Unique is Where the Value is (a second look)

I was looking through my archives the other day as I was putting together some information for a presentation related to innovation. I came across a post I wrote almost a decade ago (2005) that included the following illustration:

Unique is where the value is

It is all too easy to allow our creative focus to concentrate on ‘normal’ – the areas we understand well, rather than delve into the fast unknown of unique thinking.

As I look at this model today one of the things that is missing is the collaborative nature that permeates live today. We actively need to mine there relationships for both value and ideas. The fact that others may not look at things ‘normally’ is something we need to take advantage. Other than that some of the concepts of cognitive computing and systems of action were there even back then.

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Ethical issues on the horizon for digital assistants focused at children?

robots-too-humanThis week, I was part of an innovation panel at a large Dallas based IT manufacturer and during the discussion a new product for children was mentioned. Cognitoys is the company that makes a huggable dinosaur-like toy that is connected to IBM’s Watson APIs. I can’t help thinking about Barney whenever I see it.

I call these digital assistants, since they can understand and interact using natural language. Popular digital assistants for adults currently include Apple’s Siri, Google Now and soon Microsoft’s Cortana. This particular implementation is:

  • Speech enabled
  • Internet connected
  • Personalized
  • Educational

There was all the concern about ‘smart’ Barbie earlier this year. Barbie was just a warning shot to the possibilities, since the Barbie implementation wasn’t backed up by a supercomputer. I haven’t heard any concern yet about this toy.

The possibilities makes me wonder about the whole issue of “digital immigrants” vs. “digital natives” vs. these kids who will grow up interacting with and possibly being trained by digital nannies.

What level of configuration (or self-configuration) will be possible through the parent panel? Will parents enable the ‘toy’ to suggest that it is time for bed, take a bath, be more polite, learn a language, understand algebra or religion?? One parents grey area could will likely be another’s line in the sand.

There will be some ethical issues for the patents, the company providing the services… that will likely be worked out in the marketplace during this holiday season.

Measuring the value and impact of cloud probably hasn’t changed that much over the years but…

cloud question markI was in a discussion today with a number of technologists when someone asked “How should we measure the effectiveness of cloud?” One individual brought up a recent post they’d done titled: 8 Simple Metrics to Track Your Cloud SuccessIt was good but a bit too IT centric for me.

That made me look up a post I wrote on cloud adoption back in 2009. I was pleased that my post held up so well, since the area of cloud has changed significantly over the years. What do you think? At that time I was really interested in the concept of leading and lagging indicators and that you really needed to have both perspectives as part of your metrics strategy to really know how process was being made.

Looking at this metrics issue made me think “What has changed?” and “How should we think about (and measure) cloud capabilities differently?”

One area that I didn’t think about back then was security. Cloud has enabled some significant innovation on both the positive and the negative sides of security. We were fairly naive about security issues back then and most organizations have much greater mind-share applied to security and privacy issues today – I hope!

Our discussion did make me wonder about what will replace cloud in our future or will we just rename some foundational element of it – timesharing anyone?

One thing I hope everyone agrees to though is: it is not IT that declares success or defines the value, it remains the business.

A panel about unlocking innovation in business

innovation unlockYesterday, I had a call from Jeff Wacker (a retired Senior Fellow from HP) who had a conflict that prevents him from participating in an innovation panel discussion at a large, multi-national IT firm that has a significant presence in the Dallas area. Naturally, I agreed since pulling together material for a discussion like this is a rich opportunity to harvest blogging material (I’ll have to reference those posts in the comments to this one).

Innovation is an interesting issue for some organizations for a variety of reasons:

1) It is someone else’s problem — people allow themselves to say ‘I am not innovative’ when in reality innovation is part of the human condition. We just need recognize when it’s happening and then capitalize on it.

2) They don’t set themselves up for it to happen naturally — sometimes people think that innovation happens only serendipitously. There is no doubt that is true, but there are many things organizations can do to enable it to happen more often. I’ll likely have a whole post on this later.

3) Too often we let things stand in the way of innovation — My philosophy has always been that after two years in a position I am likely to be more part of the problem than part of the solution, so its time to give someone else a chance. Churn in relationships and personnel can be a good thing and helps address the ‘we’ve always done it that way’ issue.

Those are a few thoughts that sprang to mind as I sat through the initial discussion about this innovation panel. Now I just need to flesh them out with stories and arguments to make it relevant to an audience of people who probably are not going to be all that innovative — otherwise we wouldn’t have the session.

Moore’s law turns 50

50thMoore’s law turns 50 on Sunday, after it was first published in the thirty-fifth anniversary issue of Electronics magazine back in 1965.

There have been a few stories out this week about Moore’s law turning 50 and how it may not make it to 60. IEEE put out a number of stories based on different perspectives of Moore’s law’s history and implications.

Few observations have predicted a shift with this level of impact on the world around us.

Even if we can’t continue to shift the size of transistors down at the rate predicted by Moore’s law, the innovations enabled will continue to drive us forward to new ways of tackling the world around us.

In-shoring opportunities in with automation

AutomationI had a long discussion with a serial entrepreneur last week that is looking to define a service offering in the help desk/virtualized meeting/education front. He seems to have a good handle on the business model and the differentiation between what he provides and the other services in the market place.

During the discussion, it did remind me a bit about the CNN post about the effect of Silicon Valley’s virtualization and automation efforts on jobs. What was most intriguing about the discussion was the ability to move the skills in demand to underserved parts of the country.

We both grew up in small mid-west towns and feel that techniques virtualizing the workforce he is developing could open up possibilities in areas of the country that are currently under employed.  With the possibilities of human-centered automation, these approaches will be increasingly important. I do question if today’s HR organizations are ready for this level of innovation.

Service Innovations over time…

SaaSI was in an exchange with Jim Spohrer (of IBM) the other day about Service innovations and he gave me the following lists dealing with service innovations:

Top Ten Service Innovations in all of History
1. Division of Labor – an entity gets to do more of what they do best, and less of what they do less well
2. Cities – local concentration of division of labor, including security and protection
3. Writing – allows communications over distance and time
4. Written Laws – brings more objectivity into governance and justice
5. Money – brings efficiency into exchange transactions
6. Universities – local concentration of division of knowledge, including preparation of next generation
7. Democracy – collective decision making via voting (citizen -> decision)
8. Republics – two stage collective decision making via voting (citizen -> representative -> decision)
9. Checks – safer than carrying paper money
10. Banks – safe storage of money, and compound interest/loans

Top Ten Service Innovations of Last 100 years

1. Universal Education – increases capability of population, and allows more complex problem solving
2. Universal Service – even rural people can communicate, and have right to communicate efficiently
3. Rural Electrification – even rural people can have lighting and access to modern appliances
4. Credit Cards – convenience and safety
5. Loyalty Programs – incentives for usage
6. Franchises – standard service in multiple places
7. FedEx – overnight package delivery
8. Automobile Transportation – systems of filling stations, roads, laws
9. Internet & Worldwide Web – access to information
10.  Wireless Communication Networks – Radio & Television – conquest of distance and access to service

Top Ten Service Innovations of Last 10 years
(or so)
1. Amazon – market for books and things
2. eBay – market for personal stuff
3. iTunes – market for music
4. Etsy – market for home made things
5. Uber – market for rides
6. AirBnB – market for rooms
7. Smart Phones & App Economy – access to information, communications, and other mobile services, including cognitive assistants
8. MOOCs – massively open on-line courses to augment education
9.  Mutual funds – finance investments that provide benefits of diverse portfolios
10. Global IT-enabled Outsourcing – division of labor between nations and large corporations

I’d add 3D printing to this list myself, but that may be just me.

Top Ten Service Innovations that broke out in 2014
1. TransferWise – lower transaction cost of transferring money
2. Coinbase – bitcoin digital wallet
3. Apple Pay – easier to pay money out
4. Lending Club – easier method to get investments in and out (founded in 2006)
5. Quirky – inventor community (started in 2009)
6. Bill.com – small business pay bills better (started in 2008)
7. Betterment.com (investment personal assistant)
8. Kickstarter – crowd funding (I think this actually started in 2009)
9.  Amazon Echo (home assistant)
10. Google Nest (home assistant) (actually the first Nest appears to be released in 2011)

Some things to think about…
What would be on your list? What should make the list for 2015? Do these innovations have anything in common?