategy is to question their intelligence.”

 

In this dynamic world, we need to bring in diverse viewpoints on a regular basis, because our assumptions of what we’re good at and what can differentiate us can be easily overcome by events. That doesn’t mean we can’t have strategy. We just need to validate its foundations more often.

The need for an innovative look at innovation efforts

innovation unlock.pngI’ve been in a number of discussion lately looking at innovation activities. In today’s dynamic business environment, the status quo is riskier than changing – sometimes it may not matter which direction you move, as long as you’re not standing still.

 

I am a big advocate for gamification, but most of these efforts are based on a bottoms-up approach that tries to leverage the ‘intelligence of the crowd’. Some interesting things definitely do come out of these efforts, but rarely are they directed on what is really needed. If 5% can be implemented, you’re doing great with these approaches.

 

That is where top down approaches to innovation come into play. They try to focus the innovation flow around a specific concern or issue. I used the term flow, because it’s happening, whether we tap into it or not – innovation is just part of being human. Top down in combination with a bottoms-up approach are more effective. Yet – they’re not effective enough.

 

I have figured out a few things (that are probably obvious to most):

  • Innovation needs a strategic focus. At the same time, the chance of getting it right the first time is slim, so an approach needs to be both strategic and agile (at the same time).
  • Innovation needs to be part of the mindset of the people involved. For many organizations, innovation doesn't feature anywhere in their plans and that’s a shame. This can be true for entrepreneurial organizations as well as large corporations. I mentioned strategic importance of innovation, yet culture eats strategy for lunch.
  • If you want to grow, you need to find a way of embedding innovation in your strategic priorities – and that means investment. It also needs to be focused on what you do and how you do it. This is one of the most frustration parts of working in the IT space. We think that being innovative in IT is something that should be recognized by the rest of the business. In many ways, they pay us (particularly service organizations) so they don’t need to see it at all – let alone view it as innovative.
  • Innovation efforts need to be measurable. Just because ideas are new, doesn’t mean there won’t be a ruler to measure progress. There will be one, why not plan on it.

A while back I mentioned that one of the first laws of technical leadership is “don’t discourage them”. The same can be true about the approach to innovation. At the same time, innovation efforts need to be focused on outcomes -- we actually need to do something and not just think about it.

 

I have come to the conclusion that we need a more innovative approach to innovation, since the whole concept is full of conflicts. One of the first things that is probably always true though is the need to develop a common understanding and definition of innovation, since it can mean so much to so many .

Serious gaming that takes nerve…

neuron.pngEarlier this month I saw an article in Popular Science: Gamers Reveal Inner Workings of the Eye. Since I have an interest in gamification, I dug in a bit more. It turns out there was a story in May on NPR morning edition Eyewire: A Computer Game to Map the Eye that covered the same concept.

 

Eyewire is an example of a serious game that tackles a real problem using gaming techniques. It is not your typical business gamification implementation but an example non-the-less. To play the game, he players have to pick out specific cells in pictures of tissue the retina and color them in.

 

“Each player gets a high resolution picture of a different section of the retina to color. The trick to scoring point in the game is to only color the parts of the image that are nerve cells. This is something that's surprisingly difficult and humans are actually better at it than computers.”

 

Over 130,000 people from 145 countries have played the game so it must be both challenging and rewarding.

 

When we look at the abundance of IT capability and the wealth of information being generated by the Internet of Things, we are likely to see whole new levels of gamification techniques come into play, as we try to dig deeper for patterns and understanding or gather and inject insight right at the time decisions are being made.

Think like a Programmer

Think Like A Programmer 100.jpgEvery once in a while I try to share a book that I’ve been reading that may be of interest.

 

Think like a Programmer raised my interests as soon as I saw the title.

 

The author’s goal was to share strategies that help with problem solving, but from a programmer’s perspective. It starts with some classic and simple problems and builds from there. Each chapter has exercises that help the reader apply the techniques. The code examples in the book are C++, but none of the techniques used were specific to C++ (at least that I could see), but that does mean that some level of programming skill will be required.

 

Most programmers will benefit from this book by either thinking about problems in creative ways or just through the entertainment of the problem solving exercises. The author goes beyond basic programming problems though and delves into object oriented techniques, recursion and code reuse. It definitely not what I’d call a text book, but it is not beach reading either. I’d recommend it for developers who like to contemplate possibilities.

 

Note: this review is based on the ebook version provided via O'Reilly Reader Review Program.

Tags: programming
Labels: Programming

A little bit of the Internet of Things

invention.pngThe Internet of Things doesn’t have to be only about new things, it can also be about adding automation capabilities to existing devices. Makers have been playing with this for a while, but littleBits electronics is the first set of components I’ve seen that addresses both the consumer and education markets in such a broad fashion.

 

It reminded me of those 101 electronic projects kits that were around when I was growing up. I’ve never touched this product, but it does show how wide the exposure is likely to be, in a relatively short time. It will be interesting to see what kinds of innovative solutions people will generate with a modular approach like this that hides some of the more difficult ‘plumbing’ issues.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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