Category Archives: Innovation and Technology

TALES FROM THE TRENCHES OF RUNNING A START-UP

The externalities that influence creativity, adoption, and scale are often more important than the innovation itself. To be a successful innovator one has to be really in tune with what’s happening in the world on a global scale (or be really lucky, or better yet both). Venture capital has shortened the learning curve for some innovators, but bias has limited access to venture capital for many. Unconscious bias is like an odorless gas—it’s imperceptible to most, but pervasive and deadly.  Working among people with competing priorities takes more effort. It means encouraging communication so they’re aware of each other’s needs as they generate new ideas. You have to find a way to invite these ideas in, make it okay for people to disagree respectfully, and encourage the flow of ideas among the various groups. You need each person to focus on his or her task, but not so much that it creates boundaries and kills any sense of creativity in the group.  People tend to think innovation can be neatly placed into two categories: incremental or disruptive. They also assume that the only category that really matters is the disruptive kind, where you dramatically transform markets or introduce a novel product.  Read More >>

ED TECH IS SURGING, AND PARENTS HAVE SOME NOTES

Unlike most sectors, edtech has been booming over the last few months.  But as tired parents juggle work, family and sanity all day, nearly every day, they say edtech is not a remedy for all education gaps right now.  Parents across all income groups are struggling with homeschooling.  Socioeconomically disadvantaged families have it even worse because resources are strapped and parents often have to work multiple jobs to afford food to put on the table.  One major issue for parents is balancing a decrease in live learning with an uptick in “do it at your own pace” learning.  In light of the struggles parents and educators alike are seeing with the current set of online learning tools and their inability to inspire young learners, new edtech startups are thinking about how the future of remote learning might look.  The missing piece to edtech: School isn’t just learning, it’s childcare.  Read More >>  

HARNESSING TECHNOLOGY IN OUR BATTLE WITH COVID-19

Tech companies are pumping out new services and products to tackle pandemic challenges. For all the misery caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it looks certain to leave us with at least one benign legacy: technological innovation. Across sectors and industries, from medicine and biotechnology to logistics and communications, existing technology is being repurposed while new innovations are emerging within a matter of weeks in the battle against the coronavirus. n the race against COVID-19, getting technology innovation up to speed is key. Since COVID-19 laid siege to the Chinese city of Wuhan in January, one of us (Xian-Sheng Hua) has been heading an “intelligent healthcare team” – a kind of rapid response team – at Alibaba’s DAMO Academy to develop or repurpose technologies quickly to meet the specific needs of the epidemic response. The Alibaba team followed an Agile-like strategy, as solutions needed to be developed in a matter of days. From day one the team worked on multiple things simultaneously, such as data analysis, model definition, parameter modelling, parameter learning, verification and deployment. Increasingly, however, privacy is becoming a concern as technologies are deployed for a “new normal” of living with the coronavirus while the search for a vaccine or treatment continues. The epidemic response is very much inter-sectoral; it is not just a public health issue. Social media has enriched epidemic intelligence and become an essential channel for risk communication. The emergence of AI in medicine and health security today is sowing the seed of tomorrow’s technology for worldwide epidemic intelligence and global coordination of pandemic response.  Read More >>

HOW DISCOMFORT MAKES US MORE CREATIVE

Minor disruptions to the status quo, against a background of psychological safety, may be the best formula for creative cultures. Li Huang, INSEAD Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour, pointed out that even the most innovative minds may expand, or contract, in response to environmental and cultural cues. “There was a time when Albert Einstein was attending a school that evaluated and tested students quite harshly, and he nearly lost his interest in science. It was only when he failed a test and moved to a different school that valued individual thought and creativity that he started to develop his interest further.” A little pressure can induce positive growth. “When plants are under a certain amount of stress, that’s when they go into an entirely different stage of growth – whether it’s from no flowering to flowering, or flowering to fruiting. It’s the same for human beings.”  Read More >>

DON’T LET YOUR OBSESSION WITH PRODUCTIVITY KILL YOUR CREATIVITY

Our current work world is obsessed with productivity.  But our relentless quest to be productive is undermining one of the most important abilities in today’s workplace: creativity.  First, gather raw materials as a stimulus. Draw together provocations and thought starters related to your area of interest.  Next, mentally digest the raw material.  The final step is to simply do nothing.  Most of us can probably identify with this time-tested approach. Our best ideas do seem to approach us in moments of disengagement.  Have a moment every day where you’re trying to achieve nothing. Giving your brain a moment to relax might lead to your best idea yet.  Read More >>

NEW ‘AIR FORCE VENTURES’ SET TO TRANSFORM TECHNOLOGY STRATEGY

The U.S. Air Force has adopted a three-phase strategy to select small, innovative companies outside the traditional defense industry to perform advanced development work and to tap Silicon Valley-style venture capital firms to help taxpayers finance the new technology. Acquisition chief Will Roper is implementing Air Force Ventures, a new method of attracting high-tech startups to the government. U.S. Air Force plans to make 50 large “bets” on technology. New acquisition training to be based on Fighter Weapons School. To prepare, the Air Force is sending acquisition officials back to school. Next year, a cadre of program managers will be enrolled in a six-month course at Stanford University, which will teach the Air Force to manage technology investments like venture capitalists.   Read More >>

LOSING SLEEP OVER THE QUEST FOR A PERFECT NIGHT’S REST

Sleep trackers worn on the wrist can actually be causing people to lose sleep. Sleep trackers have become increasingly popular. They come in the form of watches, wristbands, rings and even mattresses. The gadgets measure and crunch data on how one breathes, how fast one’s heart is beating, how much one is tossing and turning. An irony of the digital lifestyle, for some people, is that perfecting a sleep schedule becomes an end unto itself, so much so that people can lose sleep over it. This particular type of insomnia is called orthosomnia. It’s when one really becomes fixated on having this perfect sleep via tracker, and then start worrying about it, giving oneself insomnia.   Read More >>

3 WAYS THAT YOU CAN SUPPORT SUCKING EXTRA CARBON FROM THE AIR

Transforming the entire economy to get to net zero emissions is something that scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. It will require massive and complicated transformations of nearly-every aspect of society. Acting on climate change as an individual requires pressuring the government and companies to make systemic changes. It is possible to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and turn it into a rock that can be stored underground. Reducing emissions is not enough; “negative emissions” solutions, which can remove carbon that’s already in the atmosphere, are also critical to get to a safe CO2 level. Firms from around the world are making innovative products to solve this wicked problem.  Read More >>

HOW B2B COMPANIES CAN UP THEIR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE GAME

Most companies focus on their own sales targets instead of those of their clients’. Delivering a distinctive customer experience starts with a focus on the customer’s needs and wants, as well as an anticipation of the problems that customers may be unaware of. That focus is difficult with individual customers because everyone has their own desires and problems. Every company’s focus should be their customers’ outcomes, while paying close attention to the people, processes, and technology. Companies should start with their customers’ most critical issues first. It is important to pay attention to why the customers claim that they haven’t been able to solve a particular problem.   Read More >>

STARTUPS BET THAT LONELY FREELANCERS CRAVE COMPANY

Work clubs say productivity improves when you have a buddy.  This has become a problem from remote workers, who miss the interactions of nearby co-workers in the office.  There is a new trend of ventures coming into fruition: transforming remote work into a group activity. Many people get more work accomplished where there is no distraction at home, but feel more motivated in the workplace surrounded by peers.  Start-ups like Focusmate are trying to solve this problem. This start-up features fifty minute video sessions with randomly assigned partners. For $4 a month, users have unlimited access to the program, which can be an asset for people with deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Read More >>