What We Often Get Wrong About Automation

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When leaders describe how advances in automation will affect job prospects for humans, predictions typically fall into one of two camps. Optimists say that machines will free human workers to do higher-value, more creative work. Pessimists predict massive unemployment, or, if they have a flair for the dramatic, a doomsday scenario in which humans’ only job is to serve our robot overlords.

What almost everyone gets wrong is focusing exclusively on the idea of automation “replacing” humans. Simply asking which humans will be replaced fails to account for how work and automation will evolve. Our new book, Reinventing Jobs: A 4-Step Approach for Applying Automation to Work, argues that while automation can sometimes substitute for human work, it also more importantly has the potential to create new, more valuable, and more fulfilling roles for humans.

How Companies Can Tap Into Talent Clusters

Bill Kerr, a professor at Harvard Business School, studies the increasing importance of talent clusters in our age of rapid technological advances. He argues that while talent and industries have always had a tendency to cluster, today’s trend towards San Francisco, Boston, London and a handful of other cities is different. Companies need to react and tap into those talent pools, but moving the company to one isn’t always an option. Kerr talks about the three main ways companies can access talent. He’s the author of the HBR article “Navigating Talent Hot Spots,” as well as the book The Gift of Global Talent: How Migration Shapes Business, Economy & Society.

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Why Companies Are Creating Their Own Coworking Spaces

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Nestled in the Silicon Sentier district of Paris, the Villa Bonne Nouvelle (“House of Good News”), or VBN, initially appears to be another new coworking space. But what sets it apart is that only half of its 60 occupants are freelancers. The remainder work for Orange (née French Telecom), which launched VBN in 2014 to teach its programmers and engineers how to work with and learn from people outside of the company.

The experiment succeeded: Teams temporarily stationed there worked better and faster than colleagues elsewhere, and they reported greater satisfaction and engagement (along with bouts of depression upon returning to the office). Even the HR executives managing the space were surprised by their bonhomie. More villas are now in the works.

Orange describes its approach as “corpoworking,” a cousin to coworking. It’s not alone in trying to jump on the trend of shared workspaces, of which

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Innovation Should Be a Top Priority for Boards. So Why Isn’t It?

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Corporate directors and executives alike recognize that today’s pace of change continues to accelerate and that firms need to innovate to stay ahead. But are boards doing enough to support innovation, as they should? We conducted a survey of over 5,000 board members from around the world to find out.

We found that, overall, innovation does not rank as a top strategic challenge for the majority of boards. Although directors in certain industries are more aware of the threat of disruption, the widespread lack of board-level engagement in innovation processes could be a major blind spot and a potential liability.

Setting Priorities

We found that concerns about innovation fall behind other issues for most directors. Fewer than one-third (30%) of respondents to our survey see innovation as one of the top three challenges their company faces in achieving its strategic objectives, and just 21% think

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Stars of Science, a reality TV “edutainment” competition for the Arab world, is set to celebrate its 10th anniversary, owing to its success as a show that rewards innovation above all else.

Within less than 20 years, the phenomenon commonly referred to as “reality TV” has fundamentally altered television viewing habits the world over. Though the genre of unscripted entertainment is as old as television itself, it was not until the early 2000s that viewers became enraptured by the sight of survivalists competing on desert islands, budding pop stars taking the stage, and business hopefuls getting fired by a future US president.

In the Arab world, reality TV is a similar cultural phenomenon, with nation-specific and regional competitions seeking to discover singing and dancing talents. But amid the array of options that offer fame as a reward for innate talent, there is a rare exception: Stars of Science, an

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How Companies Get Creativity Right (and Wrong)

Beth Comstock, the first female vice chair at General Electric, thinks companies large and small often approach innovation the wrong way. They either try to throw money at the problem before it has a clear market, misallocate resources, or don’t get buy in from senior leaders to enact real change. Comstock spent many years at GE – under both Jack Welsh’s and Jeffrey Immelt’s leadership – before leaving the company late last year. She’s the author of the book Imagine It Forward: Courage, Creativity, and the Power of Change.

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How Alibaba Is Leading Digital Innovation in China

Ming Zeng, the chief strategy officer at Alibaba, talks about how the China-based e-commerce company was able to create the biggest online shopping site in the world. He credits Alibaba’s retail and distribution juggernaut to leveraging automation, algorithms, and networks to better serve customers. And he says in the future, successful digital companies will use technologies such as artificial intelligence, the mobile internet, and cloud computing to redefine how value is created. Zeng is the author of Smart Business: What Alibaba’s Success Reveals about the Future of Strategy.

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Tesla, software and disruption

“We've learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone. PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They're not going to just walk in.” - Ed Colligan, CEO of Palm, 2006, on rumours of an Apple phone
“They laughed at Columbus and they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.” - Carl Sagan

When Nokia people looked at the first iPhone, they saw a not-great phone with some cool features that they were going to build too, being produced at a small fraction of the volumes they were selling. They shrugged. “No 3G, and just look at the camera!” 

When many car company people look at a Tesla, they see a not-great car with some cool features that they’re going to build too, being produced at a small fraction of the

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How to Hand Off an Innovation Project from One Team to Another

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Nearly every business leader I meet fears being overcome by tech-savvy upstarts. That fear drives their companies to invest millions into coming up with breakthrough innovations. But a sickening number of those investments fail. Truth is, you can have the right portfolio of investments, the right metrics and governance, the right stage-gate development process, and the right talent on the right teams — but if you don’t design the right handoffs between your teams, all of that planning falls apart.

If innovation projects are going to succeed, they’ll need to survive a handoff from an innovation team to an execution team. And every time you create a handoff, you risk dropping the baton.

Here’s an example. One major Asian electronics company built a design lab to develop new hardware product ideas. All too often, when the design lab passed a concept on to a product manager, like a computer customized

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When Companies Want to Innovate, But Investors Won’t Let Them

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Businesses understand the power of digital innovations to reshape industries and markets. Yet, time and again, they have struggled to innovate with new and disruptive technologies.

Clayton Christensen and others argue that an incumbent’s failure has little to do with the newness or complexity of the technology. Rather, it is often their acute focus on the needs of the most important customers that places stringent limits on what they can and cannot pursue. Our research implicates another important stakeholder, the firm’s investors, who may keep businesses tethered to existing technologies. In theory, investor incentives align with what is good for the firm. In practice, we find important differences.

Investors affect innovation investments

In our research, we first examined the drivers of firms’ investments in digital innovation and their subsequent market valuations. How investors value a firm matters a great deal in determining which firms are able

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Designing AI to Make Decisions

Kathryn Hume, VP of integrate.ai, discusses the current boundaries between artificially intelligent machines, and humans. While the power of A.I. can conjure up some of our darkest fears, she says the reality is that there is still a whole lot that A.I. can’t do. So far, A.I. is able to accomplish some tasks that humans might need a lot of training for, such as diagnosing cancer. But she says those tasks are actually more simple than we might think – and that algorithms still can’t replace emotional intelligence just yet. Plus, A.I. might just help us discover new business opportunities we didn’t know existed.

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The Right Way to Spend Your Innovation Budget

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Innovation is famously difficult — many projects end up losing money, frustrating employees, and going nowhere. And yet corporations and governments spend billions of dollars annually pursuing innovation. This huge spending would generate more value for businesses and societies if the innovation success rate were just a little higher. Is there a way to increase the success rate without spending more?

We think there is. Innovation projects often fail because the resources are spent on the wrong kind of innovation. Too much money is spent on attention-grabbing activities that are straightforward to do, like hiring new people, procuring new technologies, and buying more facilities. It is much less obvious, and usually harder, to change the design of a current service system, introduce new customer experiences, or build a better business model — but the return on those investments may be much higher.

Innovation needs to be considered

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The Biggest Obstacles to Innovation in Large Companies

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It turns out that the word “innovation” is not a Harry Potter-esque magical incantation that, once spoken, renders companies more inventive, creative, and entrepreneurial. The word can be uttered by a CEO speaking to employees or Wall Street analysts. It can be emblazoned on the door to a new innovation center in Silicon Valley. It can be inserted into people’s job titles. (Yes, even Toys R Us had a head of innovation.)

But there are thorny cultural, strategic, political, and budget issues that must be confronted by CEOs and other leaders if they want to ensure that their organizations can be hospitable to — rather than hostile to — new ideas.

In a survey fielded earlier this year for Innovation Leader, an online resource for corporate innovation teams of which I am editor, we asked about the most common obstacles to innovation in large companies. (To

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Two Questions to Ask Before You Set Up an Innovation Unit

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Despite good intentions—and widespread acceptance of the importance of innovation—efforts to innovate at large companies often lack a clear mission and framework, and as a result, they go off the rails.

At one large European energy company we consulted with, no less than four separate corporate functions were supposed to be working on innovation—yet none of them was supporting critical needs at the business unit level. To make matters worse, the various functions involved were competing internally for space and resources, while duplicating each other’s work.

Without realizing it, even well-managed businesses versed in modern management practices can generate an environment that is hostile to innovation. For all of these reasons, large companies need to have a distinct Innovation Unit headed up by a senior executive who ideally reports to the CEO.

In our work at the European Center for Strategic Innovation (ECSI), we have extensively

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How Regulation Could Help Cryptocurrencies Grow

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Ignorance may be bliss for some, but ask anyone in commerce or finance, and they will make it abundantly clear: Ignorance is risk. For that reason, U.S. markets embrace reasonable regulation to ensure transparency and fairness. Stocks are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), commodities by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and government currency by the Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve. But an emergent fourth asset class, cryptocurrencies, has no single regulator, and that is leading to uncertainty and confusion.

In early June the SEC announced the appointment of one of the agency’s veteran attorneys, Valerie Szczepanik, as associate director of the Division of Corporation Finance and senior adviser for Digital Assets and Innovation. This is a welcome development. As “crypto czar,” her job will be to rationalize the application of U.S. securities laws

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How Some Companies Beat the Competition… For Centuries

Howard Yu, Lego Professor of Management and Innovation at IMD Business School in Switzerland, discusses how the industrial cluster in the Swiss city of Basel is a unique example of enduring competitive advantage. He explains how early dye makers were able to continually jump to new capabilities and thrive for generations. He says the story of those companies offers a counter-narrative to the pessimistic view that unless your company is Google or Apple, you can’t stay ahead of the competition for long. Yu is the author of LEAP: How to Thrive in a World Where Everything Can Be Copied.

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3 Entrepreneurs Who Made It Their Mission to Lower Health Care Costs

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There is a healthcare crisis in the U.S. which cries out for breakthrough healthcare delivery innovations that aim at significant cost reductions and wider coverage. In 2016, the U.S. spent a staggering $3.2 trillion, or almost 18% of its GDP, on health care — that’s $10,000 per person, twice as much as any other country in the industrialized world. Innovation has the power to ratchet down U.S. costs quite dramatically over the next decade. We know this because in India innovators have found ways to deliver high-quality care to everyone — rich, poor, and virtually penniless — and make money doing it.

It all starts, as the stories below show, with purpose-driven leadership: a determination to provide high-quality, ultra-affordable health care to all, regardless of ability to pay:

Saving Eyesight at a Fraction of the Cost
Born and raised in Trichy, India, Kuppuswamy

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What Will Your Industry Look Like in 2030? – SPONSOR CONTENT FROM DELL TECHNOLOGIES

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Dell Technologies surveyed 3,800 business leaders from around the world to uncover their forecasts for the next decade. The research revealed a divided vision of the future but common ground on the need to transform and how.

Live from Dell Technologies World conference in May 2018, Matthew Saleski, global enterprise account executive at LinkedIn, sits down with Dell Technologies’ Stella Low, SVP of global communications, and Ari Lightman, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College to discuss an overview of realizing 2030.


Matthew Saleski, LinkedIn
Hi everybody, we’re live here at Dell Technologies World 2018. My name is Matthew Saleski. I’m a global account director at LinkedIn. I’m here with Stella Low, she’s the senior vice-president of Global Communications at Dell.

Stella Low, Dell Technologies
Hey Matt, great to see you.


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The Factors Behind China’s Growing Strength in Innovation

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In 2006, 26-year-old Frank Wang started up DJI in a dorm room at Hong Kong University of Science & Technology. The legend goes that Frank’s father had given him an expensive remote-controlled model helicopter for doing well in school. When the helicopter predictably crashed shortly after, Wang became determined to build a better controller. As part of his graduate thesis, he perfected an electronics flight controller, a critical element of drone technology. Today, Shenzhen-based DJI, of which one of us is a board member, holds a global market share of 70% in consumer drones and offers a window into the future of competition from China.

Western media has been quite critical of the Chinese miracle. The usual argument is that China has significant technology gaps, and that it has a long way to go before it can catch up with the West. But DJI is testament

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What the World’s Best Restaurant Knows About Keeping Its Creative Edge

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Many companies have soared on the wings of radical ideas, from Polaroid’s instant camera to the sharing economy of firms like Airbnb.

Chef Massimo Bottura likewise upended convention in 1995 when he opened his restaurant, Osteria Francescana, in Modena, Italy, and started serving radically reinvented Italian dishes in a culture that placed a premium on tradition. His daring proved no flash in the pan. In 2016, two decades after (barely) surviving the ire of locals to become a three-Michelin-star destination, Osteria secured the top spot on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. And it has just been named No. 1 again.

What seemed like a risky move at the time — rebelling against beloved recipes shared across generations — made Bottura a star. That success could have bred complacency, followed by failure, as so often happens in companies across industries. Instead, at Osteria Francescana, success set

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