Category Archives: Innovation and Technology

HOW TO CREATE A BRAND NAME THAT WORKS

What makes a great brand name so … great? Why are names like “Joy” and “Tide” so successful—and how the heck does a name like “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” break all the rules, but still manage to win us over? Names, of course, matter. The name should tell a story that directly or at least indirectly ties to the product itself, its reason for being, and consumer needs/wants. A great example is Peloton, the new home exercise equipment company best known for its digitally connected stationary bike. In cycling parlance, a “peloton” is a group of cyclists at the front of the pack. This name is obviously relevant to cycling and leadership, but also speaks to the fact that via the online community, home cyclists are connected to each other—a “virtual pack.” “Form follows function, but both report to emotion,” said Willie Davidson, superstar designer and grandson of the founder of a certain motorcycle company. Emotion is the king of the jungle in marketing and innovation, and it certainly wins in naming. A great name is essentially a short ad for the product, evoking feeling and inspiring some kind of action (consciously or unconsciously). Generally speaking, names should be as short as possible and roll off the tongue. Brevity is important not just because short names tend to be more memorable, but also because they make it easier for your design team, which has precious limited real estate to work with when creating packaging labels and other elements. Read More >>

BLUE ORIGIN’S HUMAN LUNAR LANDER ALL-STAR SPACE TEAM COMPLETES FIRST KEY MILESTONE FOR MOON MISSION

Blue Origin, along with its partners Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper, was one of three companies to be awarded contracts by NASA to develop human lunar landers for future moon missions. Blue Origin’s so-called “National Team” is focused on developing a Human Landing System (HLS) for NASA  to support its efforts to return human astronauts to the surface of the moon by 2024, and on September 14, 2020 it announced that along with its partners, it has achieved the first crucial step of defining the requirements of the mission, including any space and ground vehicles used.  This is a key first step, which amounts to having established a checklist of thousands of items that will make up the parameters of the National Team’s HLS mission. It means that the company can now move ahead to further NASA reviews and ultimately, the preliminary design phase.  Ultimately, the HLS will be made up of a descent element supplied by Blue Origin, as well as a reusable ascent element provided by Lockheed Martin,  and an orbital transfer element from Northrop that gets the lander in position for its last-leg trip to the lunar surface. Read More >>

THE WORLD’S MOST INNOVATIVE COUNTRIES, 2020

Necessity is the mother of invention. Indeed, during the global corona-virus crisis, the world needed to move work, education and play to the digital realm very quickly.  Innovation in such times is crucial, but may also increase inequalities among countries, sectors and groups of population.  As the world continues to face a prolonged, massive health crisis, and prepares for the accompanying economic and social shocks, the question of “Who Will Finance Innovation?”, the theme of this year’s Global Innovation Index (GII), is critical in solving the seemingly insurmountable problems ahead of us.  Any crisis calls for a variety of short-term responses to the emergency at hand. But longer-term objectives must be safeguarded. Innovation financing is generally regarded as a long-term investment (especially in science and technology); a growing concern is that it may be sacrificed to more immediate economic and social demands.  The impact of the current crisis on innovation is uncertain and highly dependent on a range of recovery scenarios, as well as business and innovation practices and policies. In any scenario, financial resources – both private and public – will be strained.  Countries and corporations alike might find it harder to pursue investments and innovation. Historically, pandemics have been followed by sustained periods of depressed investment. Investment rates are already low to date, including foreign direct investment, which is now expected to drop sharply in 2020 and 2021.  Fundamentally, the pandemic has not changed the fact that the potential for breakthrough technologies and innovation abounds. The GII continues to support and foster innovation through challenging times. At this juncture, with increased unilateralism and nationalism, it is important to remember that most economies that have moved up the ranks in the GII over time have strongly benefited from their integration within global value chains and innovation networks.  Read More >>

RE-CONCEIVING INNOVATION FOR COVID-19

Covid-19 is an opportunity for businesses to build a new normal that is more human-centric, imaginative and agile. For certain firms, Covid-19 has infused new meaning into the old cliché that a crisis is just an opportunity in disguise. Before the pandemic, digital companies such as Amazon and Zoom were competing not only with incumbents but also with conventions that refused to die, such as the handshake and the clearance sale. Now, Covid-19 has disrupted the old ways, leaving these already cutting-edge firms with even less competition and much more freedom to innovate. Of course, one company’s fertilizer of adversity is another’s manure. For example, the airline industry is struggling to adapt the interiors of commercial airplanes to the demands of social distancing. Indeed, airplane seating has looked much the same for decades. And there are good reasons why. Even minor changes to the internal layout may have serious implications for safety, weight distribution, etc. In short, many incumbents are now confronting design and creativity challenges. To be sure, merging business and design comes with a great many hurdles. Despite these tactical difficulties, Covid-19 is probably the greatest catalyst to innovation the world has seen in a long time. Indeed, success after the pandemic hinges upon business leaders using this unprecedented moment to produce a step-change along three dimensions of innovation: human-centricity, creativity, agility. Read More >>

THE INNOVATOR’S IMITATION DILEMMA: TIKTOK AND FACEBOOK IN CONTEXT

Even with a backer like Microsoft, innovators must outrace copycats like Facebook and others who share the spoils of imitation among themselves. At first glance, TikTok is facing an existential threat. Not only is the wildly popular short video-sharing app banned in India and now forced to be spun off in the United States from its Chinese owner Bytedance, it also has to fend off copycats like Facebook’s Reels. But TikTok may have a secret sauce that allowed it to thwart Facebook’s earlier imitation attempt, and that may yet secure its future: the ability to recombine existing know-how in a market as complex and fast-moving as tech-based entertainment. In the game of digital innovation, imitators often outrace the original innovators. Spotify is another great example of a firm that has outsmarted copycats with complex continuous innovation. Its music streaming service manages to combine a dynamically changing user-interface, behavioral prediction algorithms and a bulging music catalog. Spotify learns its customers’ preferences and uses predictions to suggest content that will keep them coming back. Recombination is but one of three types of in-house knowledge mobilization that can facilitate innovation. The other two are transfer (employees teaching one another) and collaboration (employees working together). Whether to invest in innovation in the face of imitation continues to be one of the most important problems that companies face. It is recommended that firms grappling with the innovator’s imitation dilemma consider the sort of in-house knowledge mobilization they invest in; the nature of the technology and whether it may lead to knowledge spillover-sharing by rivals; and the pool of rivals itself. The solution to the dilemma requires a deep understanding of the complex interplay among these factors.  Read More >>

HOW TO DESIGN THINKING BETTER

Design thinking has, perhaps, reached peak popularity. Businesses in every industry talk about ideating and iterating. The design-thinking approach loosely follows a four-step process that involves observing a problem, reframing it, designing solutions, and testing them—all with the end goal of improving how humans experience a product or service. The first step in the design-thinking process is to observe a situation and notice what is actually happening. Humans are really bad at observing a situation and noticing what is actually happening—despite having a lot of confidence in our own abilities. Understanding a customer’s motivations for using a product or service are important for developing something that works for the customer. But setting social and emotional goals—like gaining the ability to walk a 5K or dance with your daughter at her wedding—activated a promotion mindset and actually motivated people to change. When it comes to actually building and testing solutions—the final step in design thinking—a successful designer must understand that failure is simply an expected part of the process and will ultimately make the work better.  Read More >>

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 >>