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 >>

THE ONE LEADERSHIP HACK WE’VE ALL BEEN LOOKING FOR

Imagine there was a technique you could learn and practice that would display respect for others, promote trust and contribute mightily to individual and group performance.  The behavior with the almost magical relationship and performance outcomes is nothing more than listening. While a better term might be “fierce listening,” it’s something most of us play at, and many of us can stand to get significantly better at.  There are eight steps to develop fierce listening skills.  First is to commit: internalize the need to strengthen your effectiveness as a listener.  Second is to assess: establish a baseline for your listening skills.  Third is to recognize: learn to identify your listening traps.  Fourth is to frame: set your days up for listening success.  Fifth is to engage: employ listening tactics in the moment.  Sixth is to strengthen: train your brain.  Seventh is to tune in: look for weak or dissonant signals.  Eighth is to extend: teach your groups fierce listening practices.  People will go as far as they can communicate, and great communication starts with fierce listening.   Read More >>

HOW TO NEGOTIATE VIA EMAIL

Across most of the world, face-to-face negotiations—with your boss, with a colleague, or with customers and clients—have been replaced by Zoom invitations and Teams meetups. In this “new normal” of primarily virtual work interactions, composing an effective and persuasive email has never been more important. There are two kinds of conversational tones: positive and negative. Positive-toned communication is conveyed in phrases such as “This is great,” “I really like . . . ‚” and “Thank you so much,” through greetings (“Dear so-and-so”) and closings (“Best wishes”), and also in emojis such as smiley faces and the use of exclamation points. Negative-toned communication is conveyed through negations and other phrases like “I don’t think . . .” and “This is a problem” and the even harsher “I am not happy with . . ..” When it comes down to it, it is the ratio of positive to negative that is really important for our e-communication, not the absolute number of each per se. Given the ubiquity of e-communication, people must be proactive about cultivating and enhancing our communication style. People who rely on autopilot to compose and reply to emails, texts, and phone messages are likely to fall prey to one of the e-communication whammies, with poor outcomes.  Read More >>

AIRSIDE RAISES MILLIONS FROM BAIN CAPITAL FOR DIGITAL IDENTITY TOOLS: TRAVEL STARTUP FUNDING THIS WEEK

This week, startups relevant to the travel sector announced more than $24 million in funding. We define a startup as a company formed to test and build a repeatable and scalable business model. Few companies meet that definition. The rare ones that do often attract venture capital. Their funding rounds come in waves. Seed capital is money used to start a business, often led by angel investors and friends or family. Series A financing is typically drawn from venture capitalists. The round aims to help a startup’s founders make sure that their product is something that customers truly want to buy. Series B financing is mainly about venture capitalist firms helping a company grow faster. These fundraising rounds can assist in recruiting skilled workers and developing cost-effective marketing. Series C financing is ordinarily about helping a company expand, such as through acquisitions. In addition to VCs, hedge funds, investment banks, and private equity firms often participate. Series D, E and beyond These mainly mature businesses and the funding round may help a company prepare to go public or be acquired. A variety of types of private investors might participate.  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 >>

AMID THE PANDEMIC, ENTREPRENEURS CAN STILL FIND OPPORTUNITY

The crisis provides fertile ground for startups in spaces like telehealth and touch-lessRead More >> payment. Other startups will need to get creative.  Business can be divided into two categories: those that have COVID headwinds—think restaurant suppliers whose customers are struggling to survive—and those with COVID tailwinds—think telehealth technology firms that have never seen more demand.  But that doesn’t mean that startups with headwinds are doomed. Instead, entrepreneurs must harness the innovative spirit that drives them and adjust to the moment.  Overall, fewer businesses are started during recessions. And the ones that are start smaller than those formed during boom years.  The good news, however, is that recession-born businesses tend to be more productive, as measured by revenue per employee. And startups during a recession tend to be grouped into industries that rely heavily on innovation.  In the last financial crisis of 2008, society’s growing distrust of financial institutions led to startups like Venmo and Square.  Today, people should expect to see innovations in a wide range of industries. For example, healthcare innovations will likely address both drug development and telehealth delivery. There will likely be new types of automation in manufacturing to allow for social distancing between employees. And, for supply chains, she anticipates more real-time monitoring, so companies can manage customer expectations in the event of disruptions.  Investors are approaching startups and saying, ’I know you’re not planning on raising for 12 months, but I want to preempt that round.’  What they’re really saying is, ‘I have FOMO. I have fear of missing out. I want to get my money into your company because it’s going to grow so fast and I want to get it in now. I’m willing to take the additional risk because I see the future.’  

THE TWO FACES OF LEADERSHIP

The first face is heroic. It’s what leaders use to inspire and motivate, role-model behavior and express an enthralling vision. The second is more practical. It’s the face leaders assume behind the scenes as they preside over the processes that keep the organisation running smoothly. For their plans to succeed, leaders must face in both directions at once. The problem is that as leadership development ballooned into a global US$366 billion industry, it has fixated on the public face at the expense of the process-oriented one. Leadership is a hotter topic than ever, but its popular image only brings half the picture into focus. Star leaders should do the following heavy lifting in the background of their organization: scanning and sense-making, building and locking in commitment, handling contradictions, harnessing culture, and developing talent and capabilities. Scanning and sense-making allows leaders to reality-check their strategy. Building and locking in commitment to a strategy requires more than a dynamite PowerPoint presentation. First and foremost, generating consensus, or at least a good-faith acceptance, hinges on the level of openness involved in the process. Handling contradictions consists of trade-offs to help leaders cope with contrasting mandates, e.g. the need for hierarchy vs. the comparative agility of decentralized decision making, the wisdom of thinking long-term vs. the imperative to deliver quarterly shareholder returns. Harnessing culture occurs through indirection. Developing talent and capabilities encompasses more than spotting superstars in the making and giving them opportunities to shine.  Read More >>

NETWORKING IN THE NEW REALITY

Curiosity and reciprocity, plus some ingenuity, will help you build relationships in the age of Zoom.  To many people, networking feels a bit like squeezing into trousers one size too small. But networking is essential if you wish to amass the social capital indispensable to a successful career. Its importance has not diminished with the overnight explosion of remote working. If anything, networking has become more critical, as jobs and advancement opportunities are swept away by the coronavirus.  Building connections in times like these will require out-of-the-box thinking as well as the same deliberateness and perspectives that characterised effective networking before the world changed.  If you think you don’t have anything to offer, change your thinking.  In the era of Zoom and reduced face-to-face contact, what could you do to maintain and even expand your network?  Here’s how: First, set aside one to two hours of 15-minute slots every week. Then, announce on LinkedIn or other social media, or your company intranet that you’re hosting 15-minute conversations to exchange ideas and give advice. Be sure to indicate your areas of interest or expertise to invite relevant conversations. Ask interested participants to give you two sentences on why they’re reaching out to you, “so that you’re not just getting random people”.  With the right attitude and framing, networking need not be a pain.  Approach the world as if you always have something to learn. Consider reaching out as a way of learning or giving. It might even feel good.  Read More >>

AS THE CRISIS DRAGS ON, HERE’S HOW LEADERS CAN MAINTAIN MOMENTUM

Once upon a time, back in early March, many people expected that the coronavirus would place a temporary pause on normal life. People would be out of the office for a few weeks, kids would switch to remote learning for a bit, but then everything would go back to how it was. Now, three months later, it’s clear that we’re in this crisis—the public-health crisis and the ensuing economic one—for the long haul. It is important to make sure that whatever one is doing, one is acting in line within the values of one’s organization and personal psyche. This can be particularly hard in a crisis, when emotions run high, and stress takes a toll on people mentally and physically. Leaders should also be asking specific questions in the midst of a crisis because the landscape has likely shifted from where it was pre-crisis or even early on in the crisis. For one thing, risk may look very different than it did three months ago. Crucial in all of this is that leaders not overlook the human dimension of a crisis, which has been particularly acute during this pandemic. And business leaders should be seeking to help their communities these days.  Read More >>

HAS VENTURE CAPITAL STRAYED FROM ITS ROOTS?

‘Venture capital’ has become a household concept. There is a proliferation of funds, valued at almost US$300 billion globally. It has turned into an asset class of its own – generating interest from traditional sources of finance like pension funds and family offices but also the retail investor who wants a slice of the entrepreneurial action. We see the rise of the professional entrepreneur, a career path that seems as normal as banking or engineering. Venture capital, just by the size of the funds under management today, has become a ‘financial art’ of sorts. It has not only become institutionalised, one could say that it has indeed become commoditised. Consider the portfolio approach to investments, where one bets on the probability that some will pay off while others won’t. The “1 in 10” thought process also means that venture capitalists today have to be brutal about cutting off the losers and backing the winners, doubling down on those that may stand that 10x chance of winning the odds. Has the time come for us to rethink VC in today’s world? Business, if treated as a force for good, can only create a system that generates returns in an ethical, balanced way.  Read More >>

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