What will business technology look like tomorrow?

13. July 2017

Date: 13-07-2017
Source: The Economist
Subject: A new way to work

Two experts from MIT analyse the business implications of our digital future

Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing our Digital Future. By Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson. W.W. Norton; 402 pages; $28.95 and £22.99.

IN 2014 Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published “The Second Machine Age”. The book was a balanced portrait of how new digital technologies were poised to improve society, even as they increased unemployment and depressed wages. In their latest work, “Machine, Platform, Crowd”, the authors seek to explain the business implications behind these developments.

Mr McAfee and Mr Brynjolfsson believe that the latest phase of computers and the internet have created three shifts in how work happens. The first is artificial intelligence (AI): a move from man to machine. In the past people worked with computers and, at the same time, were augmented by them: what the authors call the “standard partnership”. But that model is breaking down as computers improve and take more control.

You need only look at self-driving cars, online language translation and Amazon’s prototype cashierless shops to see that something big is happening. Digital technologies used to be applied to information—first numbers and text, and, later, music and video. Now, the digital technologies are invading the physical world.

For instance, designing a “heat exchanger”, a part in appliances like refrigerators, means balancing many different specifications and constraints. Humans settle for one that works well enough because to find the optimal one is too hard. But new “generative design” means AI-infused software can run zillions of tiny permutations to find the best possible design—one that a human might not come up with. And with 3D printing, those designs might be shared, modified and manufactured anywhere. Read the rest of this entry »

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These 8 Books Can Help You Finally Understand Business

23. February 2017
Feb 22, 2017
Run rate? M&A? Non-voting shares?

If you’ve never run your own business or considered B-school, it can be tough to wrap your head around how the corporate world works. Thankfully, there’s a wealth of excellent (yes, even enjoyable) tomes out there that can help. Here are eight great ones to start with, a mix of classics and new reads about today’s hottest startups as suggested by writers and editors at TIME and Fortune.

The Innovators Dilemma ($14, Amazon)

Clayton Christensen’s 1997 classic The Innovators Dilemma argues that market-leading companies can become shells of their former selves if they’re unwilling to “disrupt” themselves — because somebody else will come along and do it for them. It’s akin to a religious text in Silicon Valley, where it’s viewed as a guidebook for upstart innovators seeking to take on the world’s biggest firms. Read the rest of this entry »


Tom Peters Wants You to Read

7. July 2016

strategy + business, Published: May 26, 2016

The legendary management guru believes burying your nose in a book can be the most effective strategy for succeeding in business.

by Theodore Kinni

Tom PetersTom Peters. You know the guy. He branded himself with an “!” after his name. He and Bob Waterman wrote one of the best-selling business books of all time,In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies(Harper & Row, 1982).

Peters is one of the handful of people who helped transform the business book genre from a staid backwater into a mass market — with 1.8 million titles in print, it’s the fifth-largest book category on Amazon. He has written 29 of those titles and sold more than 10 million copies of them. In the process, Peters helped define the term business guru and inspired more wannabes than Madonna. At age 73, he enjoys an engaged, multigenerational audience, including 135,000 Twitter followers.

Because Peters is a voracious reader, I thought he would make an ideal subject for my monthly “Required Reading” column for strategy+business, in which business notables call out a very short list of books they think leaders should read. But a brief call to New Zealand, where Peters goes to beat the New England winters, to discuss his four favorite books somehow turned into a one-and-a-half-hour marathon.

“I have to tell you a story about a neighbor of mine in Massachusetts who would be on anybody’s top 10 list of [Warren] Buffett–like people,” Peters opened. “I was at a dinner with him 18 months ago and, out of nowhere, he said, ‘You know what the number one problem is with big company CEOs?’ I said, ‘I can think of at least 70 things, but damned if I can narrow it down.’ And out of his mouth pops, ‘They don’t read enough.’” Read the rest of this entry »


How Amazon Has Diversified

2. June 2016

Date: 02-06-2016
Source: The Wall Street Journal

A timeline of the company’s history

Amazon has grown from a pure online bookseller to one offering a dizzying array of products, services and devices. Today, Amazon competes with media companies like Netflix, hardware makers like Apple, search and advertising firms like Google and even Uber in on-demand transportation and delivery—not to mention traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.
amazon history


Here’s How Nike Became a Platform Business

11. April 2016

Date: 11-04-2016
Source: FORTUNE

It followed Apple’s lead.

Platform BusinessPlatform businesses are disrupting the traditional business landscape in a number of ways—not only by displacing some of the world’s biggest firms, but also by transforming familiar business processes like value creation and consumer behavior and altering the structure of major industries.

And if they hope to fight the forces of platform disruption, entrenched companies need to reevaluate their business models. They’ll need to scrutinize what they spend on marketing, sales, product delivery, and customer service and imagine how those costs might be reduced or eliminated in a more seamlessly connected world. They’ll need to examine the individuals and organizations they interact with, and envision new ways of networking them to create new forms of value.

Nike has proven to be one of the most intelligent incumbent companies seeking new ways to survive and thrive in the world of platforms. Some of the competitive steps they’ve taken may seem obvious. They aren’t.

Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy—And How to Make Them Work for You

Pipeline businesses like Nike have traditionally scaled in one of two ways. Some expand by vertical integration, owning and integrating a greater length of the value-creation-and-delivery pipeline—for example, buying upstream suppliers or downstream distributors. Others expand by widening the pipeline to push more value through it. When consumer goods companies grow by creating new products and brands, it’s an example of horizontal integration. 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 »