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August 30, 2013

Television, Socially Speaking

Posted by Vaibhav Bakre (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:44 AM

Mobile Phone-TV Convergence at CES Brings Web to Sets [Source:BeetTV http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Vd0f_Sg3t8]

It turns out that the passive beings who once sat in front of television sets have evolved into a new species. It's a group that has become very social and proactive. So much so that "what" they're doing while watching TV is on the verge of influencing programming in real time.

Credit the smart phones and tablets for this convergence of digital activity. Television sets might be getting larger, but smart devices are all about convenience, especially when someone is sitting and watching the larger TV screen. Viewers can text friends and use social media to discuss the minutia surrounding the latest contestant to be voted off a reality show.

And by programming, I mean entertainment as well as advertising. The latter is the sweet spot. TV ads have until now existed much like newspapers adverts of old: Saturate the marketplace with a message and hope that the more desirable demographics (adults with disposable incomes) are watching the commercial in question. There was never an ability to target ads short of knowing that certain types of people watched soap operas and other types preferred the network news each evening.

It turns out that all of our tweeting and emailing during the airing of television programming is a boon to advertisers. That's because they can use the live data feeds to adjust and optimize TV content and the ads that support it. According to a recent report, some 40 percent of Americans are plugged into social media as they watch television. The seemingly unquenchable need to be heard - no matter how trivial the subject matter - is driving the convergence between social media and television.

One of the most fascinating examples of the social television phenomenon is a low-budget, made-for-TV movie called "Sharknado." The storyline goes something like this: A storm over the city of Los Angeles brings with it thousands of angry, man-eating sharks. During any other era, the assumption would be that this goofy movie might get a small cult following of teenagers or sci-fi geeks. But within minutes of airing, Sharknado became one of the most tweeted and discussed television programs over social media ... ever. A-list celebrities were feverishly sending comments over social media about just how loony the movie was, which in turn spurred more viewers. By the end of the two-hour airing, the show was one of the most watched of the year. A sequel is already in the works. The movie proved that it's not what the TV network airs so much as what people are saying about it. Remember the line that any publicity is good publicity? The same goes for social television - even if it's downright nonsensical, rest assured you'll get millions of viewers pointing that fact out.

Where the application of social TV gets really interesting is sports-entertainment programming. By that I mean professional wrestling. Bear with me if pro wrestling doesn't appeal to you. I bring it up because the way it utilizes social television convergence is a model that other entities will eventually follow.

This genre is consistently at the top of the most tweeted show category each week. Fans of the staged wrestling bouts send massive amounts of comments over social media. Those comments can (at least that's what we suspect) influence the outcome of the choreographed matches between the good guys and villains. For advertisers, the convergence is a bonanza because they can deduce what kind of viewer is commenting on the wrestling matches and then pinpoint their marketing messages accordingly.

In fact, Twitter is reportedly telling advertisers that they can use the social media tool as a way to continue their brand messaging when the TV commercial is over and the television set has been turned off for the night. Twitter feeds can continue indefinitely.

The next step in this convergence is for the hardware to catch up. Some big name companies are already discussing their plans for social television platforms. Why place a tablet in your lap and sit in front of a large TV screen when you can watch it (and interact with it) all on one device? My personal prediction is that social TV convergence will reach new heights with wearable computing platforms. When that happens, we'll be the producers, directors, and stars of our own television shows.

August 28, 2013

Disrupting My Ride

Posted by Sanjay Dalwani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:39 AM

John Stossel ~ Taxi Innovation [Source: RonPaulCC2012 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCIfJhwDaUw]

Getting there is half the fun, right? Maybe. If you work in a congested city in the Americas, Europe, or Asia, then you probably shudder at the thought of having to hail a taxi in the middle of the day in order to get across town for an important meeting. Think about it: There's nothing efficient about a taxi ride. In New York City, for example, the daytime shift ends at 4:00 pm, just as the evening rush hour is beginning. So lots of taxis go off-line just as tens of thousands of commuters need them. Who came up with that timing?

Then there's the whole notion of a cabbie driving around town in search of a fare. Gasoline prices being what they are, it doesn't pay for drivers to spend more than a fraction of their time without someone in the back seat. Add to this business model the fact that most cities require you (or your company) to buy a license to chauffeur people around, and your margins become razor-thin indeed.This age-old business model seems to be at the end of its lifespan, however. You can't say it didn't have its day in the sun: even the ancient Romans had a taxi system not unlike what our cities have today.

Then there's the stereotype of the cab driver in many cities: a surly, cigar-chomping man with a lead foot who demands cash despite the presence of a credit card swipe machine in the backseat. But here's what brings all of these elements together: More than half of us carry around smart phones that are GPS-enabled. That means someone who wants a ride can theoretically connect with someone who is offering one. The driver who is merely the closest doesn't necessarily win all the time. It might be the driver who has the nicest car or the best driving record or charges the lowest rate for where you want to go.

Mobile apps allow for would-be passengers to get drivers to compete for their business. But something else is going on here. Before the onset of the digital age, would you have been comfortable plugging your personal information into a database to have complete strangers (in this case, taxi drivers) look it over? I think that one of the profound transformations of business models everywhere, including transportation, is that people are comfortable doing business with strangers. Think of how you can rent out your apartment to anyone on Airbnb. The new taxi services enabled by mobile apps are based on a similar premise - you can rate your driver and see past reviews of his performance, cleanliness of the car, etc.

One of the new companies to use a mobile summoning platform is Uber, which will pick you up in a luxury sedan and, should you be riding with a colleague, allow you to split the fare on your credit cards. Of course, when a new technology or innovation starts to unsettle an established model for doing things, it usually meets with some measure of resistance. In certain cities, the established taxi and livery companies have filed petitions and injunctions against the new mobile app-based driver services. They claim such services are unfairly cutting into their business. In response, Uber used its cars in some cities to deliver ice cream while its owners were challenging the bans. Doing so raised awareness and built the brand while they worked things out in court.

Innovators should expect no less. Whenever they come up with a better, more efficient way of doing things, it's the practitioner of the status quo who digs in his heels rather than raising the level of his game. Think of the biggest criticism of Henry Ford more than a century ago: The preponderance of motorcars would require having refueling stations in every city. Now that could never happen!

August 26, 2013

Hyper-Excitement About a Hyperloop

Posted by Sudip Singh (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:54 AM

Hyperloop transport is 'Open Source' reveals Elon Musk!
[ Source:cgreene34 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDAV4caQgEo]

I read with great interest about Elon Musk's proposal for a new bullet train. What makes it so intriguing is that it's not a new design or paradigm. Nor is it technically a new "mode" of transportation. But like many engineering marvels, instead of aiming for a 'paradigm shift', this again illustrates that some of the most enduring and ingenious inventions stand the test of time because they peeled away a layer of an existing technology or approached a problem from a somewhat new direction. Musk's idea for a pneumatic tube train is just that. This train sends specially designed floating "capsules" through continuous tube maintained at partial vacuum. The capsule will reach maximum speed of 1220km/h while maintaining good aerodynamic efficiency and passenger comfort. The "capsule" can travel at high speeds without crossing the sound barrier leading to reduced noise pollution. Amazing!

Any of us who has ever worked in a late 19th or early 20th century office building knows that one of its many wonderful aspects - along with the ample natural light and beautiful brass fixtures - is the pneumatic tube system. The solution to move vast amounts of mail throughout a large office building is an elegantly simple one. Compressed air in tubes force along streamlined capsules filled with letters, postcards, and small packages to and from the mailroom. Another idea that comes to mind is the typical Roman aquaduct found in many parts of Europe. This uses nothing more than gravity to bring fresh, mountain spring water to congested cities that badly need it. A pneumatic tube's design is such that even though the scale might change, the underlying technology and benefits have been with us for a while. There is no change of paradigm needed.

My fascination with the Hyperloop is the sweet spot that Musk has devised for his plan to work. The simple act of doing so already supersedes what most government agencies would never think of doing: asking under what circumstances a project would be well received and would turn a profit. My hunch is that Musk's conclusions would have been very different even 15 years ago, when airports were much quicker and convenient propositions than they are now. With airport check-through procedures making short-haul flights cost-prohibitive and far too long, a new generation (and especially a new American generation) is rediscovering the benefits of train travel. And then the extra benefit that the Hyperloop can presumably take its passengers from one urban center to another. So even the prospect of a supersonic flight, a 50-year-old technology that's never worked well for short haul scenarios, would remain unattractive because airports are seldom close to urban cores.

Actually, Musk's argument for the economics of 500-kilometer journeys can, I think, be persuasively made for ones that are three or four times that length. That is to say, the Hyperloop can make super-fast travel doable for the transatlantic routes that never seemed to turn a profit for Concorde. I can hear the naysayers now: A transatlantic route? Who's going to install the tubes at the bottom of the ocean? And yet I say, it's time for us to rally around the Hyperloop not because any of us will ever travel on it someday. But we should support it because Musk's can-do spirit of innovation should, I believe, be infectious.

August 23, 2013

Spices, India and Outsourcing

Posted by Suman Sasmal (View Profile | View All Posts) at 12:58 PM

NILF 2013:What is keeping the new age CIO excited and Awake
[Source: NASSCOMVideos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vZK0cyuZrI]

When one thinks of India, the aroma of spices is a natural association. Spices are not just about flavorsome food. It's also about the spice route that connected countries for trade in medieval times, often played a major role in the exchange of culture and art among the major civilizations of Europe and Asia. In fact, Vasco da Gama, the famous explorer, connected India with Portugal in 1498 via sea-route, in his search for spices that could preserve meat better! This became a game-changer in many ways as he found the maritime route connecting East with the West and this was to lead to a dramatic surge in commercial activities. This maritime innovation was a great shot in the arm for trade.

Today, we see a Vasco da Gama effect in IT services outsourcing. It all started with the GDM (Global Delivery Model), that digitally connected the West with the East to address the growing shortage of skilled programmers and escalating expenses of IT services. However, subsequent economic challenges, rapid technology changes and growing social unrest led to further innovation. Today, the forerunners in the industry are reinventing themselves. Exploring new sourcing destinations, moving from labor arbitrage cost saving options to business value delivery; shifting from data center operations to platform-based process outsourcing and engaging with the newer generation digitally - they are impacting business favorably.

Destination plays a crucial role in the outsourcing world. Various social, economic, technology and political factors trigger shifts in both "from where" services are offered and "to where" services are delivered. This is forcing outsourcing partners to quickly adapt and embrace near-shoring, global-shoring, captive-shoring or other models that benefit clients. Putting the client at the center of every decision is key. We see this phenomenon extending to user-centric application development through responsive web design, and in focus shifting to the business problems (rather than the technology challenge) and the associated business value in resolving these. In fact, clients are increasingly sourcing for measurable business success and outcome. And IT partners are evolving continuously to align with these expectations. In fact, business platforms do precisely that - deliver pre-agreed business results. Build-buy-rent options of applications are giving way to the assembly-of-components paradigm; the simple form of time and material pricing is shifting to outcome based pricing; IT SLAs are increasingly being replaced by business SLAs; so the race is on - not just to build and run - but modernize and revolutionize!

While IT chases cost savings, business is crying for faster time-to-market, end-users are looking for an "Apple-like" experience and the outsourcer must deliver all this, while delivering maximum value for IT investments.

At one time, the spice route had India at its center. Today it's IT services. And, even today those spices and curries continue to add pleasure to the business luncheon discussions - globally!

August 22, 2013

Whither the Disrupters?

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:57 AM

Why Icahn's Betting More Than $1 Billion on Apple [Source: Bloomberg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qfj4Ll_lG4k]

We learned recently that one of the greatest investors of all time, Carl Icahn, did what he's never did before: helped raise the stock price of a company by sending an upbeat Tweet about it. Talk about a powerful 140 characters. In this case the company was Apple, in which Icahn said he'd taken a large position and had enjoyed a nice discussion with CEO Tim Cook. Carl Icahn  is a hardnosed businessman. What's interesting to him is innovation as far it feeds into the company's long-term success and earnings potential.

Also, look at one of the most fascinating acquisitions of the year. Jeff Bezos, the disruptive mind behind Amazon.com, bought the Washington Post newspaper and its assorted holdings from the Graham family. Another smart Wall Street investor, Warren Buffett, had always backed the Grahams with the reasoning that they knew their space better than anyone else. That space is changing though, and we dare say it will take a thinker like Bezos to figure out what to do with a small army of journalists in an era when the very nature of news and how we consume it is changing. The financial model of a company paying to send out its reporters to collect and analyze news is an increasingly quaint one, especially if you argue that everyone armed with a smart phone and an email link can more readily transmit data than any great journalists of old ever did. In purchasing the Post, Bezos no doubt places value in two things: the brand name and the experience of the staff.

One of the reasons Carl Icahn made an investment in Apple is that he remains convinced the company is capable of thinking big. That's important from the standpoint of his faith in an entire company and not just in a high profile founder or two.

Much of what we're seeing today in Silicon Valley and beyond are founders using their personal fortunes to test hypotheses and boldly making innovations that were once the hallmarks of their companies! Part of the swagger that put the Amazons and PayPals of this world on the map is that they were willing to take risks and disrupt markets, flying in the face of the careful watch of analysts. Why is it today that we're seeing a transformation where people more than companies feel safe to disrupt markets? Has the prying eye of Wall Street again become so influential, especially in light of the ability to receive funding, that it's easier to pin the fortunes of a new project or idea on one, prominent tycoon?

Maybe there's the rub. Sometimes, keeping that corporate nest egg protected comes at the expense of innovation.

August 19, 2013

Disruption by Drone

Posted by Dr. Srinivas Padmanabhuni (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:02 AM

Vijay Kumar: Robots that fly ... and cooperate [Source:TEDtalksDirector http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ErEBkj_3PY]

Certain financial services firms in the United States are now using aerial cameras to snap photographs of the license plates of debtors' automobiles. Civil rights advocates are arguing that doing so is an infringement of privacy. The debt collectors, on the other hand, claim there's nothing private about driving your car around in public.

However that issue plays out, one thing is certain: Companies are using technology in innovative ways to engage and track consumers. A computing platform that's going to get hotter in the coming years is drone technology, or so-called flyable computing. Like many pieces of technology in the consumer world, drones came out of the military sector. (Another great piece of military tech is the night vision screen installed on some luxury cars. Auto experts reckon night vision has saved the lives of thousands of motorists in areas that are heavily populated by deer.)

Transcending its military uses, the drone is now helping to beef up civilian security. At the recently held G8 Summit in Northern Ireland, unmanned surveillance drones assisted an 8000-strong police force by keeping a watch on protest marches as well as monitoring possible terrorist threats.

Private companies and municipalities alike are utilizing civilian drones to gather all sorts of information. Take geology and topography. This month we're hearing about thousands of acres of wildfires raging across the American west. Drones used by fire departments can find evacuation routes as well as places within remote mountain ranges where they can draw lines in the sand in attempts to stop the infernos. The press is eager to stretch the limits of drone technology as well. Instead of "imbedding" civilian reporters in extremely dangerous military campaigns, a television news outlet can send an unmanned aircraft over hostile territory to collect riveting images of warfare.

The drone itself isn't all that high-tech. They're not unlike the light, propeller-driven craft that the Wright brothers were flying in North Carolina circa 1904. But what is technologically noteworthy are the Big Data and cloud methods of storing vast amounts of video images and analyzing them at lightning-fast speeds.

The issue for companies and municipalities is that although they're equipped with these new computing platforms, they're not able to utilize them to their fullest advantage. That's because they collect so much information. Enterprises are just now figuring out the most efficient ways to parse it down to be useful.

Critics say it's a scary technology because of privacy issues. But how is having an entity take a snapshot of you walking down the street from a drone different from a photo on a smart phone? If anything, drones are a lot more apparent and transparent in how they go about collecting information. Contrast that with mobile ad technology: Companies collect information as to your retailing tastes while you make online purchases. Few consumers know the extent to which their habits translate into targeted ads and promotions.

Drones offer exciting opportunities for a wide array of organizations. Can you imagine a retailer guiding motorists to its stores by the shortest, traffic-free routes? I wouldn't be surprised if a large chain is already thinking about buying a drone for each of its retail regions. The chain could program each drone to detect whatever kind of information is most appropriate for each region. Motorists in a congested Indian city might want more direct routes. Drones can also feed vital weather updates to motorists. Wouldn't it be interesting if a store recommended staying home and shopping online instead of making a potential dangerous trip in the midst of a large snowstorm?

What's also fascinating about drones is how well they're connecting to other platforms. Besides the aforementioned synergies with driveables, drones can interpret and feed updates to smartphones and even wearables. It's amazing how the right technology can distill thousands of square kilometers onto a pair of connected eyeglasses. Talk about analyzing an entire landscape from your spectacles or wristwatch.

If all this seems like pie in the sky, then consider how the concept of telecommuting would have struck the employees of a big company even one generation ago. People spent a significant part of their careers commuting to and from their workplace. "Face time" with colleagues was an integral part of office life. Nowadays enterprises judge work differently. It's more about the completion of a project on time and under budget than it is about face time and chatting around the water cooler.

So it is with drone. The cheaper it becomes to store and analyze large troves of information, the more attractive drones will become to private enterprises. Their popularity will also help drive down the cost of the actual bird. Nobody ever said military technology is cheap when it first enters the civilian markets. Soon, however, the sky will be the limit when it comes to this new computing platform.

August 14, 2013

Utilities Business Is No More Business As Usual

Posted by Ashiss K Dash (View Profile | View All Posts) at 12:36 PM

Infosys Plug Load Manager: Monitor and control plug loads in your offices, stores or manufacturing plants.

I predict that in the next 10 years we will see more profound transformation of the energy industry than what the last century has seen since the days of Thomas Edison.

What is already happening is that consumers are no longer willing to pay their utility bills without a good idea where their dollars go. Energy isn't cheap, and consumers are cost-conscious in this economy. They want their utilities to be more transparent and to communicate with them not unlike the way giant retailers do. Are utilities becoming more aware of how they brand and market themselves? Yes. It's already happening.

Plus, these venerable companies are increasingly looking at themselves as service providers that must be responsive to their customers' demands, especially as those demands involve value. It's a sea change, all right. For the better part of a century, utilities were solely commodity providers. They sent their meter readers out and collected bills. Now companies like FPL, SCE and PG&E are engaging consumers extensively with social media tools. The trend seems to be catching on

Indeed, these aren't your father's utilities. Utilities risk disintermediation by giant companies like Wal-Mart that have the wherewithal to produce their own power. They're also under increased pressure from regulators to meet requirements for conservation, clean and sustainable energy sources, and increased reliability in light of storms and cyber threats. No doubt about it: Their future returns are at risk. That's why savvy utilities are transforming themselves into energy solutions providers.

Utilities need to ask themselves if they're optimizing their assets and business portfolios to compete well into the future. A traditional electric utility business portfolio would include generation, transmission, and distribution assets along with customer care. The portfolio of the future could be a combination of any or all of these elements, but from a fresh perspective. If they don't choose to diversify their portfolios, they will essentially become asset managers of aging infrastructures. If they stop meeting the demand of their market and instead simply manage their legacy assets, then, beyond a certain point, they won't be able to sustain themselves financially.

In the current situation, data and analytics will play a key role in shaping the future of utilities. With more advanced analytics, utilities can detect patterns they previously took for granted. We're showing them the benefits of investing heavily in analytics. On the front end, new ways of using analytics impact consumers directly. Smart meters and sophisticated thermostats allow consumers at home to better understand their energy usage and where they can conserve. Mobility is enhancing the pervasiveness of this information and ease of access to the data when consumers want it.

Thanks to Big Data, we use analytics across business and operational processes to gain insights that help utilities understand how they can optimize and even reconfigure themselves to remain competitive. For instance, utilities are becoming better at looking for statistical outliers. Utilities know that household consumption is very stable. An average house of 2,000 square feet will consume a certain amount of electricity each month. Their new data and analytics, for instance, might indicate that a certain area of town has more swimming pools and therefore a concentration of energy-hungry pool pumps.

Patterns emerge out of any data collection, especially when it comes to the energy needs of modern families and companies. Did you know that owning an electric car nearly doubles the electricity consumption of the average American household? Electric cars can provide a good opportunity for utilities to analyze modern consumption patterns. (It's ironic that consumers who are concerned about the harmful effects of fossil fuels buy electric cars, only to tax the ageing utility infrastructure.) The fact that an electric car doubles the electricity consumption of a typical household is something of which utilities are becoming keenly aware. They're building additional lines and meeting that demand. Plus, electric cars pose a potentially huge opportunity for utilities to get into the refueling business.

A warning to utilities that pine for the good old days of regulated monopolies: Innovate now or risk fading off into the sunset. Infosys is helping forward-looking utilities focus their resources on continuous innovation. Maybe a utility will concentrate some of its focus on powering a new generation of electric cars. Or maybe they'll come to see that customer management is their best way forward. By pinpointing demographics, utilities can get their second wind and develop more efficient processes. Those are the kinds of energy solutions that will keep them competitive in the decades to come.

August 12, 2013

The Market's Darling of Disruption

Posted by Ravi Kumar S. (View Profile | View All Posts) at 8:16 AM

Jeff Bezos Advice to Entrepreneurs - Founder of Amazon.com [Source:CorporateValley http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVZAIss-A-Y ]

You're only as good as your last market disruption.

Don't think so? Well, let's consider how the stock market values innovation. Upon first glance there's no discernible pattern. But if you take a closer look at companies that have track records of relentlessly disrupting their markets and creating new ones, they're usually rewarded well beyond what traditional valuation methods would ever grant them.

Make no mistake: The stock market shrewdly takes notice of those companies that innovate once or twice and then rest on their laurels. In this unforgiving economy, a company must build a solid track record of disruption. Companies that we think of as one- or two-time innovators continue to be pummeled by the market ... even if strong earnings miss the even loftier expectations of investors and analysts.

Take Amazon for instance. Clayton Christensen, the father of the concept of market disruption, says that Amazon has three particularly potent ways of beating back competitors: online retailing, the disruption of publishing, and the cloud services that give everyone access to sophisticated IT technology. "But," says Christensen, "you have to hope that this approach is institutionalized at Amazon, and not dependent on the instincts of one person."

The stock market is always wary of a company that's embodied by just one person. What might happen to Virgin Group, the sprawling, diversified entertainment and transportation conglomerate founded by Richard Branson, when he retires? There's a danger of placing an entire company's prospects in one individual, even if that person is a world-class talent like Branson. Nobody is forever.

Christensen is expressing the same type of concern, but in this case it's about another world-class talent: Jeff Bezos, the driving force behind Amazon's culture of innovation for more than 15 years. What would happen to Amazon if, for the sake of argument, Bezos decided to leave the company tomorrow and spend the rest of his life working on his golf game? Would Amazon retain the same swagger that currently makes it an enduring favorite among investors?

The magic touch of a sterling innovator like Bezos is that he never looks at the market in an overly complicated way. For example, what's the one major advantage that a big box retailer like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, or Target has over Amazon? If the customer is willing to drive a few miles to the store, he can buy what he wants immediately. There's no waiting a couple days for the item to arrive in the mail. If Amazon can ensure same-day delivery, what's the point of leaving the house to go shopping - especially given the price of gasoline these days? Therein lies part of the explanation for Amazon's sky-high valuation: Given the track record of Bezos, we can reasonably bet that he'll succeed in going toe to toe with big box retailers. Many customers and analysts alike already consider Amazon to be a kind of big box. In fact, it's become a dominant player in every retail segment, no matter how you try to classify the company.

What remains a bit of a mystery - and nobody ever said stock market valuations were completely rational - is that other continuous innovators aren't able to attain the same status as stock market darling that Amazon does. Corning, for example, is 150-year-old glassworks that has transformed itself into a modern manufacturer of fiber optics and touch-screen pads. Lockheed Martin is another company that continues to deliver one innovation after another (its famous "Skunk Works" is celebrating its 70th Anniversary). Both these companies have p/e ratios more in line with conventional market expectations.

These other innovators also have teams of executives driving their innovation programs. It's much more difficult to pinpoint one, single personality who's become a corporate celebrity. Maybe that's part of a longer-term advantage. In either case, to succeed in today's markets, an enterprise needs to be thinking about your next major innovation before it's through with its current one.

August 6, 2013

Get a Culture of Innovation To Fit Your Company

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:56 AM

famo.us 2D template demonstration[Source:Steve Newcomb http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdAvOE3SyrU]

Building a culture of innovation can sometimes mean starting with an open template. There exists no single, agreed-upon method for establishing a process for achieving innovation. So it's helpful to look at companies at various stages of their lifespans to see what works ... and what doesn't.

Mature companies derive their culture from many long standing factors -like leadership, processes, and values. Start-up firms, on the other hand, don't have the same business horizon. Their founders might have great ideas and a desire to change the world, but they also want to be (and need to be) rewarded quickly. Internet start-up CEOS are thinking about funding targets, the speed of technological change, consumer tastes, and a drive towards a buy-out or IPO. You can bet these factors influence how such companies seek out and define innovation.

Take for example, a successful software engineer named Steve Newcomb. He sold his Internet search engine Powerset to Microsoft a few years back for $100 million and now runs a start-up called Famo.us. Silicon Valley is abuzz with the unique screening process at his company. To land a job at Famo.us, every one of the start-up's 11 employees must come to a consensus to hire that person and any of the 11 can ding the prospect without giving a reason. And that's the end of the process for an unlucky candidate. The beginning of the quest for a job at Newcomb's company begins with an all-day interview and then a software-coding test which he says very few candidates pass. If a candidate is invited back, the next phase of the test involves working as a paid contractor for up to three months so that the 11 employees can assess whether that person is a cultural fit. The test is also meant to be a gauge of a candidate's technical skills. I think it's safe to say that Newcomb wants his employees to hit the ground running. This philosophy probably finds roots in the fact that, in some industries, highly specific skills and knowledge are crucial to a firm's success. And smaller, more focused organizations often need a more tightly controlled culture because they move aggressively to achieve business objectives

In the end, there is no right answer as to what works. A standard Silicon Valley approach to building an innovation culture may be a disaster in an old, highly respected firm. Start-up investors need to know quickly if their investments will pay off. At a large, mature company with lots of different functions and employees, a leader needs to set in place an innovation culture that addresses a greater diversity of function, backgrounds, and life experiences.

Sometimes a leader simply needs to take that leap of faith and do what feels right in the gut. Because, it's important to find that right corporate innovation DNA.

August 2, 2013

Batten Down the Hatches

Posted by Ashiss K Dash (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:39 AM

Outreach Efforts to Create A Stronger, More Resilient New York [Source:mayorbloomberg] 

When it comes to dealing with the effects of climate change, an ounce of prevention could be worth a pound of cure. At least that's what government officials are saying as they request enormous infusion of cash to gird municipalities against super-storms of the future.

Even the best meteorologists can't say for certain how slight changes in planetary temperature will affect oceans and weather currents over the next few decades. So, deciding how much to spend on so-called resiliency measures amounts to a profound leadership conundrum. An interesting example is New York City's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who is different from many politicians in that before coming to government service, he was a businessman - and a very successful one at that. You might say that he understands the importance of return on investment very well.

The study Bloomberg commissioned after his city got walloped by Superstorm Sandy last fall calls for spending $20 billion to fortify 520 miles of New York City coastline. It's all relative: A storm of similar magnitude, according to the study, could cost the city $90 billion should they fail to make those fortifications.

It's difficult for any leader to justify spending $20 billion when cities are having problems paying for schoolbooks, much less high-tech dams, water drainage systems, and jetties. Indeed, nobody ever said leading millions of people was an easy job, but the effects of climate change are making those jobs even more challenging. What now goes with the job of being a government leader is deciding how much of a municipal budget to devote to power outages, fuel shortages, and violent storms that may or may not happen.

Because I direct the utilities practice for Infosys, I'm keenly aware of the tough decisions about energy that governments must make. On one end is the president of the Maldives, who is pleading with the planet's biggest producers of greenhouse gasses to stem the tide. He says if they don't put a cap on their carbon dioxide emissions, his island nation might be underwater within the next century. He even held an underwater cabinet meeting, completely outfitted with scuba gear, to suggest that's how the country might be forced to operate in the future. On the other end of the spectrum are leaders who prefer to remain fiscally conservative (or simply don't have the tax base) when it comes to preparing for energy breakdowns.

The increase in global temperatures results in new peak load records every year. Changes in climate patterns are bringing about more extreme weather: in some places, frequent and intense storms accompanied by floods and in other places, more severe droughts. The U.S. government recently published another energy report (not to be confused with the New York City study) that suggests ways to reduce what it refers to as energy "vulnerability." The government report validates what we have known for years: Utilities need to update their grids and build sufficient back-up systems.

Some entities aren't waiting for their municipalities to update their grids. Private companies, for instance, are motivated generate their own energy to ensure reliability, availability, and scalability for future growth. They are also driven by the desire to put in place modern sustainability practices. They've become part of the overall best practices of any admirable company. The giant American retailer Wal-Mart, for instance, says it plans to generate its own energy and be self-sustainable by 2020.

Wal-Mart has an ambitious plan that the world is watching. You're going to see more private enterprises rely on their own small generators that will likely encompass a range of power sources, including wind and solar. They'll operate off their own micro-grids. If these enterprises generate excess power, they will join the ranks of the independent power producers who generate and sell their power to utilities. Just last week, the small American town of Woodbridge, Connecticut, received a grant from the state to build its own micro-grid. Like Wal-Mart, you can bet other towns will be watching Woodbridge to see how soon it can become self-sufficient.

It's great to see enterprises public and private being extremely proactive in dealing with the ageing energy infrastructure around them. If the past few years have been any clue, we're all in for some wild acts of Mother Nature. So it's vital that we prepare the best we can with the resources and knowledge we have today.

August 1, 2013

Monetizing a Specialized Network

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:14 AM

Arlington Police Social Media - Are you Ready? [Source:arlingtonpolicemedia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GpqVrNTpVk]

Retailing is a diverse sector. On one hand, a big box chain offers everything under the sun for cut-rate prices. On the other, the high-end boutique sells just a handful of luxury items at much higher margins. Both business models fulfill important positions in the overall retail market.

We're seeing social networks develop in much the same way. The Facebooks of this world appeal to everyone. There's also room for specialized, niche networks. Entrepreneurs are figuring out innovative ways to monetize those groups as well.

A one-time "top cop" of the New York, Los Angeles, and Boston police departments, William Bratton, recently unveiled a social network for law enforcement. BlueLine is aimed at police officers around the world; its premise is that crowdsourcing for cops will have an exponentially efficient effect on crime prevention and analysis.

In North America and in Western Europe, towns and cities are tightening their municipal budgets. Often the most contentious budget cut in any city is to the police force. The reasoning goes that protecting a community from crime is among the most important services of a local government. So budget cuts should come from other places.

Bratton is a veteran police chief who well knows that police departments can nevertheless come under the knife of city councils looking to save money. Part of BlueLine's proposition is that by crowdsourcing the law enforcement community, financially strapped communities can make do with fewer resources by making police work more efficient. Indeed, the success of BlueLine and other specialized social networks rests on their ability to monetize themselves in such a way that a subscription and associated costs are perceived as less than the cost of additional local manpower.

Part of the appeal of a specialized social network is not unlike a mainstream one: the plethora of apps that developers create around the network. Data analytics companies are reportedly developing BlueLine applications that allow cops to create databases of everything from gang tattoos to graffiti tags. The 19th-century sleuth Sherlock Holmes would have loved having such databases at his disposal!

Business models for the big social networks like Facebook tend to be advertising based with specialized ads aimed at individuals or segments within a huge user audience. And with over a billion subscribers who readily share their personal information, it's relatively easy for Facebook to develop targeted advertising. But specialized networks often need to charge fees for a subscription. BlueLine's pricing model has not been made public yet, but I suspect its owners will establish a subscription based model charging local police departments an annual fee based on the size of their police force. Targeted ads for personal items and services to individual officers will create another revenue stream.

In essence, the fundamental promise of social networks is their ability to offer more for less. But what are some of the more intangible costs? When it comes to a social network for police, for example, I'm thinking of the potential costs involved with security breaches. Sharing best practices shouldn't come at the expense of putting confidential information at risk. The newest and most virulent kind of criminal is the cyber-thief. Can you imagine the bonanza that hacking into a private police network would provide?

To his credit, Bratton has said that BlueLine's network will be secure and will require multiple verifications to join. He said is protocols are based on the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services guidelines, which transmits secure criminal case information online. We should remember, however, what a thrice-married real estate billionaire once said about prenuptial agreements: They are made to be broken. The same might be said of the security measures placed on social networks, however many protocols are in place.

Then there's the question of how a social network would distinguish itself from a legacy network such as Interpol. Police departments around the world have long shared information on this secure network. If it serves its purpose well, then do police officers really want to spend additional time (and their departments spending additional money) to discuss soft topics such as which kind of shoe is most comfortable to walk a beat?

One response to that question might be that for decades people chatted with friends and family over the telephone. Social media networks have simply provided them with a very attractive alternative to sharing their personal information. The new platform didn't replace the telephone, it complimented it.

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