Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

Your Dilemma

January 19th, 2010 88 comments

Every couple of years I try to make a point to read “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton M. Christensen.  Having just received a Kindle for Christmas, I thought what better way to break in an eBook device than with a book highlighting the problems with mismanagement of disruptive technology.  As someone who works in publishing, I can tell you eBooks are disruptive technologies.

I love my Kindle.  As a Boston commuter, it really is a remarkable device — but that is another post for another time.  One of the reasons I frequent Christensen’s “The Innovators Dilemma” is to be reminded that:

“Good management is often the cause of failure when managing disruptive technologies” Clayton Christensen, The Innovators Dilemma

The central thesis of the book outlines the idea that the decisions and behaviors of management for sustaining technologies — technologies that are simply advancements within the same value network — are often the reasons for failure in emerging markets.

Take the eBook for example, but specifically the textbook market.  Presently, the ease of use, convenience, and cost of these technologies do not meet customer standards.  Additionally, the profit margins for producing these eBooks do not meet management standards.  So, “Good Management” would say,

  1. EBooks don’t make enough money to be profitable
  2. Our customers don’t think eBooks are better than traditional books

These two conditions would lead traditional management to ignore eBook technologies. However, Christensen’s book suggests management should look outside of the traditional market for textbooks (educational institutions, learning centers, etc) and explore the need in emerging markets.  Historically, this is best achieved when a smaller company is branched off or acquired to handle the emerging market.  This prevents competition from resources with traditional product models with larger profits.  It also keeps managers and developers of these new products excited with small gains.  A $20 million market can hardly compete with a larger business’ $40 billion market.

The problem with emerging markets is that they are hard to find — they are emerging.  A company should not invest all of its resources into what they “think” the next emerging market is for a disruptive technology.  The initial goals surrounding the entrance into emerging markets should be to learn, not to succeed.  If you enter a market with the preconceived idea that you know what it should be, you will likely fail.  Emerging markets evolve as disruptive technologies mature.

So what are the emerging markets for eBooks?  I’m not entirely sure, but I can tell you that eBook technologies for textbooks are a hot ticket in new startups focusing on open access technology and “free” learning.  These startups are still developing, and their quality of education still falls behind that of traditional institutions.  However, as technology progresses, these open access environments could either become absorbed by traditional institutions (to help facilitate distance education) or become a direct competitor of these traditional institutions.  In either case, unless publishers continue to explore these technologies, they could eventually be replaced as the “primary” source for text and education.

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Make a Change

September 15th, 2008 106 comments

I recently moved.  As a result my daily routine changed.

I have to take a new train to work, I have to shop at a new grocery store, I had to find a new place to get a cup of coffee.

I hate moving, it is always a hassle. There was nothing wrong with the place I lived before; it had everything I needed, and it was convenient. 

I knew that if I wanted to make things better than satisfactory it would require a lot of hard work. Nothing was broken, but I still moved.  

We have a tendency to fall into routines and learn to accept little problems.  

Now that everything is moved, my daily routine has a few new additions.  Before I was about 2 miles from my gym, now I am about 2 blocks.  The result?  I have gone to the gym more times in the last 3 weeks than in the last 3 months.

We need to shake things up a bit.  It’s harder in the business world, especially corporate.  These kinds of change typically only come with a change in management, a reorg, or a merger.  

Like moving, it’s hard work; but in the end sometimes you just have to get up and do it. Talking about it isn’t enough.

Before I moved I could have told myself, “I am going to go to the gym 5 times a week”–in fact, I often did.  But it wasn’t until I was proactive about the change, it wasn’t until I moved, that I was able to actually reach my goal.

Don’t expect change, don’t expect innovation, unless you are willing to shake things up and do things a little different.  Maybe a new vendor? Maybe an unproven business model or technology?

Change is risky, but without change we cannot innovate. Innovation is by definition something different; it requires a change. If you want to redefine your market, you have to make a change; you have to take a risk.

EA Games and Spore

September 14th, 2008 67 comments

I was on my way home tonight and decided to take the subway from Harvard Square. As you can see from these pictures EA games went all out on the marketing of their latest game, Spore.  In these 4 pictures there are more than 55 unique ads.  What is interesting, only a handful actually mention the product.

This is a very good case “shotgun marketing”; but it also shows how an advertisement can make the consumer stop and wonder, “What is all this about?”  You can’t ignore them, there are too many.  But you find yourself reading all of them, trying to figure out what you are being sold.

At very least, it caught my attention.

The take away, catch the attention of your consumers. It could be in an ad, or in your final product. Innovative products get noticed.

*I apologize for the photos. I was in a hurry and didn’t have a camera, so I had to snap them from my iPhone.  The iPhone does well in some light conditions; unfortunately, subway is not one of them.

Spore Advertising in Havard Square 1

Spore Advertising in Havard Square 2

Spore Advertising in Havard Square 3

Spore Advertising in Havard Square 4

Google Chrome vs Safari: Not Really a Browser Re-do

September 8th, 2008 75 comments

They were saying the right words, but I don’t think that Chrome is really all that “different”.

Recently I wrote an article about Google Chrome.  I think it’s important to point out that I was not blindly supporting Google Chrome; being a Mac user, I had to run it through Parallels.  However, I thought it a positive step towards the approach of modern browsers.  I feel that it is important step back and create something new; so I gave it a shot.

Over the last few days I have played around with Google Chrome, and have found it to be “ok”. Being a web developer, I was excited to see that they included some developer tools.  I was surprised to find that Google pretty much copied Safari’s web developer tools:

Safari Right Click:


Google Chrome Right Click:

Safari Web Inspector:

Google Chrome Web Inspector:

This is not what I had in mind when Google said they had a “fresh take on the browser”.  It seems, all they did was put the address bar under the tabs, emphasized the base URL in a domain by graying out the rest, and created a custom home page with your most visited items?

I’m just not sure it’s worth as much hype as it received and would love to hear your thoughts on the subject; please comment below.  What are your impressions of Google Chrome?


Cell Phone vs iPhone

August 14th, 2008 150 comments

Walt Mossberg recently spoke at the Aspen Idea Festival about a shift in the perception of cell phone technology. Specifically he spoke about the iPhone, and the iPhone 3G. I want to be clear, as was Mossberg, this is not about the savvy designers at Apple, or their elaborate marketing campaigns. Remove the brand “Apple” from the equation, and hardware becomes hardware.  Whether it’s a Treo, a Blackberry, or an iPhone; their hardware is all “basically” the same.  The real difference between the iPhone and these other devices is their software.

More of the same, then something new

The iPhone did something unique.  The iPhone really isn’t a cell phone, it’s not even a “Smart Phone”. Realistically, the iPhone is a computer with a fully functional OS Kernel, a development API, and a graphics core; it just happens to also make phone calls.  I’m not saying it’s perfect.  My iPhone makes mistakes–battery life being one of them, a few dropped calls. I am not one of those people who thinks Apple can do no wrong.  The Apple TV has yet to “get it right”.  They still haven’t figured out how to bring digital content from the Internet to the living room–nobody has.  But Apple did do something right, and creating a completely mobile platform for third-party developers was one of them.

Here is an excerpt from Mossberg’s presentation on why the iPhone matters:

So What?

It comes down to taking technology to the next level–reinventing from the ground up when necessary.  A lot of people think the iPhone was Apple’s first crack at the cell phone market, but many forget the MotoROKR, which failed miserably.  After the failure of the ROKR, Steve Jobs decided they would have to reinvent the phone.  This Wired article tells the impressive back story of the iPhone.

So you have to ask yourself the question, “Does this device make it easier for me to do more with less?” Apple recently told the Wall Street Journal the App store brought in close to $30 million in sales during its first month.  Because Apple takes 30% of revenue sales, that means close to $21 million was distributed to third-party developers.

The iPhone/iPod Touch not only brings more power to the consumers, but also gives developers a unique opportunity to create innovative applications for the mobile market.  How can your product have the same impact in your market?