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February 28, 2014

The Power of Effective Organizations

Posted by Soundararajan S (View Profile | View All Posts) at 8:45 AM

Creating effective organizations takes a lot of effort and it's no small task. We value the ability to bounce ideas off each other in environments that are safe. We come up with prototypes for new products and services by not being afraid of proposing ways of approaching an issue that might rub people the wrong way. And the team matters - people that collaborate instead of focusing solely on their own goals are often the most potent part of any brainstorming session. But what is a safe atmosphere? It's a place that you might perceive as unfamiliar but remain confident.

When Infosys worked with the European Business Awards to detect the common elements of a best-in-class company, what we found was that organizations that create safe places of brainstorming and creativity tend to be the ones that are the most profitable and able to stave off the competition. In fact, the EBA winners tend to have as a common characteristic the ability to define new markets by sheer virtue of their collective creativity.

The ability to evolve and grow with technological advancements and market expectations is more important than ever. Social media dictates that the consumer is more aware of how companies do business than ever before. So if an organization is able to improvise - shift on the fly, so to speak - then it's able to survive amidst a growing number of challenges. I heard about one company that dedicates every Thursday afternoon to Friday morning to idea generation. Nothing is considered to be too corny or outlandish. Then again, one of the parameters of the weekly practice is that the idea must give way to some type of actionable result - whether a new service or product that the company could conceivably peddle. Giving structure to the innovation journey is paramount

Today, this kind of thinking is blurring traditional boundaries between electrical, software, and mechanical engineering. Innovation is scripting a grand tale of convergence. For example, the convergence of Information Technology and telecommunications will allow of organizations to create their own, "virtualized" networks. So, too, will the rise of the digital consumer translate into a preponderance of software-driven products. Companies that control the channel and the software will create better and more lasting relationships with their consumer base. Even mobile healthcare will come into its own because of smart, wearable devices. The convergence of lifestyle with the healthcare sector will have profound consequences on how people think about their bodies and their overall wellness.

The keys to all of these exciting developments reside in our ideas. That's why it's vital that we as people and as organizations encourage innovation in all its forms.

February 25, 2014

Geosensory Data: The Next Big Innovation in Finance

Posted by Rajashekara V. Maiya (View Profile | View All Posts) at 8:37 AM

Big Data in Banking [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TgW5LYOcpo]

As an organization that enables enterprises around the world to realize their goals, we're never at a loss to explain the power of Big Data. Whether it's in retail, healthcare, or even banking, the more a company knows about its customers, the more it's able to make lasting connections with them.

I'm reminded about just how powerful Big Data has become by reading a profile about a handful of MIT graduates who were intent on creating a hedge fund. Now for those of you who don't follow the world of alternative asset management, hedge funds haven't exactly had the easiest last few years in the wake of the global economic crisis. It's gotten more challenging for hedge fund managers to allocate capital in such a way that it creates a "hedge" against more traditional investments.

So when MIT classmates Michael Chang, Sean Chang, and Zeid Barakat decided to found a firm called Flyberry Capital, they had a certain level of difficulty in attracting seed capital to get their hedge fund off the ground. All that changed when discerning investors began to see how Flyberry was distinguishing itself in the alternative asset management space: They dedicated themselves to parsing enormous amounts of data. The term used to describe some of what the firm studies is "geo-sensory information;" that is, huge buckets of data that relate to weather patterns, earthquakes, forecasts, and the like.

The battle for investment capital is an intense one, to be sure. Every hedge fund markets itself as distinct from the crowd because of its methodology and mission. But the one thing they all have in common is a natural reliance on good, actionable data. I found the story of how Flyberry distinguished itself to be an inspirational one. A typhoon that hits an area of the world that produces lots of a certain raw material is going to matter to investors. But so does negative sentiment across social media about how poorly companies in that weather pattern were prepared for the typhoon. Then there's data that is the opposite of the once-in-a-century weather event. Earnings calls, for instance, are potential gold mines if a company has acted in a certain way time and again against particular earnings targets. So a firm that utilizes Big Data can essentially get into the practice of predicting future actions. Modeling is what can set any company apart from its peers.

The story of this interesting hedge fund also calls attention to diversity of data. You hear a lot these days about a company taking a huge data set and parsing it many different ways. But the next phase of Big Data is rewarding those who take many different sources of data and compare them to detect patterns.

For some years now, the most formidable investment firms have used latency as an advantage. That's a fancy way of saying how quickly they could make trades taking advantage of arbitrage opportunities in the market. When a split second can mean the difference of making $5 million dollars, the firms with the most powerful trading capabilities are the ones that win out.

Investors have pushed those latencies to the limits. Some have even set up their computer servers within a mile or two of the big stock exchanges so that they can save additional microseconds. Where they've done everything technologically feasible with the element of time, investors are still only at the beginnings of what they can do with the element of information. Especially when you consider the fact that a good chunk of what they analyze consists of sentiments that are expressed a number of ways across social media.

Whether it is relatively liquid investments such as currency futures, index futures, or commodities, today's financiers want to get the stories behind what makes people buy and sell, and what makes companies profitable. By combining data sets across the board and devising ways to analyze that information, the savviest investors are creating an entirely new data paradigm.

February 21, 2014

Helping Banks Help Consumers

Posted by Rajashekara V. Maiya (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:18 AM

I was struck by how someone recently described the new chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of the Unites States. Janet Yellen, she said, is not only the first woman to hold that post. But she's also the first Keynesian who's *open* about being one.

Being a Keynesian, of course, means that you have great faith in the power of monetary policy to affect the economy as well as the banking sector. That there have been central bank governors who have believed in Keynes is without argument. It's fascinating, though, that she is the first one in her country not to hide her devotion to this philosophy. I bring this up because monetary policy is back in the news again. Our colleagues who attended the World Economic Forum last month came away with a healthy dose of discussion on the topic.

As we concentrate on improving banking around the globe, it helps to think about this renewed interest in how policy affects consumers. For years, conventional wisdom was that banks themselves - by virtue of their sheer existence and day-to-day activities - created an environment in which every player in the market had an opportunity to succeed.

There's nothing quite like a global economic crisis to get people to dust off the works of Keynes, though. As we create new, simpler, and more convenient ways to perform consumer banking activities, it pays to recall that at least one half (and perhaps a lot more) of academics prescribe to the notion that countries must exercise some sort of guidance over the financial markets in order to create more stability. Enormous economies like India, the United States, and Germany have performed well five years after the crisis because their central banks took charge and instituted reform-minded environments.

As a result, we're seeing that consumers are increasingly coming to have faith in the large banks again. When they do, they're likely to borrow money in order to form small businesses and create jobs. Our own chairman has recently spearheaded a TV series in which he showcases some of the finest small businesses and entrepreneurs that fuel the growth of an economy. Now that many of the big nations are winding down their quantitative easing programs, it's more important than ever for the individual consumer to be confident and unencumbered in the way they go about using banks.

That's why it's so exciting to be part of the financial services innovation journey. The relationship between banks and their consumers has never been more important to the future of the global economy. They have great opportunities to introduce new and exciting ways to improve banking relationships. When commercial banks know their customers better -- and, indeed, they're becoming as savvy as retailers --they can fuel economic growth in tandem with their country's respective central banks. Keynes, I imagine, would be proud.

February 20, 2014

Micro-Disruptions anyone?

Posted by Puneet Gupta (View Profile | View All Posts) at 8:46 AM

Big Bang Disruption Why tech giants must innovate or die [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctxUJK-7XFk]

We've read a lot about the merits of market disruption, and for good reason: Either disrupt the market or risk being disrupted out of business.

But how often do we think about what I like to call micro-disruption? Essentially I'm talking about how we face technological snafus that make us quite aware that we're in dire need of more innovation. That's because innovation is a never-ending process. We might be content to have a service or product on our hands that apparently needs no improvements. Not major improvements, at least.

Widespread products like the television and telephone worked pretty much the same way for decades. Only in recent years have we seen smart TVs and mobile telephones thoroughly redefine and reshape those respective markets. In both cases, individuals began, one by one, to call for improvements in those media to meet the needs of their changing lifestyles. And the market eventually caught up to their expectations and desires.

The power of the individual consumer, therefore, is an important thing to consider. Eventually those expectations add up. And at no time in human history have those expectations been able to accrue so fast as they do today.

Think of the Internet. It's such a part of our day-to-day lives that, much like the ubiquitous television or telephone, it really doesn't need improvement. Or does it?

One of my colleagues and I recently had trouble getting some emails to each other. We all get an occasional "bounce-back," but why this episode was so chilling was that neither of us got any such notices. Yet we weren't receiving the emails, either. That got me to thinking about how many other lost emails there are floating around in cyberspace, never to reach their intended destinations. How many big business deals (or, for that matter, affairs of the heart!) never went anywhere because an email or two fell through the cracks without the other party knowing about it?

My prediction is that one of the biggest innovations yet to hit the scene will be something that addresses what's left of the "Wild West" aspect of the Internet. There is an untamed, unpredictable lawlessness about the Internet that we continue to live with and operate our enterprises by. Recall that the Internet has existed for more than 45 years now. It dates back to the 1960s and was meant as a means of communications should telephony, telegraph, and print mail all be knocked out during a nuclear war. As the Cold War thawed, academics began using it as a fun way to communicate with each other. Everyone knows the story from there.

I think the time has come for a Consumer Electronics Show to unveil a new kind of Internet. One that's based less on a 1960s Cold War technology and more on communications realities of the modern day. I know that our partners in the retail, financial services, and healthcare industries would take to a newer kind of network if doing so could make their customers more secure.

To be sure, the rocket scientists (and indeed, many of them were) who first developed the Internet as a military tool in the '60s could have never imagined that a teenager sitting in his bedroom in Russia with a basic Internet account could hack into the data systems of some of the world's largest and savviest retailers. The expectations for the Internet have grown a lot in the past 45 years.

It's time for us to collectively pool our micro-disruptions with it and come up with a better version.

February 14, 2014

Innovating For a Better Tomorrow

Posted by Srikantan Moorthy (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:22 AM

How often is it that we discuss the hopes and dreams of more than one billion people. But that is just what happened when Mr. Murthy, Executive Chairman of the Infosys Board sat down with Sagarika Ghose, the deputy editor of CNN-IBN, for the curtain raiser episode of what promises to be an exciting television series.

Innovating for a Better Tomorrow is India's new must-see program on tele. Its nine terrific episodes are full of the inspirational ideas and innovations that are propelling the nation forward. And the best part of this story is that everyone is along for the ride. Why do I say everyone? You'll see that whatever the innovation - whether financial inclusion or accessible education or affordable conveniences, people are using knowledge that already exists in new ways. And when they do, they make the lives of everyone in our society better. That's not always the intended consequence, of course. Sometimes a researcher in a laboratory is simply trying to find a new antidote. Or a student is attempting to answer a professor's question in a way that's never before been done. Whatever they do, in the long run they're adding significant value to the world around them.

Innovation is a good way to start yourself down the pathway of success. When I think of people and nations that are constantly innovating, they all have something in common, whichever century or industry they're in: They each have a remarkably high innovation quotient. And they recognize the power of an idea.

There really is no downside to innovation. The reality based on data and the facts is that societies that embrace innovation and enhanced productivity end up providing better value for citizens. This is most effective when the economy is in a downturn because that unrelenting spirit is what fuels a turn-around.

Consider some of the people and organizations featured in "Innovating for a Better Tomorrow." There's Pratham, the largest NGO whose mission it is to provide quality education to underprivileged children in India. The idea is to increase the number of children who receive the benefit of education all while improving the quality of it. With ideas such as these, India can lead the way in new ways of doing education. In some ways, we already are. Another subject of the TV series, Bunker Roy, is a social activist who founded the Barefoot College. It's an innovative, groundbreaking school that educates illiterate village women - often grandmothers - to assemble and maintain hi-tech solar panels for use in their own villages. Speaking of villages the show also features Godrej & Boyce ChotuKool, a compact fridge that runs on both electricity and batteries for the mid- and low-income urban and rural markets.

So tune in (in India) to the first episode on CNN-IBN on Saturday, Feb 15, at 7:00 PM, with a repeat telecast on Sunday, Feb 16, at 12:00 PM. People outside of India can watch the webcasts of the shows, next week onwards, on www.infosys.com/indiainnovates

We'll all be more enriched for having learned about these special people.

February 11, 2014

Infosys Prizes Recognize Intellectual Gold

Posted by Srikantan Moorthy (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:46 AM

Infosys Prize 2013 winners with Kofi Annan and the Jury
Infosys Prize 2013 winners with Kofi Annan and the Jury

It's time for the Olympics once again. For me, the best part of the games is the telling of all the back-stories before each event.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the back-story, it's a sometimes-emotional look at an athlete's struggles to get all the way to the Olympics. Most of these stories are about against-all-odds situations. It's not uncommon to learn that the aspiring athlete comes from a tough neighborhood, has sustained numerous injuries, but has the right mental attitude to focus on the prize - in this case, an Olympic medal. True, these stories are neatly packaged month ahead of time and formulaic. But that's one of the reasons they work so well. We know that each back-story ends in the present athletic contest laid out before us. And it usually results in that person winning a race and achieving medal status.

We like back-stories because by the time we're watching an Olympic athlete strut her stuff on the playing field, we feel like we've been with her throughout her entire life. All of her training with her coach, all of her early morning workouts at the ice rink. Of course, we don't really know her. But the perception becomes reality through a well-placed and constructed back-story.

We've got a back-story of our own. Seven of them, in fact. This year, the 5th annual Infosys Prizes went to seven of the world's most fascinating minds. There's Ramgopal Rao in Engineering & Computer Science, Nayanjot Lahiri in Archaeology, Ayesha Kidwai in Linguistics, Rajesh Gokhale in Life Sciences, Rahul Pandharipande in Mathematics, Shiraz Naval Minwalla in Physical Sciences, and Aninhalli R. Vasavi in Social Sciences. Each one of these world-class researchers has spent a lifetime innovating and contributing to the improvement of society.

Corporations can learn a lot from these prize-winners. Because a lot of what we do in the race to succeed and stay ahead of the competition involves strategy. It involves knowing the back-story of all your market rivals and why they're in the race to begin with.

The innovation journey is no less dependent on such information. The more we know about how an enterprise can benefit from new technologies and strategies, the more comfortable we are with the course we take.

So much is changing and so much is at stake that even the bronze medalists are happy to come out with such distinctions. So in this Olympic season - as well as from the bestowing of the Infosys Prizes - here's the thing that leaders and innovators can pick - get to know the winners through their back-stories. Because success is contagious.

February 10, 2014

Developing the Right Skills for the Future

Posted by Aruna C. Newton (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:47 AM

Anyone who has ever ridden public transportation in England has seen the curiously phrased warning sign "Mind the Gap." I often think of that sign when I hear about how public leaders are thinking about the young people in their respective countries.

We all like to speak of sustainable societies. But beyond just recycling, we need the skills and talents of people to be sustainable as well. That got us to thinking about "minding the gap" when it comes to how India's younger population are prepared for the economy of tomorrow. No doubt about it: Our young people are bright, dynamic, and important to our future. That's why we need to make sure they have the right talents to succeed in a challenging, high-tech global economy.

Recently we hosted an exciting conference with a foundation from Germany, Bertelsmann Stiftung, to discuss how we can improve vocational education in India. The Germans know a thing or two about vocational education: They have long championed a system wherein children are recognized early for certain talents; then they spend a lot of time and energy developing those talents. That way, each generation has a sufficient number of technicians, laboratory workers, chemists, mechanics - you name it.

The system in Germany is the opposite in some ways of what happens in a country like the United States. There, everyone wants to go to college, even if college doesn't suit that person or if there are no jobs widely available for people who graduate from college. What's the point of producing millions of college graduates who read philosophy when there is a shortage, say, for good heating & cooling technicians or construction engineers?

We've all been in an airport at one time or another during which the airline offers an "upgrade" to passengers willing to pay a bit more for a better seat. In that same spirit, societies are recognizing that it pays to "up-skill" their citizens in an increasingly competitive marketplace. To do so however, public leaders know that it helps immensely to have support from the private sector. According to Mr. N.R.N. Murthy, the chairman and founder of Infosys, the company has always been synonymous with innovation and knowledge. That's why partnering with Infosys is the logical step for a public sector that's intent on up-skilling its younger workers.

It is imperative for companies, academia, and governments to collaborate to improve skill sets of the employable population," says Mr. Murthy, "which will in turn help foster growth across the world." Indeed, some Infosys officers have just returned from the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. If there's one thing that global leaders have come to advocate, it's that the major economies of the world sink or swim together. Which is why Mr. Murthy speaks of growth across the globe. When a generation of talented young workers has the right skills to compete, the entire global economy can win.

The conference with the Bertelsmann Foundation is particularly ambitious. Just think of how many people could be affected in the next 10 years: some half-billion Indians who can be re-trained and matched to what fields stand to boom because of the growth. So how to bridge the widening skills gap? Public and private authorities are coming together to plan alternative approaches to up-skilling. For example, try putting corporations in the same room with the aim of listing what qualifications they will be looking for when they screen for employees in the next decade.

To that end, the Bertelsmann Foundation is partnering with India's Institute of Applied Manpower to learn more about the advantages of Germany's dual system of vocational training. It brings together classroom learning with practical, on-the-job training. What also is appealing about this partnership is that it helps bridge a cultural gap. The European nations are mature economies with populations that are slowly declining in number. Corporations based in Europe know that to grow, they must have a foothold in the emerging markets. In places like India, whose population continues to boom, there will be a demand for products and services for decades to come.

So it's only natural that India's young employee base grows the right way as well. The next time someone mentions sustainable development, you'll know that they're not only talking about natural resources and recycling. They're talking about the most precious resources of any country: the young people who are keys to its future success.

February 3, 2014

Team Up for Innovation

Posted by Sanjay Dalwani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:03 AM

Adam Grant Discusses Give and Take [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHgIQR1zUq4]

Are you a team player? Most of us would like to think we are. That's good news because of the way organizations are assessing the very nature of success.

The coolest viewpoint on this topic is articulated by the Wharton management professor Adam Grant . He says that success used to commonly be a collection of individual achievement. But that's going to change as companies increasingly look at how your accomplishments affect your colleagues. It seems we're all in this together after all! For example, ask yourself what kind of impact you will have simply beyond your core job description. Grant challenges us to think about three types of interactions we have with teammates, The way you interact with colleagues can often say as much about you as does your training, experience, and education.

For starters, there's the "taker." A taker tends to think about getting as much out of teammates as possible. In a bygone era, takers could be tolerated because there was enough work that could be performed in a non-collaborative manner. But today, in the era of innovation, teamwork is essential to generating good ideas. Takers can easily suck the oxygen out of a brainstorming session.

A "matcher," on the other hand, enjoys a sort of give and take in the workplace. There's nothing wrong with being a matcher, especially if you're a younger employee who expects to receive guidance, mentoring, and even technical knowledge. You can present you millennial affinity for doing things and in return the more experienced members of your organization can impart their wisdom. There's nothing quite like offering a different viewpoint on things in return for the knowledge that comes with industry expertise.

Finally, there's the "giver," who doles out help and expects nothing in return. If you ever find a colleague who is willing to impart his professional knowledge and expects nothing in return, then that makes for a rewarding mentorship. What's important about these distinctions is the way an organization attempts to balance them. If a company wants to build a culture of giving among its teams, then sometimes it thinks it must hire people en masse who have that characteristic. But it's more effective to concentrate on the takers, says Grant. By simply weeding out a few takers - people who singlehandedly focus on their individual results - you can more easily shift the culture of the organization to be more giving. That's vital if you're embarking on an innovation journey and the offering up of new ideas and inventions are tantamount to that process.

Finding the right balance in an organization is important because we're always trying to do more with less. I'm not talking cutbacks; I'm talking about doing this in a way that's as smart and relevant as possible. "Right now there is a disconnect between knowledge and strategy," says Grant's Wharton colleague, Martin Ihrig. "Everyone knows there is competitive advantage in deeply understanding their knowledge, but very few decision makers know how to strategically harness it."

So the next time a colleague talks about amassing knowledge, take a step back and instead propose that you utilize the knowledge you need instead of overloading your organization. Better still is when that colleague is willing to generate ideas and share insights without demanding you necessarily return information and insights on demand. In a culture where teamwork prevails, you will eventually come to a point when you are member of the team delivering innovation.

You would never want to be doing so with the expectation that your teammates match that insight then and there. Innovation is a process where the more you give, the more your teammates will return in their own way and timeframe.

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