Is The Deck Stacked Against Disruptive Innovation?

The Wall Street Journal: “Anshu Sharma, a venture capitalist at Storm Ventures, thinks he knows why so many companies that should have all the resources and brainpower required to build the next big thing so often fail to do so. He calls his thesis the ‘stack theory’ … the mistaken belief that” building something new is a simple matter of “moving up the stack.”

The “stack” is a “layer cake of technology, one level of abstraction sitting atop the next that ultimately delivers a product or service to the user.” IBM, for example, “moved up the stack from making things that compute to selling the services that computation enables … Google tried to move up the stack from search to social networking.” Apple apparently hopes to move up the stack to make electric cars.

According to Mr. Sharma, failure to move up the stack happen when the company lacks empathy for its customers and doesn’t understand its customers’ wants or needs. It’s generally easier to move down the stack (e.g., Tesla builds its own batteries because it knows its own requirements). Uber would be more likely to succeed at building its own cars than General Motors would be at creating a ride-sharing service. That’s because “Uber has the advantage of knowing exactly what it needs in a vehicle for such a service.”

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Volvo Promises a Death-Proof Car by 2020

Christian Science Monitor: “Volvo says its “vehicles will be death-proof by 2020, making good on industry promises that autonomous vehicles are not just cool, but life-saving … Volvo’s 2020 plans will bring together sensor technology like adaptive cruise control, which can work in stop-and-go commuter traffic; it’s already an option in its XC90 SUV, which won the North American Truck of the Year award and a Top Safety Pick Plus from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.”

“The company’s supposedly death-defying cars will also use sensing and alerting technology to let drivers know when it senses the car is going off the road, turning into oncoming traffic, or about to hit a cyclist or large animal — and if that doesn’t work, they’ll put on the brakes automatically. The vehicles will even keep an eye out for sleepy or distracted drivers, sounding a warning if erratic driving suggests someone’s nodding off behind the wheel.”

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Ace of Lace: Adidas Soccer Boot Fits Like a Glove

Gizmag: “Dubbed the ACE 16+ Purecontrol, Adidas’ newest wheels do away with conventional laces and use a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) cage to secure the middle part of the foot. There’s also an internal locking system and the upper section is made from a combination of open and loose knitted structures, something called Primeknit which featured in Adidas’ all-in-one boot/sock hybrid concept from 2014.”

“The upshot of all this is, according to Adidas, a football boot that fits like a glove and offers closer ball control thanks to its larger surface area and absence of pesky laces. Beginning this weekend, some of the world’s most high-profile footballers will slip into the ACE 16+ Purecontrols and take to the field in professional competition … There’s no word on pricing, but a limited number will then become available in Adidas’ flagship stores in Paris, Marseille, London, Barcelona and Manchester and from selected retail partners.”

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Strat-O-Matic Reinvents Itself Using Big Data

A board game from the 1960s has been updated with “digital” cards using algorithms and big data, reports The New York Times. In the past, Strat-O-Matic, a “baseball simulation game,” was “played using cards for each player based on statistics from the previous season.” In its latest iteration, called Baseball Daily, the cards are “updated daily,” allowing players “to play games in the present,” says Adam Richman, son of the game’s founder, Hal Richman.

“Every year, we try to push forward digitally,” Adam says. “We need to rethink how we are doing everything.” He adds: “This is a natural evolution that will allow more engagement for our fans and expand our purview.” The hope is that Baseball Daily will “scoop up some daily gamers who have been flocking to the fantasy sports sites FanDuel and DraftKings, although Baseball Daily does not involve cash prizes and is structured differently.”

Strat-O-Matic is also developing apps. Traditionalists will, of course, be able to continue play Strat-O-Matic the old-fashioned way, using last year’s data.

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Is Creative Genius Geographical?

From a review of The Geography of Genius by Eric Weiner in The Wall Street Journal: “Why is it that genius isn’t equally distributed over time and place but rather flares up briefly in certain places and then disappears again? … The Athenians abhorred professionalism. Soldiers were poets, and poets were politicians. This led to an extraordinary cross-fertilization of ideas and talents quite alien to our era of hyperspecialization. In Hangzhou … Chinese genius, unlike the Greek or Austrian kind, was free of metaphysical anguish. The Chinese reveled in painting, writing, invention and adventure as the Europeans staggered out of the Middle Ages, and they seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves.”

“Athens honored wisdom and got Socrates. Rome honored power and got an empire. The 19th-century Viennese honored high culture and the life of the mind and got Beethoven and Freud. Today wealthy patrons in fleece vests pay tens of thousands of dollars to watch alleged geniuses give 17-minute accounts of their work at TED conferences. They support medical research and plans to improve education. They are seeking ways to prolong and enrich human life for more people. This might not yield us the Sistine Chapel, but it may be as worthwhile.”

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If Apple Made a Washer-Dryer

Business Insider: “With the Marathon washer/dryer, the goal is to collect enough data to figure out that one perfect temperature that works for 90% of laundry loads, the same way that the Apple design aesthetic is just perfect for the vast majority of users.

From there, you can start thinking about all kinds of science-fictional stuff. For instance, a Marathon spokesperson says that it’s not out of the question that one day, the machine could identify the stains on your clothes and automatically apply the best treatment.”

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What is Serendipity?

While serendipity often involves accidents, it is not accidental, or passive, writes Pagan Kennedy, author of Inventology, in The New York Times. The term itself was coined in 1754 by Horace Walpole, and was based on “a Persian fairy tale about three princes from the Isle of Serendip who possess superpowers of observation.”

In other words, “serendipity … is something people do … That’s why we need to develop a new, interdisciplinary field — call it serendipity studies — that can help us create a taxonomy of discoveries in the chemistry lab, the newsroom, the forest, the classroom, the particle accelerator and the hospital.”

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