- EtherCalc — open source web-based spreadsheet.
- Dynamics of Correlated Novelties (Nature) — paper on “the adjacent possible”. Here we propose a simple mathematical model that mimics the process of exploring a physical, biological, or conceptual space that enlarges whenever a novelty occurs. The model, a generalization of Polya’s urn, predicts statistical laws for the rate at which novelties happen (Heaps’ law) and for the probability distribution on the space explored (Zipf’s law), as well as signatures of the process by which one novelty sets the stage for another. (via Steven Strogatz)
- On The Media Interview with OKCupid CEO — relevant to the debate on ethics of A/B tests. I preferred this to Tim Carmody’s rant.
- CRDTs as Alternative to APIs — when using CRDTs to tie your system together, you don’t need to resort to using impoverished representations that simply never come anywhere near the representational power of the data structures you use in your programs at runtime. See also this paper on Convergent and Commutative Replicated Data Types.
Winning organizations continually experiment.
I constantly hear how enterprises are poor at innovation, bad at product development and unresponsive to business change. So it begs the question, why do so many organizations get it wrong? And what are the key factors to consider when trying to innovate in large organizations?
Typically the factors constraining innovation are conflicting business goals, competing priorities, localized performance measures and success criteria. While these have traditionally been the tools of management — to control workforce behavior and output — in highly competitive and quickly evolving business environments they also have had the adverse effects of killing creativity, responsiveness and ingenuity.
So what are the components needed to unleash innovation in enterprise?
Support experimentation and continuously evaluate to stay ahead.
Businesses have always come and gone, but these days it seems that companies can fall from market dominance to bankruptcy in the blink of an eye. Kodak, Blockbuster and HMV are just a few recent victims of the rapid market disruption that defines the current era.
Where did these once iconic companies go wrong? To my mind, they forgot to keep challenging their assumptions about what business they were actually in.
Businesses have two options when they plan for the road ahead: they can put all their eggs into one basket, and risk losing everything if that basket has a hole in the bottom, or they can make a number of small bets, accepting that some will fail while others succeed.
Taking the latter approach, and making many small bets on innovation, transforms the boardroom into a roulette table. Unlike a punter in a casino, however, businesses cannot afford to stop making bets.
Business models are transient and prone to disruption by changes in markets and the external competitive environment, advances in design and technology, and wider social and economic change. Organizations that misjudge their purpose, or cannot sense and then adapt to these changes, will perish.
The sad truth is that too many established organizations focus most of their time and resources on executing and optimizing their existing business models in order to maximize profits. They forget to experiment and explore new ideas for customer needs of tomorrow.
Tim O'Reilly and Carl Bass discuss the future of making things, and Astro Teller on Google X's approach to solving big problems.
I recently lamented the lag in innovation in relation to the speed of technological advancements — do we really need a connected toaster that will sell itself if neglected? Subsequently, I had a conversation with Josh Clark that made me rethink that position; Clark pointed out that play is an important aspect of innovation, and that such whimsical creations as drum pants could ultimately lead to more profound innovations.
In the first segment of this podcast episode, Tim O’Reilly and Autodesk CEO Carl Bass have a wide-ranging discussion about the future of making things. Bass notes that innovation tends to start by “looking at the rear window”:
“The first naïve response is to take a new technology and do the old thing with it. It takes a while until you can start reimagining things…the first thing that you need is this new tool set in software, hardware, and materials, but the more important thing — and the more difficult thing, obviously — is a new mind-set. How are you going to think about this problem differently? How are you going to reimagine what you can do? That’s the exciting part.”
Technology is now outpacing innovation, fostering a culture of disposability.
I’ve noticed a number of faint signals recently pointing to a general shift in the speed of technology and the repercussions it’s having on the products we’re seeing come to market. This recent Tweet from Tom Scott got me really thinking about it:
The Internet of Things: never mind your phone, now your whole house can be obsolete after a couple of years!
— Tom Scott (@tomscott) April 4, 2014
Scott’s comment brought me back to a recent conversation I had with Princeton architecture student Alastair Stokes. I’d asked Stokes whether the technology challenges of designing a building to last 100+ years are more difficult today than they were in, say, 1900 — or if it’s as difficult, just different. He said the challenges might be more difficult today, but regardless, maybe technology is changing the solution: we shouldn’t try to design buildings today to last 100 years, but design them so they’ll last for, say, 20 years and then be replaced. Read more…
Why the dearth of imagination — we need to get beyond different flavors of spyware.
“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” as Jeff Hammerbacher said. And it’s not just data analysts: it’s creeping into every aspect of technology, including hardware.
One of the more exciting developments of the past year is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Unfortunately, the application that I’ve seen discussed most frequently is user tracking: devices in stores can use the BLE device in your cell phone to tell exactly where you’re standing, what you’re looking at, and target ads, offer you deals, send over salespeople, and so on.
Color me uninterested. I don’t really care about the spyware: if Needless Markup wants to know what I’m looking at, they can send someone out on the floor to look. But I am dismayed by the lack of imagination around what we can do with BLE. Read more…