Skip to content

Designing Workspaces To Solve Problems

2017 September 3
by Greg Satell

Apple’s new campus, Apple Park opened in April to both adulation and criticism. The Los Angeles Times’ architecture critic, upon seeing the original design, called it a “retrograde cocoon.” USA Today pointed out that opening up a glitzy new headquarters is often a signal of impending decline. Wired isn’t sure if it’s insanely great or just insane.

One thing that everyone can agree on is that the new campus is quintessentially Steve Jobs. Everything is designed — to excruciating detail — for not only aesthetic beauty, but for function and the end user. A new pizza box was even specifically designed so that the crust won’t get soggy as employees take a pie back to their office.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Jennifer Magnolfi, who researches hi-tech workspaces, explains how the new Apple headquarters acts as a functional workspace that supports the company’s style of innovation. This becomes even more clear when we compare the new campus to how other innovative organizations design their offices.

read more…

This Company Is Combining Big Data and Materials Science to Revolutionize Manufacturing

2017 August 30
by Greg Satell

Greg Mulholland didn’t take the typical route to getting his MBA. He had no background in banking or consulting and hadn’t even taken a business course as an undergraduate. After earning an Engineering degree from NC State and then a Masters Degree in Physics from Cambridge, he went to work as a materials scientist.

Yet after working at a small semiconductor company in North Carolina for a few years, he began to notice a strange disconnect. While it was crucial for companies to identify new materials that could lead to better products, very few executives were able to effectively interface with scientists like him. He saw an opportunity to become that nexus.

As it turned out, during  Stanford MBA program’s “Admit Weekend,” he found a kindred spirit in Bryce Meredig, a newly minted PhD in Materials Science. Like Greg, Bryce thought that, with materials science heating up, there were opportunities to be unlocked. Today, their company, Citrine Informatics, hopes to revolutionize how we develop new products.

read more…

The Physics of Change

2017 August 27
tags:
by Greg Satell

The liberal activist Saul Alinsky observed that every revolution inspires a counterrevolution and, as if to prove his point, conservative Tea Party activists adopted his 1971 handbook, Rules for Radicals as a standard text. To extend the irony further still, Alinsky is rarely discussed in liberal movements today.

We’ve seen something similar unfold in recent weeks. An innocent woman, Heather Heyer, was killed at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, then a similar protest took place in Boston under the guise of “Free Speech. This time, the chants of the limited number of alt-right activists were drowned out by 40,000 counter-protesters.

This is the physics of change. Every action provokes a reaction. In my research of social movements throughout the world this pattern is remarkably consistent and the tennis match of ideologies can go on for years or even decades. What is also remarkably consistent is what it takes to end the cycle —  the forging of a new agenda based on shared values.

read more…

Innovation Is Never 1 Thing (Actually It’s 3 Things)

2017 August 23
by Greg Satell

Every entrepreneur dreams of having that single moment of epiphany where everything falls into place. Many search for their entire careers for that one big idea that will make the difference between incredible success and frustrating mediocrity. Few ever find it and many that do end up crashing and burning along the way.

The truth is that innovation is never a single event and the “eureka moment” is largely a myth. Innovation always involves combinations, so it’s less a matter of coming up with a big idea than it is putting the right ideas together in order to solve a meaningful problem. That’s a process, not a moment.

That’s why instead of starting with an idea, it’s best to start by finding a good problem. Innovation is far more complex than most people give it credit for. It takes more than an idea to change the world. In fact, it often takes decades after an initial breakthrough for its impact to become clear. Innovation is an integrated process of exploration, iteration and execution.

read more…

Social Movements Can Teach Us A Lot About What It Takes To Build A Business

2017 August 20
tags:
by Greg Satell

When Occupy Wall Street took over Zuccotti Park, in the heart of the financial district in Lower Manhattan, they inspired the nation and the world. Soon, similar protests soon began popping up in nearly 1000 cities in 82 countries. It was a massive outpouring, but within a few months the protesters had disappeared, achieving little if anything at all.

The Otpor Movement in Serbia began with much less fanfare. In the beginning, at least, it seemed to be made up of little more than teenage pranks. Yet within a few short years, they emerged victorious, ending the reign of dictator Slobodan Milošević. The contrast between Occupy and Otpor couldn’t be more stark.

As I explain in my TED talk, the difference in outcomes is no accident. The members of Otpor have since gone on to reproduce their results by training activists in other movements such as the Color Revolutions in Eastern Europe and the Arab Spring. Entrepreneurs who seek to create their own brand of transformational change can learn a lot from Otpor’s principles.

read more…

Amazon’s Purchase Of Whole Foods Shows Why Every Industry Needs An Ecosystem

2017 August 16
by Greg Satell

In the 1970s, Route 128 outside Boston was considered to be the center of the tech world. Companies like Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), Data General and others disrupted the market for mainframes with new minicomputers that were smaller, cheaper and more agile. They seemed destined to dominate the information age.

Yet as AnnaLee Saxenian explained in her classic book, Regional Advantage, by the 1990s, the mantle had clearly passed to Silicon Valley. While the Boston firms were vertically integrated islands unto themselves, the Silicon Valley upstarts worked to integrate themselves into a ecosystem.

As Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods highlighted, today just about every industry is facing many of the same forces that the Boston tech giants did 40 years ago. Unfortunately, many are making the same mistakes by thinking strictly in terms of proprietary advantage rather than building an industrial ecosystem and they will undoubtedly meet the same fate.

read more…

Happy 8th Birthday Digital Tonto!

2017 August 13
tags:
by Greg Satell

The 2009 financial crash was a truly global crisis, but it hit few places as hard as Ukraine. Already weakened by infighting among the opposition forces that came to power in 2004, the crash was more than its fragile economy could take. Within a year, Viktor Yanukovych, a brutish and incompetent autocrat, rose to power.

It was a disaster, but it also was the beginning of change in a nation that had seemed impervious to it. The 2014 Euromaidan protests resulted in Yanukovych’s impeachment and the rise of a new western oriented government. The country in shambles and in heavy debt, reform was forced on it. Now, Ukraine is expected to return to economic growth this year.

It was also amid the turmoil of 2009 that I started Digital Tonto in my Kyiv apartment in August, eight years ago. To be honest, I didn’t expect much from it, but soon found that many people thought I had something to say and, this past year, I successfully launched my book, Mapping Innovation. So Happy Birthday Digital Tonto! Here are some of my favorite posts.

 

read more…

Is It Time To Rethink The Scientific Method?

2017 August 9
by Greg Satell

Designing an airplane has long been an exercise in tradeoffs. A larger airplane with more powerful engines can hold more people and go farther, but is costlier to run. A smaller one is more cost efficient, but lacks capacity. For decades, these have been nearly inviolable constraints that manufacturers just had to live with.

Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner is different. It didn’t just redesign the airplane, it redesigned the materials that go in it. Because of its use of composite materials that are lighter and stronger than traditional metals, the company was able to build an aircraft that is 20% more efficient, but sacrifices nothing in terms of capacity or performance.

Typically, this has been a game that only a multibillion dollar corporation can play. The cost of developing and testing new materials costs millions of dollars a year, with no guarantee of any return on investment. Yet now, that’s starting to change. Big data and machine learning are revolutionizing the science of making things and will make it available to the masses.

read more…

4 Things Gandhi Can Teach Us About Transformational Change

2017 August 6
by Greg Satell

On December 31st, 1929 the Indian National Congress, the foremost nationalist group on the subcontinent, issued a Declaration of Purna Swaraj, or complete independence from British rule. It also announced a campaign of civil disobedience, but no one had any idea what form it should take. That task fell to Mohandas Gandhi.

The Mahatma returned to his ashram to contemplate next steps. He needed to come up with something that would unite the Indian people, but not get them so riled up that it would lead to violence. After weeks of meditation, he emerged with an answer that impressed no one. In fact, it seemed like a joke. He would march for salt.

Yet it turned out to be a stroke of genius that would invigorate the movement for Indian independence like nothing else could and break the British hold on power in the country. In doing so, Gandhi proved himself to be not only a potent spiritual leader, but also a master strategist. Today, there’s still a lot we can learn from Gandhi about making change happen.

read more…

Stop Complaining About Meetings And Start Making Them More Effective

2017 August 2
by Greg Satell

Meetings used to be a fairly intimate affair. Key people would gather regularly to compare notes and make important decisions. Today, however, they seem to be taking over. We have so many meetings, conference calls, video conferences and impromptu get togethers that it scarcely seems that we have time for anything else.

This is no illusion. A recent article in Harvard Business Review, cited research suggesting that executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours a week in meetings, up from less than 10 hours in the 1960. That’s more than half of a standard 40-hour work week and it doesn’t include unscheduled meetings or hallway run-ins.

Still, we need to stop whining about meetings and start making  them more productive. As Chris Fussell explains in his new book, One Mission, today we operate in a far more complex environment that requires a high degree of collaboration and interoperability. So meetings today need to function as enablers of networks, not extensions of hierarchies.   read more…