Tag Archives: Innovation

Why We Need Women to Have a Larger Role in Innovation
November 18, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Every once in a while I get a comment from an audience member after a keynote speech or from someone who read my book, Mapping Innovation, about why so few women are included. Embarrassed, I try to explain that, as in many male dominated fields, women are woefully underrepresented in science and technology.

The preponderance of evidence shows that women can vastly improve innovation efforts, but are often shunted aside. In fact, throughout history, men have taken credit for discoveries that were actually achieved by women. So, while giving women a larger role in innovation would be just and fair, even more importantly it would improve performance.

The Power of Diversity

Over the past few decades there have been many efforts to increase diversity in organizations. Unfortunately, all too often these are seen more as a matter of political correctness than serious management initiatives. After all, so the thinking goes, why not just pick the best man for the job?

The truth is that there is abundant scientific evidence that diversity improves performance. For example, researchers at the University of Michigan found that diverse groups can solve problems better than a more homogenous team of greater objective ability. Another study that simulated markets showed that ethnic diversity deflated asset bubbles.

While the studies noted above merely simulate diversity in a controlled setting there is also evidence from the real world that diversity produces better outcomes. A McKinsey report that covered 366 public companies in a variety of countries and industries found that those which were more ethnically and gender diverse performed significantly better than others.

The problem is that when you narrow the backgrounds, experiences and outlooks of the people on your team, you are limiting the number of solution spaces that can be explored. At best, you will come up with fewer ideas and at worst, you run the risk of creating an echo chamber where inherent biases are normalized and groupthink sets in.

How Women in Particular Improve Performance

While increasing diversity in general increases performance, there is also evidence that women specifically have a major impact. In fact, in one wide ranging study, in which researchers at MIT and Carnegie Mellon sought to identify a general intelligence score for teams, they not only found that teams that included women got better results, but that the higher the proportion of women was, the better the teams did.

At first, the finding seems peculiar, but when you dig deeper it begins to make more sense. The study also found that the high performing teams members rated well on a test of social sensitivity and took turns when speaking. Perhaps not surprisingly, women do better on these parameters than men do.

Social sensitivity tests ask respondents to infer someone’s emotion by looking at a picture (you can try one here) and women tend score higher than men. As for taking turns while in a conversation, there’s a reason why we call it “mansplaining” and not “womensplaining.” Women usually are better listeners.

The findings of the study are consistent with something I’ve noticed in my innovation research. The best innovators are nothing like the mercurial, aggressive stereotype, but tend to be quiet geniuses. Often they aren’t the types that are immediately impressive, but those who listen to others and generously share insights.

Changing The Social Dynamic

One of the reasons that women often get overlooked, besides good old fashioned sexism, is that that there are vast misconceptions about what makes someone a good innovator. All too often, we imagine the best innovators to be like Steve Jobs–brash, aggressive and domineering–when actually just the opposite is true.

Make no mistake, great innovators are great collaborators. That’s why the research finds that successful teams score high in social sensitivity, take turns talking and listening to each other rather, rather than competing to dominate the conversation. It is never any one idea that solves a difficult problem, but how ideas are combined to arrive at an optimal solution.

So while it is true that these skills are more common in women, men have the capacity to develop them as well. In fact, probably the best way for men to learn them is to have more exposure to women in the workplace. Being exposed to a more collaborative working style can only help.

So besides the moral and just aspects of getting more women into innovation related fields and giving them better access to good, high paying jobs, there is also a practical element as well. Women make teams more productive.

Building The Next Generation

Social researchers have found evidence that that the main reason that women are less likely to go into STEM fields has more to do with cultural biases than it does with any innate ability. For example, boys are more encouraged to build things during play and so develop spatial skills early on, while girls can build the same skills with the same training.

Cultural bias also plays a role in the amount of encouragement young students get. STEM subjects can be challenging, and studies have found that boys often receive more support than girls because of educators’ belief in their innate talent. That’s probably why even girls who have high aptitude for math and science are less likely to choose a STEM major than boys of even lesser ability.

Yet cultural biases can evolve over time and there are a number of programs designed to change attitudes about women and innovation. For example Girls Who Code provides training and encouragement for young women and UNESCO’s TeachHer initiative is designed to provide better educational opportunities.

Perhaps most of all, initiatives like these can create role models and peer support. When young women see people like the Jennifer Doudna, Jocelyn Bell Burnell and the star physicist Lisa Randall achieve great things in STEM fields, they’ll be more likely to choose a similar path. With more women innovating, we’ll all be better off.

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There Are 4 Innovation Personalities. Which One Are You?
November 9, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

Here is a personality test for leaders: those who create products, services, and businesses, those who manage teams big and small, and those who have to be agile thinkers to face complex challenges. Read through the four groups below–Revolutionary, Evolutionary, Traditional, and Reactionary–and see where you fit in as a leader. Then think about your team. And then your organization. Where do they fit in too? And how can you collectively achieve the change and innovation needed? 

I have personally a soft spot for Revolutionaries, because dedication to innovation is thrilling, makes you feel like you’re living at the cutting edge and serving a bigger purpose. I have also learned how quickly scales can change and top organizations and their leaders can get burnt out and retreat to the safety of incremental change. Inversely, Evolutionaries can become Revolutionaries; and Naysayers can become the best advocates for disruption once they see the value of being a Revolutionary. 

Being at the service of people, solving problems for others, making someone’s life better, more joyful or easier–which is what innovation is about–is not a talent that only a few can attain. Neither is it a static skill that, once acquired, stays with you. It is an organic set of skills, tools, and processes you decide to have, practice and keep. In other words, it is inclusive and accessible if you know where you are now and where you want to be in the future, which is where this quiz comes in handy. 

What is your current innovation personality? What personality do you aspire to be?

Revolutionary

Different sources call you different things–A Reinventor, Disruptor, Provocateur, Innovator. You revolutionize the way something is done. You are a design thinker. In other words, you think like a designer. Positive, open-minded and curious, you are energized by new ideas. You see change as an opportunity, not as a challenge. You use design tools and an iterative process to solve problems. Getting close to your customer is fundamental to your thinking. Only then can you make sure you ask the right questions. To that end, you use co-design with customers.   Journey mapping helps you to uncover your hidden customer needs, and fast prototyping allows you to experiment with solutions. You are not afraid of constraints and know how to use them to your advantage.

“The Reinventors, making up 27 percent of the total, are the standouts. They report that they outperformed their peers in both revenue growth and profitability over the past three years, and led as well in innovation.” IBM Global CEO study on Digital Reinvention

Synonyms: Reinventor, Disruptor, Provocateur, Innovator.

Evolutionary

You are a change agent of the cautious kind. You are comfortable with incremental change. You might be a recovering Revolutionary who got hit by market forces and lost some of your courage and daring to be the first. Or you have the ambition to become a Revolutionary and are gathering experience. As David Peterson, Director of Leadership Development & Executive Coaching at Google would say, you need to sub-optimize and be less perfect to experiment more and adapt to constant change with more agility. You want to think like a designer, but you may not have the right tools and process. You need to get out of your comfort zone and get up close and intimate with your customers. Experimenting more, and more quickly, breaking internal silos to create cross-functional teams and co-designing with your customers to include them in ideation will push you to the Revolutionary group.

According to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a healthy dose of prudence is not bad for innovation. “Contrary to what many people think, successful innovators are more organized, cautious, and risk-averse than the general population.”

Synonyms: Practitioner (coined by IBM). Pragmatic.

Traditionalists

Your one dominant characteristic is that you feel like your solution is fine just the way it is. When asked if your users are happy, you will say “yes” but deep down you know you’ve grown farther and farther away from your customer. The good news is there are many ways to build empathy and get closer to them. Once you move away from a product-centric mindset to an experience-centered one, improving people’s lives will give you the courage to develop your own unique vision. Your previous successes may hold you back, but what got you here is not helping you get there (if you haven’t, read Marshall Goldsmith’s best-selling book, What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There). Having the vision, strategy and tools to recognize and capture the right opportunities will move you to the Evolutionary group. 

Synonyms: Conventional. Aspirational (coined by IBM).

Reactionary

You resist change and have a strong tendency to block new ideas. It is the fear of unknown which makes it easier for you to come up with why something will not work. You are the skeptic. Yet you know that agility and experimentation are key to how organizations are evolving. You will become a great convert to thinking like a designer if you can see its value–making you more agile, customer-centered and comfortable with experimenting. 

“Saboteurs. The people and groups who can obstruct or derail the process of searching, evaluating, and purchasing a product or a service.” Alex Osterwalder, Value Proposition Design

Synonyms: Blockers, Resistants, Naysayers, Saboteurs (coined by Alex Osterwalder). 

How did you do? Remember knowing who you are and who you aspire to be on the innovation scale is half the battle. The other half is actually practicing it on a daily basis. 

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Sam's Club to open new innovation center in Texas
October 29, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Warehouse chain Sam’s Club, a unit of Walmart Inc, said on Monday it will open a new store and innovation center in Dallas, Texas, which will be used to test technology before it is implemented in stores.

This will be separate from an internal research lab, called Walmart Labs, run by the Bentonville, Arkansas based retailer that focuses on developing new e-commerce applications and technology for the company.

The focus on opening more research labs and investments in that direction are the latest sign that Walmart is doubling down on making its stores better even as it competes to gain ground against rival Amazon.com Inc in the business of selling goods online.

Sam’s Club Now will be a 32,000 square feet store, which is a quarter of the size of an average store operated by the retailer. It will begin testing technology like electronic shelf labels that will automatically update prices and use 700 installed cameras to better manage inventory.

Sam’s Club Now will also allow shoppers to use the Scan and Go feature, a technology that facilitates faster checkouts, on its namesake mobile app.

That will enable customers to use voice search to locate items in the store, pick up their orders in an hour and create shopping lists, which can be automatically updated.

“Sam’s Club Now gives us one more avenue to develop, test and refine technology and features that will create new shopping experiences at scale,” John Furner, Sam’s Club Chief Executive, told reporters on a conference call.

Reporting by Nandita Bose in New York; Editing by Darren Schuettler

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Facebook plans innovation hub in China despite tightening censorship
July 25, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

BEIJING (Reuters) – Facebook has set up a subsidiary in China and plans to create an “innovation hub” to support local start-ups and developers, the social media company said on Tuesday, ramping up its presence in the restrictive market where its social media sites remain blocked.

FILE PHOTO: A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes, France, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo

The subsidiary is registered in Hangzhou, home of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, according to a filing approved on China’s National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System last week and seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

“We are interested in setting up an innovation hub in Zhejiang to support Chinese developers, innovators and start-ups,” a Facebook representative said via email, referring to the Chinese province where Hangzhou is located. Facebook has created similar hubs in France, Brazil, India and Korea to focus on training and workshops, the spokesperson said.

Facebook’s website remains banned in China, which strictly censors foreign news outlets, search engines and social media including content from Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

FILE PHOTO: Facebook logo is seen at a start-up companies gathering at Paris’ Station F in Paris, France on January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

Setting up a company-owned enterprise in China does not mean Facebook is changing its approach in the country, the company said, adding that it was still learning what it takes to be in China.

Last year Facebook’s messaging app WhatsApp was blocked in the run up to the country’s twice-a-decade congress, and it has remained mostly unavailable since.

The filing listed only one shareholder of the new entity, Facebook Hongkong Ltd.

While censorship controls have hardened under Xi Jinping, who was formally appointed president in 2013, U.S. tech firms with blocked content are increasingly looking for new ways to enter the market without drawing the ire of regulators.

Google has several hundred staff in China and recently launched its own artificial intelligence (AI) lab. It has also tentatively launched several apps for the Chinese market in recent months, including an AI drawing game and file management app.

Apple Inc has also heavily modified its app stores to fit Chinese censorship restrictions in the past year, removing hundreds of apps at the request of regulators.

Reporting by Cate Cadell, Lusha Zhang, Se Young Lee and Jonathan Weber; additional writing by Peter Henderson; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Cynthia Osterman

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Build it or Buy It: Will Amazon or Walmart Win the Retail Innovation Battle?
July 1, 2018 6:26 am|Comments (0)

Photographer: Bartek Sadowski/Bloomberg

Amazon’s recent news that it will be replacing more humans with yet another algorithmic solution is the latest example of the company’s thrust to innovate through self-built technology. 

With Amazon’s patent count rising again last year, it’s clear the company’s “build it” strategy is largely meant to out-invent, rather than outbid, the next big idea. Amazon received 1,963 patents in 2017 according to the latest data released by the IFI Claims office, and holds more patents than any other retailer in the industry (7,096). In fact, at $ 22.6 billion, Amazon spent more in R&D than any other U.S. company last year (up 41 percent from 2016), topping Microsoft, Intel, Facebook and even Apple according to a recent story in Recode.  

Amazon has a deep history of effectively chasing patents, which stems from lessons learned in the dot-com era. For example, Amazon’s patent for one-click shopping was issued in 1999 and set the norm for the entire retail industry.

Fast forward nearly twenty years. Today we have Amazon Prime and Amazon Marketplace, and the company is still three steps ahead, inventing what is possible by both shaping and anticipating the needs of consumers. According to a recent CNBC article, Amazon was issued patents last year for augmented reality mirrors that would enable users to try on clothes virtually by projecting different outfits onto the user. They’ve also patented a “smart” sensor-studded package delivery air vehicle, an option that would mute the Amazon Echo’s video mode for user privacy and even one that would detect hacked self-driving cars.  

Walmart, by comparison, currently holds only 349 patents, and the company has largely based its innovation strategy around buying the latest and greatest new ideas. 

According to a TechCrunch story late last year, the company considers acquisition core to its innovation model, particularly in the technology, retail and digital native brands categories. Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart eCommerce U.S, who founded Jet.com (bought by Walmart in 2016), noted in recent comments that in Walmart’s view, “specialist positioning is better than mass,” and that the acquisition spree will continue. Recent acquisitions include ShoeBuy, Moosejaw, Bonobos, Parcel, Hayneedle and ModCloth.

Walmart has also started its own incubator, Store No. 8, which aims to “nurture startup businesses,” allowing them to run just like other startups but be “ring-fenced by the rest of the organization and backed by the largest retailer in the world,” according to Lore. 

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Delivering efficiency and innovation for citizens with “cloud first” policy
May 14, 2017 5:15 pm|Comments (0)

In this regard, the Philippines is riding the technology trend within the ASEAN region where more government entities are investing in cloud computing …


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China becoming nation of innovation
March 12, 2016 5:05 am|Comments (0)

Big data processing requires cloud computing. The Inspur Group, headquartered in Shandong Province, is a leading solution and service provider that …

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