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3 Technologies You Need To Start Paying Attention To Right Now

2017 July 26

At any given time, a technology or two captures the zeitgeist. A few years ago it was social media and mobile that everybody was talking about. These days it’s machine learning and block chain. Everywhere you look, consulting firms are issuing reports, conferences are being held and new “experts” are being anointed.

In a sense, there’s nothing wrong with that. Social media and mobile computing really did change the world and, clearly, the impact of artificial intelligence and distributed database architectures will be substantial. Every enterprise needs to understand these technologies and how they will impact its business.

Still we need to remember that we always get disrupted by what we can’t see. The truth is that the next big thing always starts out looking like nothing at all. That’s why it’s so disruptive. If we saw it coming, it wouldn’t be. So here are three technologies you may not of heard about, but you should start paying attention to. The fate of your business may depend on it.

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Can America Win The New Century?

2017 July 23

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the United States was an industrial and technological backwater. Still mostly an agrarian nation, bright young students would often go to Europe to pursue advanced degrees in the sciences, because American universities were considered second rate.

By the end of the century though, the United States had become the center of the technological universe. Earning more Nobel Prizes in the sciences than any other country, we built unparalleled dominance in industries ranging from information technology to bioscience. US universities are now considered the finest in the world.

Yet the new century poses unprecedented challenges. Globalization and other trends are creating a multi-polar world. A rising Asia, led by China, threatens to usurp American primacy while, at the same time entrepreneurship is at or near historic lows. If we are to win in this new century, we need to return to the values that made us dominant in the first place.

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4 Myths About Innovation That “Gurus” Love To Tell

2017 July 19
by Greg Satell

Go to any innovation conference and you’re sure to be amazed. Someone will stand up on stage and show you how to unleash creativity in your organization, develop pathbreaking products and run circles around your competition. Step by step, you will be walked through the principles by which you will achieve success.

This won’t be idle talk either. You will be shown how people just like you used these principles to attain incredible success. It may come in the form of the “one thing” that made Steve Jobs a great innovator, the 5 habits of Elon Musk or in some other form, but the message will be clear: This path will be your salvation.

Yet without fail, they will neglect to ask crucial questions. How many organizations who pursued a Steve Jobs’ path failed? How many with Elon Musk’s toil in relative obscurity? All too often, correlation is confused with causality because so few take the effort to look for examples to the contrary. It gets in the way of a nice story. That’s how myths take hold.

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Why You Need To Understand Noah Effects And Joseph Effects

2017 July 16
by Greg Satell

In 1958, a brilliant young mathematician named Benoit Mandelbrot went to work as a researcher for IBM. His first assignment seemed like a straightforward problem, but turned out to be devilishly complex. He was tasked with figuring out how noise in communication lines arises and identifying some way of minimizing it.

His solution was simple but ingenious. He realized that there was not one type of effect at play but two. The first, which he called “Joseph effects,” after the biblical story about seven good years and seven bad years, was continuous and predictable. The second, which he termed “Noah effects,” was chaotic and unpredictable.

He soon found that these two effects were present in more than communication lines, but in everything from the flooding of the Nile River to financial craches and they play havoc with our ability to see the future. Even more importantly, they can help us navigate an increasingly volatile, uncertain and complex business environment and survive for the long-term.

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How Idle Chatter And Gossip Can Make You More Productive

2017 July 12
by Greg Satell

A while back I was having lunch with a friend who is one of the most dynamic people I’ve ever met. A successful businesswoman, she regularly commutes between the five countries in which she run operations, while at the same time somehow manages to be a doting single mother to her young child.

Despite her comings and goings, we’re able to stay in touch through social media and, because she is something of a power user of Facebook and Skype, we’re able to keep up with what’s going on in each others lives. So I was quite surprised when she told me that she doesn’t allow her employees to use social media in the office.

When I asked her why, she said that she didn’t want her people gossiping at work because it would distract them. When I pointed out that her use of social media didn’t seem to hurt her productivity, she didn’t make the connection. Yet the truth is that gossip can be an incredibly effective use of time and is probably what made my friend so successful in the first place.

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We All Need To Prepare For A New Era Of Innovation

2017 July 9
by Greg Satell

I recently appeared as a guest on Wharton Professor David Robertson’s radio show, Innovation Navigation. David is an old pro and recently published an excellent new book on innovation, The Power of Little Ideas, so it was an interesting, wide ranging discussion that covered a lot of ground.

One of the subjects we touched on was the new era of innovation. For the past few decades, firms have innovated within well understood paradigms, Moore’s Law being the most famous, but by no means the only one. This made innovation relatively straightforward, because we were fairly sure of where technology was going.

Today, however, Moore’s Law is nearing its theoretical limits as are lithium-ion batteries. Other technologies, such as the internal combustion engine, will be replaced as well. So the next few decades are likely to look a whole lot more like the 50s and the 60s than the 90s or the aughts. Much of the value will shift from applications to fundamental technologies.

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IBM Is Using The Crowd To Help Advance Its Quantum Computer

2017 July 5
by Greg Satell

In 1946, John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert completed the development of the ENIAC, the world’s first publicly announced digital computer. Yet it was still essentially a prototype. It wouldn’t be till 1952, when the pair debuted the UNIVAC during the Presidential election, that computers became commercially available.

That was a triumph for Remington Rand, which backed the machine, but a disaster for IBM, which dominated the earlier tabulating machine technology. It took the company nearly a decade to regain leadership with its System/360 line of computers that cost $5 billion to develop (or about $40 billion in today’s dollars).

We’re now entering a similar transition period. With Moore’s Law soon coming to an end, the race is on to see who dominates the next phase of computing. IBM is determined not to be caught off guard again. This time, rather than developing its technology in relative secrecy, it’s accelerating progress opening up early access to its prototype quantum computer.

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Summer Reading List: 12 Books To Read On Your Way To A Revolution

2017 July 2
by Greg Satell

Most of the year is pretty hectic. There are meetings, projects and meeting about projects and then maybe a conference call to discuss the next project. With all the running around, it’s hard to find any time to actually think. Summer is a welcome respite from all of the frenzy and hubbub.

While you’re finding some time to relax at the beach or somewhere else, you may get to thinking about things you don’t like in your organization, your industry or in society as a whole and how much you want things to change. After stewing for awhile, you might even get the urge to do something about it.

Of course, as I explain in my TED Talk change isn’t easy. You have to win people to your cause, motivate them to actively participate and overcome entrenched interests. That takes more than just passion, but also strategy, organization and discipline. So for this summer’s list, I’ve got a list of 12 books that will show you how to do all that and truly change the world.

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Entrepreneurship Can Get Even Better The Second Time Around

2017 June 28
by Greg Satell

As a teenager, Alex Yakubovich moved with his family to Cleveland, Ohio. Still in high school, it could have been an uncomfortable transition, but he soon met Stan Garber, a fellow émigré from the former Soviet Union who shared his interest in trading stocks at lunchtime. It was to be a fortuitous partnership.

The pair would go on to start Onosys, a successful software company, with Stan’s neighbor and best friend Oleg Fridman, while they were still in high school. The team would run the company for 11 years before selling it to LivingSocial. Along the way they learned many hard lessons about the realities of growing and running a business.

One of the most frustrating obstacles they encountered was the corporate procurement process, which is rife with inefficiency. As entrepreneurs, they found it maddening, illogical and often cruel. Yet in time they eventually began to see it as something much more — an opportunity to build an even better business the second time around.

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Generosity Can Be A Competitive Advantage

2017 June 25
by Greg Satell

Every age has its icons. The 60s and 70s had rock stars and beat poets. In the 80s and 90s, Wall Street traders, with Gordon Gekko as their patron saint, adopted “greed is good” as their mantra. More recently, Steve Jobs captured the zeitgeist with his relentless focus on creating products that were “insanely great.”

A common thread running through all of these is the underlying principle that it takes a certain ruthlessness, or at least some kind of creative insanity, to achieve an extraordinary level of achievement. That’s why I was surprised, when researching my book Mapping Innovation, to find exactly the opposite.

Those that I talked to, whose successes include not only building great companies, but also developing new cures for cancer, new computing architectures and even new technologies to store energy, were almost universally warm and low key. I was so struck that I did some further research and found that the stark contrast between myth and reality is no accident.

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