Predictions and Disruptions

September 7, 2015

2maIn my role as an analyst, it is amazing to have access to brilliant people and huge amounts of information. On this blog, I’ve always liked to share some of the books and other sources that have a profound impact on what I’m working on. Through Wikibon research (now on a new website Wikibon.com) and live video program theCUBE, I’ve had a front row seat to dig into the disruptive forces of cloud computing, big data and new infrastructure. I get to attend a number of technology conferences, my favorite event this year was with the MIT Sloan School in London that included sharing of research from the book, The Second Machine Age (book website, theCUBE content). Professors and co-authors Andy McAfee and Erik Brynjofsson (interview below) examine how information technology will have an even larger impact on how we live and work than the Industrial Revolution; the first machine age based on machines replacing physical tasks, in the second, machines take over more cognitive tasks.

 

As discussed in the interview, this new era does not mean an end to jobs; there will be a shift away from repetitive tasks and successful in this new economy will require significant shifts to organizations, training and education. Technologies like IBM’s Watson and Google’s self-driving car sit at the intersection of these trends. IBM’s Watson can not only play Jeopardy, but is being focused on real-world activities such as health care where vast analytics can help doctors make decisions faster and provide basic diagnosis to global audiences thought mobile applications. Andy and Erik say that the first few minutes riding in a self-driving car are a bit scary, but soon becomes easy to accept and that within only a few years we are likely to trust the machines to do a better job than most of the drivers around us. For those of us that have lived through the birth and growth of the World Wide Web, it can be a bit tough to put into perspective some of the amazing things that are now commonplace today. the-innovators-9781476708690_hrIn Walter Isaacson’s book The Innovators, which gives a great longitudinal look at the development of the computer and Internet over the last 200 years, he discusses a seminal article by Vannevar Bush published in 1945 after World War II. In As We May Think in The Atlantic Monthly, Bush looks forward to see what the world’s scientists can create with photography and computer technology if they all work together. The ideas for hypertext, the Internet, browser and even Google Glass are all here; even seventy years later, there are some great ideas in the article (it’s only 19 pages, give it a full read).

In 1945, much of what Bush wrote must have sounded like science fiction. Incremental changes are a lot easier to imagine than the 100x or 1000x advances that he discussed. The instant photo of a Polaroid was fun, but taking a picture anytime on a phone and being able to share it globally is vastly different. The power of cloud computing and big data can be seen when we can do things that either could not be done before or would take huge amounts of resources and time. One of the challenges with disruptive markets is that we tend to dismiss breadth and depth of the impacts. For some of Wikibon’s thoughts on some disruptive trends, see analysis and video about public cloud and Server SAN (storage/hyperconverged infrastructure).

Another topic that I found interesting from The Innovators was a discussion of how the Internet has long fought between two modes of sharing: a one-way posting of information (a low barrier including everything from early research postings to the various media firehoses today) and a platform for collaboration and community. Community and collaboration is a lot harder and requires lots of care and feeding. Blogging is part of the collaboration and community effort; while there are still plenty of blogs, many of us do more writing for our day jobs, and participation has dispersed into the real-time streams of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other areas. I’ve written over the years that we need more engagement, deeper analysis, and curation of ideas. One corner of the IT community digging into the opportunity of curating and sharing information is TechReckoning, led by John Troyer; check out the newsletter and upcoming Silicon Valley event. The event raises the question, what job will you have in 10 years? When it comes to disruption, if you don’t set the menu, you may be on it.

 

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It has been more than a year lapsed since my last post on this site, if anything, I’ve been concerned of overexposure after so much time in front of the camera on theCUBE.

Since I have yet to write an article about my thoughts on being an analyst five years into that role, here’s a good replacement thanks to my friends from The Geek Whisperers podcast who interviewed me at VMworld 2014: Episode 60 Research Analyst.

At a VMworld 2015 party, I got to briefly meet the Woz and thank him – my first computer was an Apple IIc. A younger attendee at VMworld thought that it was a picture of Howard Marks with me (it made Howard’s week, even if it’s disappointing that an attendee at a tech conference doesn’t recognize one of the founders of Apple).

The Woz and me

The Woz and me

Stu Miniman

https://blogstu.wordpress.com


Tipping Point for the Collaboration Economy

September 18, 2013
Chief Catalyst Saul Kaplan kicks off BIF-9

Chief Catalyst Saul Kaplan kicks off BIF-9

It is my third time attending the Business Innovation Factory conference (see my BIF-9 preview post) – while some of the themes are similar year-to-year, there are always new items and trends that bubble to the forefront. After the first day of amazing speakers, the thread that ran through many of the stories that I heard was how the promise of the collaborative (or sharing) economy is poised to take off. Malcolm Gladwell states that a tipping point is where an idea, product or message spread like a virus. The proof points included 3D printing, Kickstarter projects and a many other cases where individuals or small groups could leverage communities to deliver results that are often greater than what large organizations could.

3D Printing

While 3D printing is not new or even a new topic at BIF, the price and availability of the technology are poised to allow people to take the maker revolution to the next step. Seventeen-year-old Easton Lachapelle is an inventor of a 3D printed brain powered robot arm. His current 2nd generation arm (here’s a Vine of him showing it off) costs $400 to produce, weighs under 10 pounds, and it is activated by brainwaves. His 3rd generation will be lighter, stronger (carbon fiber) and faster. On the other end of the experience spectrum, Ping Fu (amazing story – forced out of China, hired Marc Andreesen as a student research, worked on early web and much more) is proving that 3D printing could be “as big as the Internet” for transforming business. Check out Ping’s Twitter page to see her 3D printed shoes – she jokes that she’ll never need to pack shoes again, just print them at her destination. Customization, the sharing of templates and the access to rapid results and iteration can bring people into the design process or completely change the purchasing process. The co-founder of StockTwits, Howard Lindzon pointed to Stratasys ($SSYS) – the company acquired Makerbot – as a hot stock of the 3D printing wave.

Community

There were so many examples of engagement models changing with the help communities and low-cost methods. Doug Ulman of Livestrong explained how the $1 yellow wristband provided such a low barrier to participate; and the primary goal of the organization was to build community for sharing experiences. Food geek Scott Heimendinger used Kickstarter to launch an inexpensive sous vide immersion circulator (high-tech food gear) – raising hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the original plan. And Bruce Nussbaum spoke about how startups like Zipcar and Uber are capitalizing on new business models that existing companies can’t or won’t. Bruce said that companies should allow newer generations to help usher in this change. Collaboration is a big part of my day job doing community-focused research for IT with Wikibon and we see huge opportunities for data (yes – big data too) to transform industries. There are also the companies like Airbnb that are looking to taking sharing and new business models to a new level (see Jeremiah Owyang’s announcement today for more on this topic).

Connect. Inspire. Transform.

I love a good quote as much as the next person and BIF provides some great ones. I would caution that sometimes it’s too easy to boil things down to a headline or tweet (hi, I’m @stu and I tweet a lot), but we need to dig deeper (read more, write more, connect more). So please check out some of the story tellers, the BIF site and I’m always happy to answer questions or connect people with my network. To quote Whitney Johnson, “Showing up doesn’t always equate to winning…You can never give up without dreaming. But you can’t dream if you don’t show up.”

Disclaimer: I am attending BIF-9 on a free blogger pass, which gives me free admission (conference includes meals).

Stu Miniman

https://blogstu.wordpress.com


Finding time for innovation at BIF-9

September 15, 2013

In the technology world, discussions of innovation are usually focused on invention – the creation of new technologies. I grew up in NJ where Bell Labs was an inspiration for me to study engineering and a proud legacy to discuss during my time in sales with Lucent Technologies. Innovation encompasses much more than the ideation moment or even the delivery of new ideas to the market place.

Visualization of SK's BMI talk

If we look at some of the big societal challenges such as healthcare and education, there isn’t a silver bullet to be found through technology or finance. Change for any existing process or business is not easy and requires a different approach such as business model innovations, a technique promoted by Saul Kaplan in his book, his team and his conference (BIF-9 is this week).

At VMworld a few weeks ago (see all of SiliconANGLE and Wikibon’s coverage), over 22,000 people gathered to talk about the latest in cloud computing and virtualization. It is a great ecosystem and my favorite tech show of the year. In many ways however, even with great debate over the direction of some technologies, everyone is talking about the same general topics. As I wrote two years ago (Hyper-connected network or Echo-Chamber), as the social media space has become more crowded, most people will tend to converse and connect with people of similar backgrounds and interests. When it comes to innovation, the best ideas often come through the synthesis of unrelated concepts. One of the best perks that I’ve received through blogging has been passes to some amazing conferences over the years. BIF9The innovation conferences that I have attended have connected me with concepts and people that have greatly broadened my perspective. As Deb Mills-Schofield wrote about the Business Innovation Factory (BIF) conference, it provides us with the amazing opportunity to have Random Collision of Unusual Suspects (#RCUS). While you can definitely gather information at a huge conference, what I relish about the BIF event is that it is designed to blur the line between the speakers and the attendees with lots of networking and deep conversations. The speaking style at BIF is similar to TED events (TED founder Richard Saul Wurman is an advisor and speaker at the event). With only a few hundred people and lots of breaks, it is a great way for innovation junkies to be more than just inspired, but to find connections and ideas that are applicable to your needs. There is a free livestream available for those that aren’t signed up for this sold-out event. While it is always difficult to find time for new perspectives, I’m fond of this saying from Life’s Little Instruction Book:

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to… Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.

For 2 days this week, I’ll be taking a break from the very busy world of cloud computing, software-defined data center and big data while I immerse with fellow innovation enthusiasts.   I’ll be tweeting and writing about BIF-9 this week. See my articles from BIF-6 and BIF-7.

Disclaimer: I am attending BIF-9 on a free blogger pass, which gives me free admission (conference includes meals).

Stuart Miniman

https://blogstu.wordpress.com

For an update on my activities with Wikibon, check out our software-led infrastructure page. I will be at Oracle Open World and Amazon re:Invent later this year.


Distilling how to get an edge in business

October 5, 2011

The World Business Forum brings over 5000 business leaders together to hear from thought leaders and luminaries. Some of the big themes across many of the speakers are: people (not companies) leading innovation, digging deeper and looking outside of our own view of the world. As conductor and author Ben Zander said, it’s not about motivational speeches, but looking for transformations that can stay with you the rest of your life. Here are a few quotes and thoughts from Day 1:

Entrepreneur and NBA owner Mark Cuban talked about how there are inefficiencies in the marketplace; if you can give yourself an edge in knowledge or out hustle people, you can succeed. Real estate mogul, Barbara Corcoran said that the first thing that she looks for in hiring is passion, which can not be taught. Bill George (former CEO of Medtronic and author) said that most people only give 30% effort in what they do; only delivering what they are told to do since they are not engaged and working on things that excite themselves. George also said that the size of an organization is inversely proportionate to the propensity to take risk. 21st century leadership isn’t about titles, but rather helping people find the sweet spots where strengths and passions can connect.

 

Photo by PhotographybyDov.com

Malcolm Gladwell said that taking risks is at the core of leadership; need people to innovate and be creative. The problem he points out is that as humans, we are hardwired to seek the approval of our peers. It is much easier to take massive operational risks but not social risk. We see this in teenagers and it was a major component of the recent failures on Wall Street. Leaders can withstand the ridicule of peers. [BTW – Gladwell is working on a new book, he discussed it with a small group of attendees and Dan Rockwell captured some good notes]

There were similar themes at the BIF-7 conference last month. Whitney Johnson, co-founder of Clay Christensen’s investment firm and writer for Harvard Business Review called on people to disrupt themselves. She told her story of the challenges that she faced leaving a Wall Street analyst firm to go to a start-up focused on disruptive innovations. She summed lessons from her personal path to disruption:

  1. If it feels scary and lonely, you are probably on the right track
  2. Be assured that you have no idea what will come next
  3. Throw out the performance metrics you’ve always relied on
  4. Your odds of success will improve when you pursue a disruptive course; targeting a new market vs existing will deliver 6x more success and 20x greater revenue
Process and creativity/innovation are opposing forces at companies. Companies need to create spaces for people to try, fail and iterate.

Get a Dose of Innovation

May 29, 2011

I have had the great pleasure of attending the World Innovation Forum (WIF) in New York City the last two years. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend the event this year (be sure to watch #wif11 on Twitter and follow the bloggers on June 7-8), as I will be in Las Vegas for HP Discover. At the HP event, I’m expecting a good dose of tech, good interaction with bloggers and I am very excited that Paul McCartney is the musical guest. HP’s history is tightly tied to innovation and they have also brought in Don Tapscott as one of the keynote speakers (I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Don twice before: at the first EMC Innovation Conference and also at BIF-6). Most companies list being innovative as a top goal, but after listening to thought leaders at previous World Innovation Forum and World Business Forum conferences, the question that arose was can large corporations innovate?

Two of WIF’s speakers that I have seen before give good insight into this question. Clay Christensen is one of the foremost experts on business innovation, and his books are a must-read for anyone in tech. Christensen’s material shows how companies can fail to take advantage of new innovations and find themselves disrupted by startups. Even when companies are aware of the new waves that are coming, the commitment to existing customers and inertia of legacy processes will cause most companies to fail to change as needed as the market demands. One of the most powerful weapons that a company can leverage is the passion of its people; this is the message that WIF participants can expect to hear from Tony Hsieh of Zappos. Tony has a powerful message (and excellent book) of how companies can deliver happiness to customers and employees. I tend to agree with a note that I saw on Twitter recently that said: companies can’t innovate, but they can get out of the way of employees who can.

My friend and former colleague, Steve Todd’s second book, Innovate with Global Influence, continues the discussion of how to be a corporate intrapreneur (see my write-up of his first book). Steve draws on teachings of Vijay Govindarajan, Gary Hamel and Daniel Pink (Steve and I saw Vijay and Gary at previous HSM events, Daniel Pink is at WIF11) to give a framework as to how employees can innovate, delivering results and working with teams around the globe. Steve readily admits that there is strong pressure by management to stay in Vijay’s Box 1 (Managing the Present, which is incremental improvements). Steve encourages employees to deliver on their commitments so that they can move to the journey of innovation in Box 2 (Selectively Abandon the Past) and Box 3 (Create the Future). One of my favorite parts of Steve’s approach is that he recommends indoctrinating new employees immediately in the innovation process. Employees who feel empowered to be innovative and who can be connected with a broad community with similar passions are more likely to be excited and happy with their work. I recommend Steve’s book to anyone who wants to grab some of the power of innovation and help make sure that your company doesn’t stop the passion of its workers.

There are plenty of ways to get a dose of innovation, whether it is hearing an inspiring speaker at a conference, reading a book or blog that makes you think or watching a video; the TED website and iPad app alone can keep you busy for a long time. What have you read or watched that has inspired you?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of Innovate with Global Influence, but am under no obligation to write about it.

Stuart Miniman

https://blogstu.wordpress.com


iPad at Home and on the Road

April 17, 2011

Last month I was lucky enough to make it to my local Best Buy in time to buy a new iPad 2 on launch day. After a month of using it at home and on the road, I am very happy with the purchase and thought I’d share my findings. Last year, when the original iPad came out,  I already had a Mac Book Pro and iPhone 4, so as Louis Gray wrote last year, I had picked my two. I had the opportunity to play with a few iPads and was getting iPad-envy reading articles about families using the new device. I was even seeing the iPad discussion come up at work as more business applications came out for the platform; the iPad was named one of the top two infrastructure innovations of 2010 by Wikibon’s CTO. I was still struggling a bit with justifying the purchase; was it just an expensive toy and would I need to carry yet another device and charger? The clincher for me was that I have a lot of travel to conferences and analyst events this year. The light weight, small form factor and long battery life (listed at 10 hours) would allow for more productivity on planes and less back strain walking around events.

Above is a screen shot that shows my iPad with most of the apps that I have.

Business Travel

I am very happy traveling with the iPad. The battery life is awesome, I have yet to have a day that a full charge hasn’t lasted for my usage. On planes, it’s a fully functional iPod (good for movies too), eReader, notepad (I use Evernote), and game player. Of course WiFi helps since you can’t utilize 3G on planes. At conferences and meetings, I can take notes, use social media, or surf the web. While the OS for the iPad is the same as an iPhone (see some good tips that work on both devices here), there are a few differences worth noting. On the positive side, browsing the web and multimedia apps are generally much better. Apps like Flipbook or even websites like WordPress (including this blog) that are optimized for the iPad are immersive with the touch interface. On the negative side, I’ve found apps crashing much more on the iPad than there are not a lot of free apps that are optimized for the larger screen. For Twitter, I use TweetDeck on my desktop and phone, but it has been too unstable for the iPad, so I’m using the native Twitter app (note that I’ve put it in the home bar for easy access). The knock on the iPad has been that it is a consumption, not creation device; I have found that it’s adequate for drafting blog posts, creating emails, using Google Docs or even giving a presentation. Back at the office, my laptop is still the primary device for all creation activity. There are a few other limitations that I’ve run into: lack of Flash does limit some web activity and opening zip files requires an app and jumping through some hoops. I use email and Dropbox to get files on and off the device – creation of presentations and reports are somewhat limited by not having the usual archive of information that is typical on a desktop/laptop. While I find that the iPad is sufficient for a day of meetings/trade shows, I have still been using my laptop in the evenings.

Home Use

At the office, I rarely touch the iPad, defaulting back to the laptop which I can type faster and don’t have any of the limitations mentioned above. At home, I’m still sorting out when I use the iPad instead of the laptop or phone. My kids (5 & 7) love the iPad and I feel more comfortable letting them play with it than I do the iPhone. They are both adept at playing games (and have caught my Angry Birds addiction), using some of the educational and art apps – the touch interface is so intuitive. The iPad is ideal for taking on errands, giving a parent or child something to do while waiting. I have the 3G version (I have the $15 250MB plan from AT&T and was under 200MB my first month), and just make sure that I’m not doing lots of video when not in a WiFi area. The 3G version makes a decent GPS device for a passenger to help navigate. While lack of Flash does limit video from some sites, YouTube and other apps (like TED) are great for watching video. Facetime is a nice idea on both the iPhone, iPad and even on the Mac, but I’ve used Skype video works well. In testing Facetime with Stephen Foskett, we find that it looks better on the small screen of the iPhone and angling the forward facing camera on the iPad is difficult. The quality of the cameras seem to be the same as the iPhone 4, not great, but fine for 4×6 prints or posting videos to Facebook or YouTube. I do recommend the “smart cover” (I got polyurethane), it helps save battery life by shutting off when closed and makes a good stand for typing or watching video. I also recommend a neoprene case (I got one designed for a netbook) to provide some extra protection, is easy to carry or throw in a laptop backpack. Overall, the iPad provides a much more immersive and enjoyable experience than a smartphone and is much more portable and fast to use than a laptop. While I do think that the iPad is a big step towards moving to a post-PC world, we’re still in the early days of the era of tablets, so hopefully there will be a lot of new uses and innovations that will allow us to do things that we never imagined of for the previous devices.

What cool things have you done with an iPad that you couldn’t do with a smartphone or laptop? I’m sure there are thousands of cool apps that I should be checking out, let me know what I’m missing.

Cheers,

Stuart Miniman

https://blogstu.wordpress.com


Is Your Network Hyper-Connected or an Echo Chamber?

December 30, 2010

Echo Chamber by Hugh McLeod, shared via Creative Commons licence

I recently attended a “Conversation with Stephen Johnson” where there was a group discussion around his latest book Where Good Ideas Come From (click here for a fantastic video which illustrates some of the main points from the book).  During the discussion of his studies of innovators, Stephen said that innovators maintain strong and weak ties across diverse disciplines.  This then led to the question of, does the changing methods on communication including the web lead people to live in an echo chamber or allow them to become hyper-connected.  The answer of course is that the web and social media networks are all tools and it is dependent upon the users as to whether they seek out and embrace diversity and serendipity or instead reinforce their own beliefs and reject new and different ideas.

The argument for diversity of ideas is summarized well in the argument for open innovation that while your organization may have smart people, there are a lot more smart people outside your organization than inside.  So when you turn to what we read on the internet and who we connect with on social media, are you getting a diverse set of ideas or are you only connecting to friends and coworkers?  When I first joined Twitter in 2008, I was forced to interact with new people since few people who I knew were using it.  This has changed a lot in the last two years, not only have many people who I know joined Twitter, but I’ve had the opportunity to meet many that I follow at conferences and industry events.  I try to go out of my way to look for new perspectives and that means that I need to be careful that interactions with my closer connections don’t block out the opportunity to learn and find new ideas from others.

One of the things that social media tools are best for is maintaining loose ties.  According to the Dunbar number, people can only maintain an active social relationship with around 150 people.  When people change jobs or move from an area, closer acquaintances would take more attention than those far away.  With the introduction of sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, connections can be maintained and networks can become more diverse spanning the various geographies and careers that a person travels over a lifetime.  While Facebook is the most ubiquitous of social media sites, I wonder if it is also the most insular.  Facebook is a great place to share photos or something funny or interesting, but from my experience it’s not a place for deep discussions or critical debate.

While the networks of Facebook, Twitter and Google dominate the space, being an early adopter of a new platform can give you the opportunity to explore.  Two new recent additions to the landscape are OneTrueFan and Quora.  Louis Gray has written about OneTrueFan, a tool that tracks and shares the websites that you visit.  Ten years ago, “searching the web” meant more about poking around and finding new interesting places rather than simply searching with Google or Bing.  Today there is not only the use of search, but also the growing usage of applications through mobile devices which tend to limit what places on the web you might go to.  Quora is a site for asking and answering questions which has been attracting a lot of attention and rapidly growing an audience.  My biggest complaints on sites such as LinkedIn and others that have large question sections is that it is difficult to find things or interest or meaningful answers (lots of echo chamber or marketing noise).  Quora has the latest tagging and social tools to allow for following, voting and sharing.  I was beginning to wonder if size of the large networking sites were going to limit small ventures.  It’s a given that some of the features of these sites will be imitated by the large players and the early adopter crowd tend to move on to the next thing after a few months.

Overall there is huge population on the social sites now, so while it is easier to find those with a common interest, it is also easier to end up with a network that shares your point of view.  It’s said that one of the best ways to solve a problem is to explain it to someone who has no idea how your industry works.  I hope that sites such as Quora will help facilitate a place for robust debate and ideas exploration.  I agree with Stephen Johnson‘s belief is that the hyper-connectivity forces of the web outweigh the echo chamber effect.  May 2011 bring you fresh opportunities and your ideas to fruition.

Stuart Miniman

https://blogstu.wordpress.com

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