30. November 2012
Source: The Wall Street Journal
The recent Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford event focused on Big Data, the next “next big thing.” Analysts are saying that going forward, companies will differentiate on how they handle data.
The next Next Big Thing is Big Data. Evangelists claim it has the power to reveal hidden truths about our companies, about our lives, about society as a whole.
So important is it that last week’s Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford annual event was built around the topic.
Inevitably the real world crashes into digital utopia. According to Peter Tufano, the dean of Oxford’s Said Business School, which played host to the event, while awareness of the topic was high among enterprises, only about 6% of companies have got beyond a pilot stage, and 18% are still in one.
“That means three-quarters of industries are looking at this and saying ‘what is this all about?'”
Why aren’t they looking at Big Data? “The answer across all business,” he said, “was ‘we don’t know what the business case is.'” Read the rest of this entry »
30. November 2012
Source: The Economist: Schumpeter
Subject: Taking the long view
HE IS the chief executive of a multinational corporation, but Paul Polman sometimes sounds more like a spokesman for Occupy Wall Street. The boss of Unilever (an Anglo-Dutch consumer-goods firm with brands ranging from Timotei shampoo to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream) agonises about unemployment, global warming and baby-boomer greed. He puts some of the blame for these ills on the most influential management theory of the past three decades: the idea that companies should aim above all else to maximise returns to shareholders.
He appears to mean it. Since taking charge in 2009, Mr Polman has stopped Unilever from publishing full financial results every quarter. He refuses to offer earnings guidance to equity analysts. He has introduced a lengthy “sustainable living plan” and attracted a new cadre of long-term investors, particularly in emerging markets. He even told an audience in Davos that hedge-fund managers would sell their own grandmothers to make a profit. Read the rest of this entry »
27. November 2012
Source: The Economist
Big forces are reshaping the world of manufacturing
“YOU can carry your own head in your hand,” enthuses Bre Pettis, inviting customers to try out a three-dimensional photo booth that will scan their head and then print a miniature plastic version of it as a solid object. This is useful, no doubt, for those about to audition for the role of Zaphod Beeblebrox in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.
Mr Pettis, the founder of MakerBot, a maker of low-cost 3D printers, spoke at the opening of his firm’s first retail store on November 20th in New York. It will sell desktop MakerBots, which make things out of plastic, for just $2,200. It is still early days, but MakerBots and machines like them are “empowering people to make the things they want, rather than buy them from factories,” says Mr Pettis.
Certainly 3D printing is hot. Some firms are already using the technology, which is also known as additive manufacturing because it involves building up material layer by layer. It can be used to make such things as prototype cars, hearing aids, customised dolls and medical implants. On the same day that Mr Pettis opened his store, GE announced it had bought for an undisclosed sum Morris Technologies, a Cincinnati firm that uses industrial 3D printers (which cost $500,000 or more) to print objects for engineers. Morris will be printing metal parts for a new GE jet engine.
Yet 3D printing is just one of many production technologies and trends which are transforming the way companies will be able to make things in the future. The old rules of manufacturing, such as “you must seek economies of scale” and “you must reduce unit-labour costs”, are being cast aside. New machines can print every item differently. More flexible robots are getting cheaper and better at doing all the boring and dirty stuff. Read the rest of this entry »
26. November 2012
Serie Realitätsverweigerung #7
von Helmut F. Karner
Es gibt dreierlei Arten von Problemen laut dem höchst originellen “Amt für Arbeit an unlösbaren Problemen und Maßnahmen der hohen Hand” (“Denkerei”: Brock, Sloterdijk & Co.): :
- grundsätzlich unlösbare (weil sie z.B. den Naturgesetzen widersprechen)
- die „typischen lösbaren Alltagsprobleme“
- die epochenbezogen unlösbaren Probleme. „Jede Epoche, jede Gesellschaftsformation erzeugt in sich Probleme, die im Rahmen des Systems nicht lösbar sind”.
Dass die Politik zur Lösung der Probleme #3 nicht fähig ist, verwundert aus ihrer (falsch verstandenen) Not zum Kompromiss nicht. Dann muss halt die “Natur” die Probleme lösen: Finanzcrash, Klimawandel, demografische Veränderungen etc.
Was mich allerdings betrübt ist, dass meiner Schätzung nach die von den Unternehmen in ihrem Dilemma angestrebten Lösungen zu mehr als 90% in der Kategorie #2 stehen bleiben.
Und dann geht es ihnen allerdings so wie dem Esel im Dilemma (siehe Fussnote*).
Viele der Veränderungen, die uns umgeben/bevorstehen, sind einfach nicht mehr im selben “Betriebssysstem” zu lösen: Read the rest of this entry »
24. November 2012
Source: The Wall Street Journal
The importance of the networks, and in particular wireless, is revealed in a U.K. government report published Friday looking at what technologies will be driving growth in the economy in the 2020s.
As its title – Technology and Innovation Futures: UK Growth Opportunities for the 2020s – 2012 Refresh –suggests this is an update to an earlier report, commissioned in 2010.
The original report looked at 53 technologies, from genetech and other bio-related fields, through advanced agriculture, nanotech, advanced materials and the like. It has been updated and the fact that changes in such a short time scale are necessary shows how fast technology is changing.
The British government has noted changes in the speed of development in 3-D printing, in robotics and in the whole area of energy including production and management through technologies like smart grids. Read the rest of this entry »
19. November 2012
Serie Realitätsverweigerung #6
Alexander Schön, 19.11.2012
Kaum war der US-Wahlkampf vorbei, begann bei den Verlierern – wie überraschend – die Suche nach den Schuldigen für die Niederlage. Die Republikaner (die Grand Old Party wie sie auch genannt wird), sei eine Partei „weißer, alter Männer in einem Land, das immer weniger weiß ist“, hieß es seitens der Analysten. Landesweit hätten etwa 60 Prozent der Weißen Mitt Romney gewählt. Gewonnen hätte Barack Obama deshalb, weil er die Stimmen der Jungen, der Frauen, der Schwarzen, der Latinos und der Asiaten bekam.
Nun ist es ja nicht so, dass die demografischen Fakten nicht bekannt gewesen wären. Es brauchte auch keine großartigen wissenschaft- lichen Analysen der Daten, und trotzdem wurden diese Realitäten im Wahlkampf – gemessen am Ergebnis – offensichtlich ignoriert.
Dieses Phänomen ist auch in Unternehmen zu beobachten. In den meisten Fällen weiß man, warum eine Produkteinführung schief gegangen, eine IT-Umstellung misslungen ist, oder man einen Kunden oder Marktanteile verloren hat, usw. Ebenso sind die Konsequenzen der demografischen Entwicklungen seit vielen Jahren evident – egal, ob es sich um die alternde Belegschaft oder den (im Übrigen hausgemachten) Fachkräftemangel handelt. Ernsthafte Reaktionen findet man selten.
Aber auch wir als Individuen sind nicht davor gefeit. Hand auf’s Herz: Sind Sie ein guter Autofahrer? Dann sind Sie in guter Gesellschaft – die breite Mehrheit von uns hält sich für überdurchschnittlich gute Fahrer. Allerdings sind wir alle ziemlich miserabel, wenn es um Selbsteinschätzung geht. Und das gilt nicht nur für’s Autofahren. Die Kluft zwischen Eigen- und Fremdbild ist mitunter eklatant. In der psychologischen Literatur wird dieses Phänomen als positive Illusion bezeichnet.
Kognitiv ist die Anerkennung von Fakten selten ein Problem – aber wie steht’s um die emotionale Anerkenntnis? Wer je etwas gekauft oder verkauft hat weiß: Emotionen sind stärker als der Verstand. Unser Verstand kann zwar Emotionen unterdrücken, aber da beginnt schon die Realitätsverweigerung. Read the rest of this entry »
19. November 2012
Source: THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
TRACI TAPANI is not your usual C.E.O. For the last 19 years, she and her sister have been co-presidents of Wyoming Machine, a sheet metal company they inherited from their father in Stacy, Minn. I met Tapani at a meeting convened by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to discuss one of its biggest challenges today: finding the skilled workers that employers need to run local businesses. I’ll let Tapani take it from here:
“About 2009,” she explained, “when the economy was collapsing and there was a lot of unemployment, we were working with a company that got a contract to armor Humvees,” so her 55-person company “had to hire a lot of people. I was in the market looking for 10 welders. I had lots and lots of applicants, but they did not have enough skill to meet the standard for armoring Humvees. Many years ago, people learned to weld in a high school shop class or in a family business or farm, and they came up through the ranks and capped out at a certain skill level. They did not know the science behind welding,” so could not meet the new standards of the U.S. military and aerospace industry. Read the rest of this entry »
19. November 2012
Source: The Guardian
The availability of huge amounts of data, and our increasing ability to utilise it, is transforming many fields of human endeavour
Although cricket lovers have a centuries-old obsession with statistics, the sport that has probably been most transformed by data is baseball. The patron saint of the field is Bill James, who since 1977 has been collecting and publishing statistics. He coined the term sabermetrics as “the search for objective knowledge about baseball”. The first person to use sabermetrics as a decision-making tool seems to have been Paul DePodesta, who worked as Billy Beane’s assistant on the Oakland Athletics team. He figured prominently in Michael Lewis’s bestselling book, Moneyball, and the character Peter Brand in the film is partly based on him.
Finance and banking
The stock market has always been a numbers game, but over the last few decades the financial services industry has been comprehensively – and pathologically – mathematised. Casino banking became the preserve of quants – mathematics and physics graduates and sundry geeks who dreamed up the incomprehensible derivative products (such as CDOs – collateralised debt obligations) that eventually led to the banking meltdown. In many ways, the most interesting figures to emerge from the catastrophe are people such as Greg Lippmann who spotted the pattern in the madness and bet against it.
Science Read the rest of this entry »
17. November 2012
He’s a pro-customer, tightfisted risk-taker who is conditioning Wall Street to embrace his erratic earnings. If you’re running a business with high margins — watch out.
FORTUNE — Jeff Bezos likes to read. That’s a dog-bites-man revelation if ever there was one, considering that Bezos is the cerebral founder and chief executive of a $100 billion empire built on books. More revealing is that the Amazon CEO’s fondness for the written word drives one of his primary, and peculiar, tools for managing his company: Meetings of his “S-team” of senior executives begin with participants quietly absorbing the written word. Specifically, before any discussion begins, members of the team — including Bezos — consume six-page printed memos in total silence for as long as 30 minutes. (Yes, the e-ink purveyor prefers paper. Ironic, no?) They scribble notes in the margins while the authors of the memos wait for Bezos and his minions to finish reading.
Amazon executives call these documents “narratives,” and even Bezos realizes that for the uninitiated — and fans of the PowerPoint presentation — the process is a bit odd. “For new employees, it’s a strange initial experience,” he tells Fortune. “They’re just not accustomed to sitting silently in a room and doing study hall with a bunch of executives.” Bezos says the act of communal reading guarantees the group’s undivided attention. Writing a memo is an even more important skill to master. “Full sentences are harder to write,” he says. “They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking.”
Jeff Bezos has always done things his own way, whether he’s ignoring Wall Street’s pleas for consistent earnings growth or requiring his top people to construct artfully written missives or launching seemingly disparate businesses — all at razor-thin margins. Only there’s nothing random about Bezos’s strategy. Indeed, like the memos he makes his managers write, his moves are driven by clear thinking and a cohesive vision, even if it takes a while for rivals to figure out Amazon’s motives — at which point it may be too late. Read the rest of this entry »