Success in the Marshmallow Challenge

Here is another interesting talk from TED. Tom Wujec analyses the Marshmallow Challenge (www.marshmallowchallenge.com) and what it takes to succeed.

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My three take-aways for successful innovation:

  1. prototyping and early feedback
  2. incentives do not improve the result, just the opposite (also see Dan Pink’s TED talk)
  3. innovation is a contact sport that requires interaction with all senses

Robot emotions, no ?!

Just came across this interesting talk by Dennis Mong at TEDxNASA

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Besides liking the overall talk, one very specific moment touched me. Roughly at 9:44 DARwIn 2a an autonomous robot scores his first goal in 2006. And while the developers burst out in cheers and GOOOOAL cries, the robot just stands there. My impression seeing it was, he just did not understand what this fuss was about.

So while scoring a goal is very well possible today, it will take some more development until robots really can play football, also emotionally.

And at 12:20 he starts sharing the labs secrets of innovation and creativity. Very interesting.

Mobile Payment: Make your iPhone a Credit Card Reader

Mobile Payment has been a topic in the mobile telco industry  for the last 10 years with several attempts on standardized APIs and a few successful implementation in some countries.

Now this area of potential mobile operator unique value-add is also in the process to disappear due to smartphone applications. The last one I came across is Square (https://squareup.com/, see also cool video at youTube), which provides a cool credit card reader for the iPhone (and now the iPad). So this does not only work with virtual money, but with credit cards.

Or take Bump (available for iPhone and Android), which also allows to exchange money between mobile phones.

The space for telco operator based payment solution is shrinking.

[Update] There is more news out now that waving iPhones (or any other mobile phone in the future) will become an official payment method in stores soon.

The Beauty of Organization

Over at Design Thinking Tim Brown (Ideo’s CEO) asked the question about the beauty of organisations. I have started to think about a similar question concerning business models so I dropped a few thoughts as comments.

Still working on finding an answer on the business model question.

Post 1:

I really like the question of beauty and aesthetics of organizations. The major challenge with organizations is that you can not feel, touch or experience organizations. So you can not easily build prototypes or enact the service experience. And I guess organization is also related to the corresponding business model and in some cases has a legacy/history/tradition aspect that is hard to capture.

The underlying issue here is that we are lacking a agreed visual representation of organizations and business model that would allow us to use aesthetic rules to evaluate them. The closest I have come across up to now is the Business Model Canvas by Alex Osterwalder (http://www.businessmodelalchemist.com/) that allows to show business model, but still lacks aesthetic criteria.

Evaluating organizations the question is also what the final success criteria is and whether “beauty” is really translated in to innovation or business success or profitability. And is a hierarchical organization more beautiful than a small team collaborative approach. Is the 150-organization size limit at Gore beautiful ?

So I would start with looking at ways to visualize organizations and translate business models that allow aesthetic evaluation.

Post 2:

Hi Tim

couldn’t stop thinking about your “organizational beauty” question on top of
my previous post and here are a few more thoughts.

You take the bee colony as an example of beautiful organization and I would agree. The focus of the bees, however, is not so much on innovation but on robustness and survival. So innovation might require a specific view on organization.

Your question tries to map the abstract concept of organization to the abstract concept of beauty (and throwing in innovative-ness as a third) and I feel you probably need to put some “facts” in the mapping process.

So I would start by identifying measurable criteria/factors assumed to be relevant for innovation and organization like: team size, different areas of knowledge/competency involved in innovation process, number of
contacts required in teams, geographical distribution of teams, speed and levels of decision making within organization, innovator archetypes involved in teams, distribution of power within team (equal votes vs. few leaders).
I would then put this in some tool that could translate this for different organizations into a visual representation, e.g. using Processing and tree diagrams (see for example http://www.generative-gestaltung.de/M_6_4_01_TOOL ).

Playing around with this I guess you could already see whether there is beauty, e.g. very colorful or evenly distributed patterns in specific organizations.

Coming to the organizational archetypes for innovation you could feed organizational structures for teams which could be considered innovative/creative and look at the results, e.g. film studios/tv productions, ad agencies, research institutes, product design/development firms, startups, etc.

I would think that this could also generate some overarching principles for innovative teams, e.g. like Gore’s “not more than 150 people in one organization” or Shaker-like principles you already mentioned.

Google meets the Telco Industry

Today I found time to watch the complete recording of Eric Schmidt’s (CEO of Google) appearance at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February.
Already commented heavily as “Google got the heat from Telco” (here) I was surprised to see that in my view he didn’t get too much heat and actually followed the Google approach: “Be Open” (I don’t want to comment on the “Don’t be evil” here).
My short summary on his messages:
  • Google is (mainly/only) in the advertising business (something most telco operators can not say of themselves)
  • Google will create a lot of very cool applications that the users will like
  • Google expects infrastructure providers (fixed and mobile) to work on sufficient bandwidth so users can enjoy these applications
  • any well run infrastructure provider should be able to earn money on the increased bandwidth demand and by offering different bandwidths for different prices (and a few other things like security, payments/banking)
Interestingly while Eric tried the “We in the mobile/ telco/ communications/ computer industry” notion, in the Q&A session a lot of questions have been around “we/our (mobile) industry” vs. Google. It felt like it takes still some time for the mobile industry to realize that this is now the Internet – Google – Apple time.

The next thing Apple would do ?

Engadget and AppleInsider report of an Apple filing of a head-mounted iPhone dock patent (or here). Is this the next thing Apple would do ?

Considering how many cool augmented reality apps we have seen and discussed at he  MobileMonday Germany National Summit in December, it seems clear that this will be one of the next big things. (Or see on iPhoneNess here for a list of augmented reality iPhone apps). However, current handling by holding your smartphone up and shifting around in front of you is probably not a sustainable mode of operation.

So head-mounted devices (not even considering 3D for the moment) would be the next thing to provide an easy user-experience for augmented reality. Whether the proposal outlined in the patent filing is the best approach is to be seen.

Would Apple really take this up ? In the past their approach has been to use an existing category, e.g. MP3-player, smartphone and create a device, iPod, iPhone with superior customer experience and end-to-end integration. The iPad is the first where they have really driven a new category and not taken the existing netbook category and evolved it further. Although admittedly there have been tablet PCs and eBook readers available before, but not to a significant market presence. So a head-mounted device would clearly be pushing this new category approach even further.

On the other hand the patent filing outlines more an accessory to an iPod  or (smaller) iPhone than a new device category. Wearing classes myself for the largest part of my life I think that the accessory approach would probably be not very comfortable and too heavy to wear over a longer period of time. Some kind of head-up display projected into glasses would probably be more suitable for long-term usage in augmented reality applications. So taking the accessory approach I would rather see a small, bluetooth connected projector that can be attached to glasses.

But definitely pushing this with a convincing user experience is a fascinating next step to watch.

[Update:] Well, I played around with my iPod nano a bit and the challenge is that the eyes have difficulties, i.e. it is impossible, to focus at the close distance of classes on the picture on the screen. I don’t think that this is a resolution issue, so some more research is probably necessary to make this work.

Smart-Grid Business Model

Oracle just released a study on challenges for utility companies when moving to smart grids, i.e. implementing some intelligence in monitoring customer energy consumption and providing consumption based differentiated tariff options.

There is a general hype about the possibilities of utilities smart-grids in the Internet industry. So the summary of the study triggered some thoughts with a perspective of the telecommunications industry.

Looking at the responses this is (1) almost completely about technology and (2) about saving or reducing costs. The technology is about installing smart meters at the consumer to give the more and flexible tariff options in order better control energy consumption.

What is almost completely missing from the discussion is the question of the underlying business model for smart grids beyond pure cost savings. This surprisingly is similar to the rise of IP technology and the Internet for the Telecommunications industry. So how could there be a business model:

  • The Google approach: open the smart meter information with an API so that other could mesh-up and build applications on top of it. How could the information about the usage be used to create value for others?
  • The Apple approach: create a convincing, end-to-end application around the smart meter that every consumer would want to have.

The second point that is interesting is the proposal of the executives of how to move forward: sharing best practices, developing an information architecture and developing standards. Compared to Internet companies like Google, Amazon, Twitter, etc. who take the opportunity and run, established companies, in the telecommunication industry and here in the utility industry ask for standardization. The basic approach here is to reassure one another what the right way forward is, but other just take the action and eat the lunch.

So it will be interesting to see who will take up the ball and come up with a clever business around smart-grids and utilities.