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November 21, 2013

Innovation Doesn't Always Mean Disruption

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:19 AM


Anke, Assistant Vice President for Research and Innovation - L'Oreal USA R&I [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BBBCubLltQ]

Part of any innovation journey is to create a major market disruption, right? Well, you don't have to be quite as dramatic as many of us have believed.

There's nothing wrong with redefining the marketplace and introducing new products and services. But the most effective and lasting innovations are relatively small and methodical over the long haul. A vast majority of us are people who constantly innovate but haven't necessarily developed earth-shattering ideas that redefine the market.

One of the statistical givens of the world of finance is that the greater risk you take, the greater the reward. It's why some huge financial institutions give great leeway to their proprietary trading desks. Those financiers are experts at trolling the capital markets for arbitrage opportunities. They can make enormous returns when they buy the right security or take the right position.

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October 25, 2013

Corporate Leadership Involves Growing Pains

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 12:36 PM


Drew Dudley "Everyday Leadership" - TED Talks [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HR2UnsOuKxo]

It's a fairly fine line we business leaders walk. On one side are shareholders and directors who scrutinize the bottom line. On the other are the people in our organizations whom we expect will create and maintain a pipeline of innovative offerings.

The issue is that the innovation process can be relatively expensive and unpredictable. Major shareholders and company directors obviously want the same results as your R&D people, but they prefer those results to happen within a specific set of cost guidelines. The reason you're in the C-suite to begin with is that you can presumably bridge those two outlooks and make the organization work as one.

When Eric Schmidt, the hard-driving CEO of Google, first joined that company in 2001, one of the young founders, Sergey Brin, told a reporter that Schmidt's appointment was to bring "parental supervision, to be honest" to the company. To me, that remark captures the essence of the kind of organization many of us are attempting to build in the digital world. We want to be as competitive as possible, especially with fierce, new upstarts nipping on our heels every day.

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October 11, 2013

Unlocking Balance In Decision-Making

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:45 AM


Heart over Head- Recognising Emotion in Decision Making: Rebecca Stephens MBE at TEDxSPS [Source:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNFJ3Zhy0Z4]

It's strategic planning time, ladies and gentlemen. So put on your decision-making caps.

As long as many of us can remember, corporate strategy has been all about decision-making of a rational, structured nature. We crowd into a room with a whiteboard and chart out where we want the organization to go. This activity is as old as the hills. It's not to be confused by a parallel development in the corporate world - the creative brainstorming session. Whether we're aware of it or not, we wear a different cap for this process.

Is it possible to put on the two caps at once? What I mean by this question is if we're able to make decisions that combine the tried and true structure of rational thought with intuition. There's a new school of thought that says business leaders are at their best if they can use both parts of their brain at once - the conscious half that governs rational thought and the subconscious, where we make our gut decisions.

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September 4, 2013

Putting a Price On Information

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:52 AM


Google Nexus 7 tutorial: customizing My Library [Source:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcaHQsrpDVQ]

A while ago, when the popular search engine Google crashed for five minutes, the press reported that the inability of people around the world to search for celebrity gossip and misbehaving professional athletes caused a "short-lived worldwide freak-out."

This is the same Google, of course, that has proposed building a modern-day digital library that would be the repository of all the world's information.

The way we think about what exactly is information and what's worth saving says a lot about us as well. In America, a number of federal agencies are filing proposals as to how the public should be able to access the fruits of research conducted by the government. These proposals focus on academic research of a scientific nature. A lot of what gets discovered and innovated in university laboratories comes in part from public grants. The idea is that if taxpayers are footing the bill for scientific works, then any of those taxpayers should ultimately be able to access the results. Whether a significant section of the population actually comprehends the information presented in a typical scientific research paper is not the question; it's the existence and open access to such information in a public forum that is at stake. What also needs to be addressed is who can get access to what. Presumably a biologist who would like to access breaking research at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta might be required, via his university or corporate laboratory, to pay a nominal amount for this to become a viable economic model. However, as a citizen, if he sought to access the same information from his residence, he must be able to - albeit in lesser detail - without having to pay for it.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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June 17, 2013

Innovation: Of risks, dead-ends and success

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:14 AM

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Leonardo da Vinci is best known for his paintings and frescoes. The piles of yellowed notes and diagrams he let pile up in his workshop might not be as beloved as the Mona Lisa, but they explain why multi-talented people are often referred to as Renaissance men (or women). When he wasn't painting, Leonardo was busy attempting to build helicopters, design plumbing networks, and create a host of other fascinating engineering projects. Five centuries on, we can confidently say that this famous artist never developed a workable helicopter. His drawings contain far more dead-ends and messy blueprints for never-realized projects than anything that was ever utilized. But that's part of why da Vinci's notebooks are so interesting to modern-day audiences. He's proof that innovation and creativity aren't necessarily neat, tidy, and the domain of people wearing white laboratory coats. Take another innovator, Thomas Edison. He was known to have experimented with thousands of different materials in his quest to find the optimal filament for a light bulb. His studio was always a cluttered mess. Creative types like Edison and da Vinci didn't view their efforts as searching for the right answer as much as they did searching for any answer. It's probably why, by redefining the question and becoming unbridled in their creative abilities, they were so successful in their various pursuits.

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May 30, 2013

Those Darned Internet Things

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:39 AM

Jayraj Ugarkar, Infosys Labs  shares his views about  Internet of Things  

Back in 2011, researchers at Cornell University hooked up two chatbots for a conversation, which is intriguing, to say the least. But my favorite part begins with one chatbot's question to the other, 'So you are a robot'. The other initially denies it but eventually comes around to conceding that both of them are robots. To which the questioner responds 'I'm not a robot. I'm a unicorn'.

Really? A machine pretending to be something else? Isn't that what people do on the Internet?

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May 21, 2013

How to Make a Hit? There's a Numerical Formula for That

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:11 AM

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Sometimes I think, it's only a matter of time before engineers will come up with software that can produce posts like this one. In other words, I'd only have to plug in a few keywords on what I'd like the theme of my InfyTalk post to be. And a computer will turn out a beautifully written, 700-word essay. No other human involvement would be necessary. In fact, here's an article from the New York Times that supports this hunch. It details how one of the last so-called creative bastions of Hollywood - the movie screenplay and those who write it - is an enterprise that is about to change dramatically. That's because statisticians claim to have developed ways to detect winning formulas of movies using data.

Such a development shouldn't come as a surprise. Look at communications, especially through a political campaign. In that realm - once ruled by intangibles like whether a candidate "looked presidential" - data is now king. Pollsters feed the reams of data to campaign statisticians, who in turn develop a candidate's platform and speaking points. In Hollywood, studios often take gambles on films worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The idea is that by supplying themselves with enough data, they can remove a lot of this risk.

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May 3, 2013

Clean up before you co-create

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:54 AM

Review | First Google Fiber customers  [Source:NBCActionNews  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjIXyvcHybs]

Do non-business consumers really need gigabit Internet access? Google seems to think so, as it readies to roll out its Google Fiber network into Austin, Texas, its second location after Kansas City.

So, do non-business consumers really need gigabit Internet access? To get to the answer, and in the true spirit of customer-centricity, let's play co-creation with the customer.

Continue reading " Clean up before you co-create " »

April 22, 2013

Sidestepping Pitfalls in the Search for Technology Innovation

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 1:49 PM

infyblog_57.jpg

A very successful private equity investor once shared with delegates of a packed conference that he spends more time on the road than he does in his office. The reason, he said, is that he wants to see firsthand the types of companies in which his firm is considering investing. Not only that, but he would go to exotic lands during theworst times (weather-wise) of the year. Monsoons would hit the coasts, earthquakes would shake cities, and snowstorms would cripple roads and airports. It wasn't a fun task, he said, but it allowed him to see how the land's commercial enterprises faced challenging situations. Being a private equity investor is about identifying growth where others can't. The globetrotting on the part of this particular financier was just one of his tactics to identify which foreign companies had systems and processes in place to deal with unexpected events.

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April 12, 2013

Using the Sum of the Parts to Power Innovation

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:46 AM

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(Top) Jeffrey Dean, Sanjay Ghemawat(bottom) - The recipients of the 2012 ACM-Infosys Foundation Award in the Computing Sciences

Google had a challenge. Granted, it's one most companies would like to have: So many people were using its search engine that Google was trying to keep up with the skyrocketing demand. When they found they couldn't deploy machines fast enough to handle the unprecedented amounts of data driven by their popular service, Google pursued software solutions to what initially appeared to be hardware problems.   

Enter Jeffrey Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat. These Google developers recently won the ACM-Infosys Foundation Award in the Computing Sciences for designing a significant part of Google's revolutionary software infrastructure. The work of these two Google Fellows resulted in the foundations of Google's Web search and indexing platforms as well as numerous Google applications. Indeed, their accomplishments have helped unleash the potential of both big data and Cloud computing. 


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March 13, 2013

Navigating the Innovation Economy

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:03 AM

Part of the pleasure of reading a good book is being able to share it with friends and colleagues. And because Infosys provides me with this space to blog about topics like innovation and creating smarter organizations, I can supply you with a digest of some of my reading that's relevant to these areas.

In that spirit, I highly recommend Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy by William H. Janeway. The author is a venture capital veteran who provides a fascinating glimpse into a rarified niche of the financial world, especially as to how VC firms funded the first modern technology start-ups of the 1970s and '80s.

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March 1, 2013

Unlocking the Value of Innovation and Thought

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 3:23 AM

Michael Loechle, Vice President, Information Systems, Alstom Thermal Power, describes how Infosys' approach helps Alstom achieve better, more innovative results

The most famous songwriter and celebrity of the 19th century - Stephen Foster - is virtually unknown today. Some old-timers might recall the songs he wrote because they were still very popular in the first part of the 20th century. Tunes like "Camptown Racers," "Beautiful Dreamer," and "Swanee River" defined American popular music for many generations. Yet when he died after collapsing on the street in New York City, Foster was found to have just 38 cents in his pocket. Could you imagine today if the head of a major entertainment label or music publishing company were to die with less than a dollar to his name? We live in an age when the so-called middleman - the person or entity that connects buyers and sellers - is the dominant force in the market. To be more specific, the middleman makes the market in the first place. That's why he tends to dominate it.


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January 18, 2013

Does your Company have a bias against Innovation?

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:21 AM

A longtime client recently sent me an academic paper he'd just read that - much to my pleasure - singled out Infosys as a model of innovation. I share this story because receiving laurels from academics isn't always easy. They're a tough, discerning bunch.

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January 2, 2013

Just how Sustainable is your culture of Innovation?

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:27 AM

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Passion. It's a word we throw around quite frequently in the business world. I often hear friends say they are passionate about their job or about their career. 
 
But, I think, we often confuse passion with ambition. Think about the people you've come across over the course of your life who were solely focused on getting that next promotion. According to Bill George, a professor at Harvard Business School, that kind of attitude displays ambition but not necessarily passion. Prof. George, who teaches leadership at Harvard and had a distinguished career leading Medtronic, recently spoke to the Infosys Executive Leadership Summit. "If your passion is to get a promotion, you'll never innovate," he said to the crowd. "If your passion is to get a promotion, you'll probably make a lot of money, but you are not likely be the innovator. If you innovate you deserve to make a lot of money and you will, but if you start out with the goal of getting promoted, you will not be the innovator."

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November 14, 2012

No Patents. No Inventions. No New Products. Yet Innovative.

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 4:58 AM

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How so, you ask? Well, I've been looking at some idea champs in China. The first - Haier: The largest home appliances company in China. Their innovation model is all about tailoring products, invented elsewhere, specially for the Chinese consumer. For example, they added an anti-mud clogging feature to the regular washing machine. And here's why. Chinese farmers use washing machines to clean their veggies! And with 50% of China's population concentrated in its rural areas, this is big business.

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October 24, 2012

Sky in the Eye

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 12:56 PM


" I am the eye in the sky - Looking at you - I can read your mind." From Eye in the Sky, by The Alan Parsons Project.

If there's a silver lining to the invasion of privacy, it is that it has inspired iconic works. But I'll bet that neither George Orwell - author of the dark classic "Nineteen Eighty Four" about state surveillance - nor Alan Parsons imagined that the invasion could go so far, or be so good. Or that a day would come when people would willingly allow an object to tell them who they are and what to do.

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October 3, 2012

Knowing what to Innovate

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:25 AM

Forbes ranked Infosys 19 among the top 100 most innovative companies. And, I think this is just the moment to talk about how people and enterprises can learn all those skills to improve their own "innovator's DNA".

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July 30, 2012

Social media: Sustainability before profitability?

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:26 AM

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It's one thing for a company to be socially responsible but what is the best way to communicate this activism to your customers?  You guessed it.  Facebook, Twitter, and other social media web sites are a sure path to show customers that businesses are caring, participating members of the community - whether brick and mortar or cyberspace or both.

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July 9, 2012

Making innovation work at enterprises

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:16 AM


Every time I visit a firm, one of the first things I notice is that everybody thinks they are innovating.  But, once you start talking about ideas they say, oh, we have lots of ideas, but none of them actually see the light of day. Why? I think, it's because the conventional organization is not wired to really innovate.

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March 12, 2012

In a world where self-disruption equals self-preservation!

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:23 AM

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While most of us continue to "unsee" competition, some smart companies are fighting the "bad guys" even before they show themselves. It's dousing fire with fire for them, as they employ self-disruption to thwart competition and not just survive but thrive. Look at the AutoCAD app-store from Autodesk - the world leaders in 3D design and engineering software. Making its application downloadable for smartphones and tablets, on a third-party store, meant revenue sharing. But by offering the "most convenient...most accessible" solution, even in such a niche market, they've effectively neutered the other wannabes.

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March 2, 2012

A happy, productive workforce. It's a mixed bag.

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:24 AM

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Twenty countries around the world show zero or negative population growth.  Birth rates are on the decline. By 2025, the U.S. alone will be short of around 29 million workers, as 77 million baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) retire, but only 48 million individuals belonging to Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1980) enter it.

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