27. September 2019
Source: The Economist
It could lead to a two-tier system
“From nine till five, I have to spend my time at work,” warbled Martha and the Muffins back in 1980. “My job is very boring, I’m an office clerk.” Many of the hundreds of millions of people who trek into an office will feel as despondent at the prospect as Martha did. The office needs a revamp. But the crisis at WeWork, a trendy office-rental firm whose boss, Adam Neumann (pictured), stepped down this week after its attempt to float its shares turned into a debacle, shows that businesses are still struggling to come up with a new format.
The large office, like the factory, is an invention of the past two centuries. The factory arose because of powered machinery, which required workers to be gathered in one place. Big offices grew from the need to process lots of paperwork, and for managers to instruct clerks on what to do. But now the internet, personal computing and handheld devices mean that transactions can be dealt with on-screen and managers can instantly communicate with their workers, wherever they are. The need for staff to be in one place has been dramatically reduced.
A new model may take time to emerge—electric power was first harnessed in the 1880s but it was not until the 1920s that factories changed their layouts to make full use of it. The new model will have to balance three factors: the desire of many workers for a flexible schedule; the high cost for firms of maintaining office space; and the countervailing desire to gather skilled workers in one place, in the hope that this enhances collaboration. Read the rest of this entry »
18. October 2016
Published on October 12, 2016
Featured in: Big Ideas & Innovation, Careers: The Next Level, Editor’s Picks, Entrepreneurship, LinkedIn
Clayton Christensen, 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 »
5. February 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 »
30. January 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 »
18. January 2016
Thought 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.
28. November 2015
Source: The Economist: Schumpeter
Clay 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 »