The Attacker’s Advantage: Turning Uncertainty into Breakthrough Opportunities; Ram Charan; Public Affairs, New York; 2015, 228pp.
“Taking control of uncertainty is the fundamental leadership challenge of our time,” writes Ram Charan, a corporate advisor and author (with Larry Bossidy) of the bestselling Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done and other books. In Attacker’s Advantage, he explains, “the capabilities you need to succeed in this new era of frequent sharp bends in the road.”
Charan identifies these capabilities as:
- Perceptual acuity to see around corners and detect, ahead of others, those forces that could radically reshape a company or industry.
- A mindset to see opportunity in uncertainty.
- Ability to see a new path forward despite the unknowns, and position your business to make the next move ahead of competitors.
- Adeptness in breaking the blockages that can hold your company back, and knowing when to accelerate and when to shift the short-term and long-term balance.
- Skill in making your organization agile and steerable by aligning people, priorities, decision-making power, budgeting and capital allocation, and key performance indicators to the new realities of the marketplace.
His book provides tools and insights for developing these abilities and shows how companies like GE, Kaiser Permanente, Tata Communications, and Thomson Reuters have put them into practice.
THE FUTURE POSTPONED: Why Declining Investment in Basic Research Threatens a U.S. Innovation Deficit; MIT Committee to Evaluate the Innovation Deficit; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA; April 2015.
Alarmed that while European and Chinese competitors have been increasing their investment in basic research the U.S. federal budget devoted to R&D has declined from 10% in 1968 to 4% in 2015, an MIT committee of researchers and administrators examines the impact of these cutbacks on the future of U.S. science.
It identifies 15 opportunities in basic research that could strengthen the economy as well as benefit society broadly. For example, it calls for increased government support to expand research in neurobiology, brain chemistry, and the science of aging to develop new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
The committee, chaired by MIT physics professor Marc A. Kastner, emphasizes the opportunity for the U.S. to take a global leadership role in fusion energy research, robotics, quantum information technologies, and other areas. “There is no doubt that we will suffer if we do not keep up with those nations that are now making bigger investments than we are,” Prof. Kastner said.
“50 Years of Moore’s Law”; Special Report in IEEE Spectrum April 2015, pp.29ff.
The April 19, 1965 issue of the trade magazine Electronics carried a short article by then-Fairchild Semiconductor co-founder Gordon E. Moore titled. “Cramming more components onto integrated circuits.” It presented the now-famous graph showing the performance of integrated circuits doubling every 18 months, soon universally known as Moore’s Law despite being more prediction than law.
IEEE Spectrum’s tribute to “this miraculous development, which has so forcefully shaped our modern world,” comprises six articles, beginning with “The Multiple Lives of Moore’s Law,” which explains its endurance. Following are: “Transistors, by the Numbers,” detailing 50 years of price and production change; “Efficiency’s Brief Reprieve,” which explains that energy efficiency remains strong despite slowing performance gains; “When Mead Met Moore,” in which the then-new assistant professor recalls Moore handing him his first real transistors; “The Law That’s Not a Law,” an interview at Moore’s Hawaii home where Moore reflects on those 50 years; “Moore’s Law Is Dying (and That Could Be Good),” asserts that open-source hardware will benefit as transistor shrinkage slows.
“Unstructured Text Analytics to Support New Product Development Decisions”; Stephen K. Markham, Michael Kowolenko, and Timothy L. Michaelis; Research-Technology Management March-April 2015, pp. 30-39.
The authors, who teach and conduct research at North Carolina State University’s Center for Innovation Management Studies, explain how to use unstructured text analytics to support decision-making when developing new products and services.
They illustrate the use of unstructured data in real cases: judging the market reaction to a Kelly Services virtual staffing solution for healthcare; finding new sales opportunities for Pentair’s water treatment system; identifying new customers and market opportunities for Air Products and Chemicals. Stressing that big data analytics “is a tool, not an answer,” they advise users that their biggest challenge “is not the hardware or the software but rather the creation of an interdisciplinary team with the skills to think critically about business questions.”
“The Messy Business of Reinventing Happiness”; Austin Carr; Fast Company, May 2015, pp.100-116.
This report of how Disney went about modernizing its theme parks provides a journalist’s deep dive into how a big corporation brings about radical change. The division chairman’s repeated injunction “This better work” illustrates the stakes. Carr, Fast Company senior writer, pays particular attention to the strategy “every corporate rule-breaker has to figure out”; namely, how to combat the naysayer, “the keepers of these traditional flames.” At Disney this involved secrecy, outsourcing and more.
“10 Breakthrough Technologies 2015”; MIT Technology Review, March/April 2015, pp. 28ff.
The magazine’s annual selection of “the advances most likely to change the way we see the world in the coming decades” includes a new approach to creating 3-D imagery, nano-architecture, wireless car-to-car communication, Google’s Project Loon, the world’s largest modern seawater desalination plant, Apple Pay, a “liquid biopsy” technique, a method for growing human brain cells, a “supercharged” photosynthesis process, and a system for sending genetic information across the Internet.
“Serious Games as a Means for Scientific Knowledge Transfer—A Case for Engineering Management Education”; Tobias Mettler and Roberto Pinto; IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management Vol.62, No. 2 May 2015, pp.256-265.
Authors Mettler and Pinto—assistant professors at the universities of St. Gallen, in Switzerland, and Bergamo, in Italy, respectively— consider serious games a means of improving learning, motivation and cognitive thinking. Their paper presents a novel approach to designing a serious game to convey engineering or management –related research findings. They also discuss the challenges associated with the design and use of serious games for this purpose. One such challenge: finding the right balance between allowing players to easily understand the rules and dynamics without being trivial or unrepresentative of reality.
“The 5 Requirements of a Truly Innovative Company;” Gary Hamel and Nancy Tennant; hbr.org, April 27, 2015.
“When it comes to innovation, the gap between aspiration and accomplishment seems as big as ever, “assert Hamel, visiting professor at London Business School, and Tennant, Whirlpool Corp. VP for Innovation and Margin Realization.
Using the model of a car motor, they explain the top five parts they find most often missing from the innovation engine: employees taught to think like innovators; a definition of innovation that is sharp and shared; comprehensive innovation metrics; accountable and capable innovation leaders; “innovation-friendly” management processes.
Describing the “jumble of tools and methods” they typically encounter in organizations, they call for “innovation architects” rather than the typical chief innovation officer. “The ultimate goal is a company where innovation is “built in,” rather than “bolted on”—where it is instinctive for every individual, and intrinsic to the organization itself.”
Revisiting the STEM Workforce: A Companion to Science and Engineering Indicators 2014; National Science Board, National Science Foundation, NSB-2015-10, Arlington, VA. Feb. 4, 2015, 36 pp.
The National Science Foundation’s policymaking body draws on its biennial Science and Engineering Indicators report to highlight the growing need for STEM knowledge and skills in a 21st Century economy.
"The character of the STEM workforce is much more expansive than when NSF was founded 65 years ago," said National Science Board chairman Dan Arvizu. "New industries and the growing importance of STEM skills in jobs not traditionally thought of as STEM means that we must revisit what we mean by a 'STEM worker'."
The NSB report underscores the absence of a consensus definition of the STEM workforce. Today's STEM workforce includes employees across many disciplines and job arenas, possessing everything from non-degree certifications to Ph.D.s in STEM fields. It even includes individuals without a STEM degree who work in STEM jobs.
“The report's take-home message is that STEM knowledge and skills enable both individual opportunity and national competiveness," said Arvizu. "Ensuring access to high quality education and training experiences for all students at all levels and for all workers at all career stages, is absolutely essential. This is an ambitious goal, but we believe it's the right goal, and we hope others in government, education and industry will join the Board in exploring how best to achieve it."