The Trade War with China Could Accelerate 3-D Printing in the U.S.

SAUL LOEB/Getty Images

Vice President Pence just made it all but official: The United States is in a cold war with China. Fed up with Beijing’s industrial espionage, market manipulation, and cyber attacks on the West, coupled with its bullying of neighbors and repression at home, the Trump administration announced a series of strong steps to fight back.

Since the Chinese think their time on the global stage has come, they aren’t likely to back down anytime soon. That spells trouble for American manufacturers with global supply chains. Undoubtedly, it will accelerate the reshoring of items now sourced in China. As companies rethink their supply chains, they ought to seriously consider embracing a new manufacturing technology that’s now ready for prime time: 3-D printing.

No longer relegated to trinkets and prototyping, 3-D printing, which is also called additive manufacturing, is now moving into mass production. Printer makers have

Continue reading "The Trade War with China Could Accelerate 3-D Printing in the U.S."

How Competition Is Driving AI’s Rapid Adoption

Tomohiro Ohsumi /Getty Images

Artificial intelligence (AI) is engendering all kinds of breathless headlines, from being able to play Go to spotting rare cancer tumors. But how will AI impact the economy in broad terms? The answer hinges on both on what AI can be used for and the dynamics of a competitive race to adopt AI that’s set to unfold between firms.

New research from the McKinsey Global Institute simulates the potential global macroeconomic impact of five powerful technologies (computer vision, natural language, virtual assistants, robotic process automation, and advanced machine learning). It finds that AI could (in aggregate and netting out competition effects and transition costs) deliver an additional $13 trillion to global GDP by 2030, averaging about 1.2% GDP growth a year across the period. This would compare well with the impact of steam during the 1800s, robots in manufacturing in the 1900s, and IT during

Continue reading "How Competition Is Driving AI’s Rapid Adoption"

The Tightrope Google Has to Walk in China

HBR Staff

With over 1.3 billion people, the Chinese consumer market is a tempting target for Western technology companies. Of course, it’s also a risky place to do business. The recent news that Google is considering a re-entry into China further highlights a troubling balancing act faced by technology companies looking to do business there. The company last entered China in 2006 with a censored search engine, but pulled the plug on the operation four years later after it discovered that human-rights activists’ Gmail accounts had been hacked. While the economic opportunity in re-entering China could be massive for the firm, there are very real dangers for Google or any internet firm in underestimating the threat posed by Chinese meddling.

Any internet platform company doing business in China has to negotiate a major business and ethical dilemma: The Chinese government enforces overbearing regulations that censor speech in the name

Continue reading "The Tightrope Google Has to Walk in China"

How We Teach Digital Skills at PwC

Photography by Bob/Getty Images

Across our society and in all industries, leaders and their organizations are racing to unlock the value of data, tech-enable business processes, and create better, more digitally-enhanced experiences for customers, clients, and employees. They are working to disrupt their own businesses before somebody else does. This cannot be done without substantial investment in talent. With about 500,000 unfilled tech jobs in the U.S., a number that’s widely anticipated to double by 2020, executives know they can’t hire their way out of the need for upskilled employees. And workers are keenly focused on organizations that will invest in their development and help secure their future in a digital, data-driven economy.

Executives find themselves confronted with decisions about whether to acquire expertise from outside the company, through recruiting, partnerships, or acquisitions. But they can often overlook the idea of upskilling their current workforce. Upskilling can be

Continue reading "How We Teach Digital Skills at PwC"

5 Ways Your Data Strategy Can Fail

Mint Images/Getty Images

There are plenty of great ideas and techniques in the data space: from analytics to machine learning to data-driven decision making to improving data quality. Some of these ideas that have been around for a long time and are fully vetted, proving themselves again and again. Others have enjoyed wide socialization in the business, popular, and technical press. Indeed, The Economist proclaimed that data are now “the world’s most valuable asset.”

With all these success stories and such a heady reputation, one might expect to see companies trumpeting sustained revenue growth, permanent reductions in cost structures, dramatic improvements in customer satisfaction, and other benefits.  Except for very few, this hasn’t happened. Paradoxically, “data” appear everywhere but on the balance sheet and income statement. Indeed, the cold reality is that for most, progress is agonizingly slow.

It takes a lot to succeed with data. As the

Continue reading "5 Ways Your Data Strategy Can Fail"

What We Often Get Wrong About Automation

Katsumi KASAHARA/Getty Images

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.

Why Doctors Shouldn’t Dismiss the Apple Watch’s New ECG App

Apple recently announced a new feature to the Apple Watch: the latest version will be able to measure heart rhythms and notify patients about abnormal, and potentially harmful, patterns. Doctors, however, are skeptical. Their biggest concern is that the feature hasn’t been rigorously tested and could provide unreliable data, creating a false sense of risk among users and leading patients to ask for unnecessary tests.

While these concerns are valid, doctors shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the new feature, particularly as it appears amidst growing consumer enthusiasm for wearable devices that measure health behaviors.  The Apple Watch has the potential to provide valuable data that benefits the entire health care community.

Monitoring the heart

The ECG app, debuting later this year in the new Apple Watch Series 4, allows users to touch the digital crown to generate an ECG in 30 seconds. ECG stands for electrocardiogram, a recording of

Continue reading "Why Doctors Shouldn’t Dismiss the Apple Watch’s New ECG App"

The Chairman of Nokia on Ensuring Every Employee Has a Basic Understanding of Machine Learning — Including Him


I’ve long been both paranoid and optimistic about the promise and potential of artificial intelligence to disrupt — well, almost everything. Last year, I was struck by how fast machine learning was developing and I was concerned that both Nokia and I had been a little slow on the uptake. What could I do to educate myself and help the company along?

As chairman of Nokia, I was fortunate to be able to worm my way onto the calendars of several of the world’s top AI researchers. But I only understood bits and pieces of what they told me, and I became frustrated when some of my discussion partners seemed more intent on showing off their own advanced understanding of the topic than truly wanting me to get a handle on “how does it really work.”

I spent some time complaining. Then I realized that

Continue reading "The Chairman of Nokia on Ensuring Every Employee Has a Basic Understanding of Machine Learning — Including Him"

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.

Download this podcast

How Mount Sinai Health System Fosters Collaboration to Fight Cancer

Alice Mollon/Getty Images

Precision cancer medicine — sequencing a patient’s DNA in order to customize cancer treatments — shows promise, but is very much in its infancy. It’s still not nearly precise enough to launch a winning battle against many forms of cancer. To dramatically advance in this field, clinicians, medical researchers, and computer scientists must substantially deepen their collaboration.

This is a challenge for most academic medical centers, which are typically hierarchical, segmented organizations. The hospital stands apart from the medical school, and for employees of each to join forces, the chains of command must approve. Granting researchers access to extraordinary computational brainpower, essential for some of today’s medical research, often requires even more authorization.

The Mount Sinai Health System is organized differently from most, as one integrated institution. Doctors from the seven Mount Sinai hospitals work side by side with researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Continue reading "How Mount Sinai Health System Fosters Collaboration to Fight Cancer"

Finding Purpose in the Pursuit of Profits

What is a Company’s purpose? To be profitable, and self sustaining, while providing a product or service.

But can it make a difference, not just make money?

The answer is yes, and this has been the key question in my mind for the past few years. Both personally and professionally, I’ve gone through a process where I’ve evaluated how I work and what I work on, and how I might be able to make a difference within my sphere of influence.

This isn’t a navel-gazing or self promotion post, so I’m not listing the things I’ve done or am doing, but rather posting this in case you are thinking the same thing. Maybe my process can help with your thinking. Or maybe you’re way ahead of me on this, and you write back with some tips for me. Both would be super.

See, I was deeply unhappy with work. I

Continue reading "Finding Purpose in the Pursuit of Profits"

Why Agile Goes Awry — and How to Fix It

Dual Dual/Getty Images

In the spirit of becoming more adaptive, organizations have rushed to implement Agile software development. But many have done so in a way that actually makes them less agile. These companies have become agile in name only, as the process they’ve put in place often ends up hurting engineering motivation and productivity.

Agile software development

Frameworks for adaptive software development like Agile, have been around for a long time, and have manifested in many forms. But at the heart of most of these models are two things: forming hypotheses (e.g., what is a feature supposed to accomplish) and collaborating across domains of expertise on experiments, all in the spirit of driving learning and not careening down a path that proves to be incorrect.

When Agile software development was born in 2001, it articulated a set of four critical principles to elevate the craft of

Continue reading "Why Agile Goes Awry — and How to Fix It"

Stablecoins Galore

Several big announcements this morning: Gemini, headed by the Winklevoss twins, announced that they had received approval to issue its first cryptocurrency, a stablecoin called the Gemini Dollar (“GD”). Designed to facilitate the use of cryptocurrency as a medium of exchange, each GD will be backed by a US dollar, “in order to give it the stability of the fiat currency and the speed and borderless nature of a cryptocurrency”. Notable in this announcement is a partnership with State Street Bank, which will hold the cash deposit account tied to the GD. Gemini also acquired a crypto custody patent last week (link here).

Over the past year, several stablecoin projects have raised capital including Basis, Reserve and Carbon. Also announced today by itBit (the 50th largest crypto exchange in the world): a stablecoin initiative and related regulatory approval. In last week’s newsletter, I linked to the funding announcement for Continue reading "Stablecoins Galore"

Drinking from a Firehose

The pace of news announcements over the last week shows the blockchain sector hasn’t received the August doldrums memo. Overall crypto markets improved, with Bitcoin hovering near $7000. Many other cryptocurrencies have seen more modest recoveries. NEO, often touted as China’s Ethereum, ends August with a 40% decline, the worst performing “large cap” currency of the month.

Behind the scenes, we’ve seen much development progress. Filecoin, which had one of the largest ICOs of 2017, published its quarterly update with its first demos. The World Bank exceeded its $73M target for its first blockchain settled bond, raising $81M from investors that included Northern Trust. Enigma, which spun out of MIT and raised a $45M ICO last year, announced 8 launch partners for its encrypted “secret contracts” platform. Privacy is one of the hot topics in the cryptocurrency world, with several different approaches including Monero, ZCash and Blockstream’s Confidential Transactions. I’m Continue reading "Drinking from a Firehose"

Research: Cloud Computing Is Helping Smaller, Newer Firms Compete

Ansgar Schwarz/EyeEm/Getty Images

Is digital technology a democratizing force, allowing smaller, newer companies to compete against giant ones? Or does it provide even greater advantage to incumbents? That question has gotten a lot of attention lately, in response to data showing that the rate of new business creation in the U.S. has slowed, and that in most industries the biggest firms have higher market share than they did a decade ago.

Despite those trends, our research suggests that technology can in fact provide an advantage to small and new firms. In recent research, we studied the adoption of cloud computing across U.S. businesses. Cloud computing is an IT paradigm based on remote access to a shared pool of computing resources. Putting data “in the cloud” essentially means paying someone else to manage it, and then connecting to their servers via the internet to access your data when you

Continue reading "Research: Cloud Computing Is Helping Smaller, Newer Firms Compete"

Understanding Digital Strategy

Sunil Gupta, a professor at Harvard Business School, argues that many companies are still doing digital strategy wrong. Their leaders think of “going digital” as either a way to cut costs or to attract customers with a flashy new app. Gupta says successful digital strategy is more complicated than that. He recommends emulating the multi-faceted strategies of leading digital companies. Gupta’s the author of Driving Digital Strategy: A Guide to Reimagining Your Business.

Download this podcast

Why We Shouldn’t Worry About the Declining Number of Public Companies

westend61/Getty Images

Elon Musk recently tweeted that he intends to take Tesla private, that is, to take Tesla off U.S. stock exchanges. In a parallel development, the number of companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges has declined by almost 50% from its peak in 1996, despite dramatic increase in aggregate market capitalization. Many conjectures have been offered to explain this controversial trend. We offer a new explanation: the rising role of digital firms in the U.S. economy.

The number of listed firms can decline because of three developments: 1) bankruptcy, failure, or closure of listed firms, 2) delisting of firms going private or acquired, and 3) decrease in number of initial public offerings (IPOs). All three factors have become more common over time, which we argue stems from firms’ increasing reliance on intangible and knowledge inputs in their business models.

Emerging digital firms compete with knowledge,

Continue reading "Why We Shouldn’t Worry About the Declining Number of Public Companies"

Discussing All Things VC On The Recode Decode Podcast

A few weeks ago, I sat in “the red chair” of Recode Media’s Decode Podcast recording studio in San Francisco. Most tech podcasts I’ve been on are usually recorded in some back room or startup side room, but not this episode… no, no. Recode’s senior finance reporter, Teddy Schleifer, was kind enough to host me on the famous “Recode Decode” podcast and the episode aired today. You can listen to our discussion above via SoundCloud, or by clicking here (for my favorite mobile app for podcasts).

Ted guided us through a fantastic discussion that touches on many facets of what I’ve observed in the world of venture capital — how to break in, how to land a role, how firms think about hiring, what processes firms use to make an investment decisions, how the public has come to think of venture capital, what the limits of VCs are, why Continue reading "Discussing All Things VC On The Recode Decode Podcast"

Corporate Cybersecurity Is Becoming Geopolitical. Are U.S. Tech Companies Ready?

Eric Frommelt/Getty Images

This week’s news that Microsoft, Facebook, FireEye, and Google disrupted ongoing Russian and Iranian influence campaigns should garner significant attention in corporate boardrooms. The revelation of this fresh round of foreign hacking highlights important points about the intersection of business, geopolitics, and hacking that too often go overlooked — points that are especially important for platform businesses.

Even if geopolitics is the root cause of hacking attempts, corporations may find themselves on the front lines — both as victims but also, increasingly, as defenders. The coordinated action by Microsoft and the cybersecurity company FireEye, coupled with similar action by Facebook and, later, Google, demonstrates as much. The role of the U.S. government in pushing back against these foreign intelligence operations remains at best uncertain, though we can assume that classification and secrecy hide some actions from the public. Nonetheless, as Eric Rosenbach, then a senior cyber

Continue reading "Corporate Cybersecurity Is Becoming Geopolitical. Are U.S. Tech Companies Ready?"

What Tech Companies Can Do to Become a Force for Inclusion

pm images/Getty Images

“You know, I believe that technology is the great leveler. Technology permits anybody to play. And in some ways, I think technology — it’s not only a great tool for democratization, but it’s a great tool for eliminating prejudice.”

Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, said that to TechCrunch in 2010, but the line from then to now is the graph of our growing disenchantment with tech. Tech was supposed to unify society and increase inclusion, but for the most part it hasn’t worked out that way.

Long before its current crises, tech gained a reputation for elitism, ”brogrammer“ culture, and an overrepresentation of white and East Asian men (albeit with mostly white ones in management.) Moreover, because tech roles have seemed inaccessible to those without a technical degree, the sector’s high-paying jobs have been assumed to exacerbate social divides, not narrow them.

And, in fact,

Continue reading "What Tech Companies Can Do to Become a Force for Inclusion"