How to hire your employer

18. October 2016

Published on October 12, 2016

Featured in: Big Ideas & Innovation, Careers: The Next Level, Editor’s Picks, Entrepreneurship, LinkedIn

, Professor at Harvard Business School

My new book, Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice, debuted this past week, but it’s work that’s been nearly two decades in the making. For years my research has focused on understanding why good companies so often fail, a quest that led me to write The Innovator’s Dilemma years ago. But as I tried to answer that question, a new and pressing one emerged: how can companies know how to grow? The answer, I believe, lies in getting at the causal mechanism of customer choice – knowing why consumers make the choices they do to pick one product or service over another. To understand this, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a critical question to ask: “What job did you hire that product to do?”

For me, this is a neat idea. When we buy a product, we are essentially ‘hiring’ it to get a job done. If it does the job well, when we are confronted with the same job, we hire that same product again. And if the product does a crummy job, we ‘fire’ it and look around for something else we might hire to solve the problem. Every day stuff happens to all of us. Jobs arise in our lives that we need to get done. When we realize we have a job to do, we reach out and pull something into our lives to get the job done. When we ‘hire’ something to get a job done, we’re striving to make progress where we’ve been struggling. Jobs are not just functional – getting something done. They have critical social and emotional dimensions, too. Framing the question in this way has been a key to growth for companies as diverse as Intuit’s TurboTax, Khan Academy, and BuzzFeed. Read the rest of this entry »

The eight essentials of innovation

19. February 2016

By Marc de Jong, Nathan Marston, and Erik Roth, McKinsey Quarterly April 2015

Strategic and organizational factors are what separate successful big-company innovators from the rest of the field.

It’s no secret: innovation is difficult for well-established companies. By and large, they are better executors than innovators, and most succeed less through game-changing creativity than by optimizing their existing businesses.

In this engaging presentation, McKinsey principal Nathan Marston explains why innovation is increasingly important to driving corporate growth and brings to life the eight essentials of innovation performance.

Yet hard as it is for such organizations to innovate, large ones as diverse as Alcoa, the Discovery Group, and NASA’s Ames Research Center are actually doing so. What can other companies learn from their approaches and attributes? That question formed the core of a multiyear study comprising in-depth interviews, workshops, and surveys of more than 2,500 executives in over 300 companies, including both performance leaders and laggards, in a broad set of industries and countries (Exhibit 1). What we found were a set of eight essential attributes that are present, either in part or in full, at every big company that’s a high performer in product, process, or business-model innovation.

Since innovation is a complex, company-wide endeavor, it requires a set of crosscutting practices and processes to structure, organize, and encourage it. Taken together, the essentials described in this article constitute just such an operating system, as seen in Exhibit 2. These often overlapping, iterative, and nonsequential practices resist systematic categorization but can nonetheless be thought of in two groups. The first four, which are strategic and creative in nature, help set and prioritize the terms and conditions under which innovation is more likely to thrive. The next four essentials deal with how to deliver and organize for innovation repeatedly over time and with enough value to contribute meaningfully to overall performance. Read the rest of this entry »

The Embarrassing, Destructive Fight over Biotech’s Big Breakthrough

5. February 2016

Date: 05-02-2016
Source: Scientific American

The gene-editing technology known as CRISPR has spawned an increasingly unseemly brawl over who will reap the rewards
A defining moment in modern biology occurred on July 24, 1978, when biotechnology pioneer Robert Swanson, who had recently co-founded Genentech, brought two young scientists to dinner with Thomas Perkins, the legendary venture capitalist. As they stood outside Perkins’s magnificent mansion in Marin County, with its swimming pool and garden and a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Swanson turned to his two young colleagues and said, “This is what we’re all working for.”
That scene came to mind as I sorted through the tawdry verbal wreckage on social media and in print of the “debate” over CRISPR, the revolutionary new gene-editing technology. The current brouhaha, triggered by Eric Lander’s now-infamous essay in Cell called “The Heroes of CRISPR,”  is the most entertaining food fight in science in years.

The stakes are exceedingly high. CRISPR is the most important new technology to hit biology since recombinant DNA, which launched Genentech, made Swanson, along with his colleagues and investors, rich and brought molecular biology, long the province of academia, into the realm of celebrity and big money. In this context, the Cell essay has huge patent and prize implications. Lander has been accused of writing an incomplete and inaccurate history of the CRISPR story, burnishing the patent claims of the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., (he is its director) and minimizing the contributions of rival scientists. A blogger has referred to him as “an evil genius at the height of his craft.” And George Church, a colleague at the Broad Institute, likens Lander to a figure out of a Greek tragedy. “The only person that could hurt him was himself,” he says. “He was invulnerable to anybody else’s sword.” And you thought scientists couldn’t talk smack. Read the rest of this entry »

The Language Barrier Is About to Fall

30. January 2016

Date: 30-01-2016
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Within 10 years, earpieces will whisper nearly simultaneous translations—and help knit the world closer together

Is it possible that someday we will be able to converse in dozens of foreign languages, eliminating the very concept of a language barrier?

It used to be the case when I traveled abroad that I would take a little pocket dictionary that provided translations for commonly used phrases and words. If I wanted to construct a sentence, I would thumb through the dictionary for five minutes to develop a clunky expression with unconjugated verbs and my best approximation of the correct noun. Today I take out my phone and type the phrase into Google Translate, which returns a translation as fast as my Internet connection can provide it, in any of 90 languages.

Machine translation is leaps and bounds faster and more effective than my old dictionary method, but it still falls short in accuracy, functionality and delivery. That won’t be the case for long. A decade from now, I would predict, everyone reading this article will be able to converse in dozens of foreign languages, eliminating the very concept of a language barrier.

Today’s translation tools were developed by computing more than a billion translations a day for over 200 million people. With the exponential growth in data, that number of translations will soon be made in an afternoon, then in an hour. The machines will grow exponentially more accurate and be able to parse the smallest detail. Whenever the machine translations get it wrong, users can flag the error—and that data, too, will be incorporated into future attempts.It is just a matter of more data, more computing power and better software. These will come with the passage of time and will fill in the communication gaps in areas including pronunciation and interpreting a spoken response. Read the rest of this entry »

Le Petit Chef

18. January 2016

Le Petit ChefThought that you would get a kick out of this one if you haven’t seen it already.

“Le Petit Chef”

This is too cool!

The French restaurant Le Petit Chef (Little Chef), came up with an original way to entertain guests while waiting for their order by using a projector on the ceiling, and the animation on the table.

There is a small chef who appears on your plate, and watch what he does.

Disrupting Mr Disrupter

28. November 2015

Date: 26-11-2015
Source: The Economist: Schumpeter

Christensen CCClay Christensen should not be given the last word on disruptive innovation

TWENTY years ago a then obscure academic at Harvard Business School published a career-making article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), warning established companies that they were in grave danger from being disrupted. Today Clay Christensen is an established company in his own right. He is regularly named as the world’s most influential management guru (his Harvard colleagues affectionately call him Mr Disrupter). He has applied his theory to an ever-wider range of subjects with books such as “Disrupting Class” (on education) and “The Innovator’s Prescription” (on health). He even has his own consulting operation to help him stretch his brand. Businesspeople everywhere treat him as a guide on how to cope with change. But the risk is that by paying too much attention to his theory, they will miss other disruptive threats. Read the rest of this entry »

The Crispr Quandary

10. November 2015

Date: 10-11-2015
Source: The New York Times

A new gene-editing tool might create an ethical morass
— or it might make revising nature seem natural.

Gene EditingOne day in March 2011, Emmanuelle Charpentier, a geneticist who was studying flesh-eating bacteria, approached Jennifer Doudna, an award-winning scientist, at a microbiology conference in Puerto Rico. Charpentier, a more junior researcher, hoped to persuade Doudna, the head of a formidably large lab at the University of California, Berkeley, to collaborate. While walking the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, the two women fell to talking. Charpentier had recently grown interested in a particular gene, known as Crispr, that seemed to help flesh-eating bacteria fight off invasive viruses. By understanding that gene, as well as the protein that enabled it, called Cas9, Charpentier hoped to find a way to cure patients infected with the bacteria by stripping it of its protective immune system.

Among scientists, Doudna is known for her painstaking attention to detail, which she often harnesses to solve problems that other researchers have dismissed as intractable. Charpentier, who is French but works in Sweden and Germany, is livelier and more excitable. But as the pair began discussing the details of the experiment, they quickly hit it off. ‘‘I really liked Emmanuelle,’’ Doudna says. ‘‘I liked her intensity. I can get that way, too, when I’m really focused on a problem. It made me feel that she was a like-minded person.’’

At the time, bacteria were thought to have only a rudimentary immune system, which simply attacked anything unfamiliar on sight. But researchers speculated that Crispr, which stored fragments of virus DNA in serial compartments, might actually be part of a human-style immune system: one that keeps records of past diseases in order to repel them when they reappear. ‘‘That was what was so intriguing,’’ Doudna says. ‘‘What if bacteria have a way to keep track of previous infections, like people do? It was this radical idea.’’ Read the rest of this entry »