Clay Christensen Interview

Business Week interviews the author of “The Innovator’s Dilemma” on the 10th anniversary of the book’s publication.

The book’s themethat good management is no guard against the disruptive power of new entrants who go after new customer groups or low-end marketsremains important today. “More than ever it has become shorthand for a classic problem,” says Patrick Whitney, director of the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology. “People never have to explain it, they just mention Clayton’s name or The Innovator’s Dilemma and everyone gets what the problem is.”

Ten years later, however, the innovation landscape is rather different. Globalization has exponentially expanded where threats lie. Design thinking and its focus on the customer has captured the minds of managers. And as chief executives increasingly look to reinvent their business models, innovation is no longer defined in terms of mere technological breakthroughs. So how relevant is a book that chronicles the upending of the disk drive, steel, and earth excavator industries?

Targeted Online Marketing

WSJ writes:

“The future of digital media is less about distribution and more about understanding the audience’s interests and being able to project that anywhere,” says Bill Gossman, president and chief executive officer of independently owned behavioral-targeting firm Revenue Science.

Similar targeting is what made search-related advertising so popular: Advertisers could buy links to key search words so their ads show up only when people search for a particular term. This technique extends that concept to display, video or other “rich media” ads — such as animated characters dancing across a screen. Spending on behaviorally targeted ads in these categories reached $350 million in 2006, according to a recent analysis by eMarketer, which predicts the category could reach $1 billion in 2008 and then nearly quadruple to $3.8 billion by 2011.

Nokia’s Re-org

Nokiia writes about its re-organisation, which heralds a shift from a pure devices services to a blended devices-software-services strategy:

“The convergence of the mobile communications and internet industries is opening up new growth opportunities for us, both in the devices business as well as in consumer internet services and enterprise solutions. Growing consumer demand for rich, mobile experiences creates an opportunity for change. Nokia will bring these capabilities to the broadest range of devices and price points. This unleashes the power of Nokia’s device volumes, now coupled with new services and business solutions. This distinctive approach sets Nokia apart from point solutions vendors,” said Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo. “We believe this new organization can capitalize on these opportunities while allowing us to increase the effectiveness of our investments and the efficiency of our operations.”

Under the new organization, Nokia’s current business group and horizontal group structure in the device business will be replaced by three main units: Devices, responsible for creating the best device portfolio for the marketplace; Services & Software, reflecting Nokia’s strategic emphasis on growing its offering of consumer internet services and enterprise solutions and software; and Markets, responsible for management of Nokia’s supply chains, sales channels and marketing activities.

New Social Media

Robert Scoble writes about Jaiku, Twitter, Facebook, Kyte and Plaxo. “Why am I using these services nearly every hour of my waking life? Because they are being talked about and I want to learn what is making people so passionate nearly everyone in the industry I meet either loves these things or despises them. It seems that every conversation lately is about one of these five services and how theyre potentially changing how we communicate with each other. Translation: theres a lot of hype here and were trying to figure out what they are good for and whether the hype is justified. In my opinion: it is.”

Vinod Khosla’s Energy Portfolio

Suhit Anantula lists out the companies and writes: “The best part of the above list is not even the sheer scale of his investments. It is his understanding of the big picture in energy options and dividing all his investments based on specific area including energy efficiency. He is betting wide in this area which may suggest that one, he is not yet decided on the best combination of alternative energy options that will be needed or two, we can interpret that it is a combination of sources combined with energy efficiency measures that will make the difference.”

TECH TALK: Good Books: The Ghost Map

Steven Johnson’s book Emergence was one of the inspirations for this blog’s title. His newest book is The Ghost Map. It is about the 1854 cholera epidemic in London. This is what Publisher’s Weekly wrote: In August 28, 1854, working-class Londoner Sarah Lewis tossed a bucket of soiled water into the cesspool of her squalid apartment building and triggered the deadliest outbreak of cholera in the city’s history. In this tightly written page-turner, Johnson uses his considerable skill to craft a story of suffering, perseverance and redemption that echoes to the present day. Describing a city and culture experiencing explosive growth, with its attendant promise and difficulty, Johnson builds the story around physician John Snow. In the face of a horrifying epidemic, Snow (pioneering developer of surgical anesthesia) posited the then radical theory that cholera was spread through contaminated water rather than through miasma, or smells in the air. Against considerable resistance from the medical and bureaucratic establishment, Snow persisted and, with hard work and groundbreaking research, helped to bring about a fundamental change in our understanding of disease and its spread. Johnson weaves in overlapping ideas about the growth of civilization, the organization of cities, and evolution to thrilling effect. From Snow’s discovery of patient zero to Johnson’s compelling argument for and celebration of cities, this makes for an illuminating and satisfying read.

Here is what Steven Johnson wrote after finishing the first draft of the book:

This book has a single, sustained narrative line running through it, a first for me. It’s the story of the Broad Street cholera outbreak that took place in London in September of 1854. The outbreak itself was arguably the deadliest in London’s history — it literally decimated the western side of Soho, killing more than ten percent of the population there in a matter of eight days — but it is most famous for the map that the physician and epidemiologist John Snow made of the outbreak, a map that eventually helped convince the world that cholera was in fact a waterborne illness, and not transmitted via the air as the then-dominant miasma theory maintained.

In many ways, the story of Broad Street is all about the triumph of a certain kind of urbanism in the face of great adversity, the power of dense cities to create solutions to problems that they themselves have brought about. So many of the issues that define the modern world today — the runaway growth of megacities, environmental crises, fears of apocalyptic epidemics, digital mapping, the need for clean water, urban terror, the rise of amateur expertise — are there, in embryo, in the Broad Street outbreak.

So The Ghost Map is in part a disease thriller, with some genuinely spooky and unsettling narrative turns. But it also widens its focus to tell the history of London’s sewer system, the evolutionary history of bacteria, the biological and cultural roots of the miasma theory, the bizarre waste management techniques of Victorian society, and so on. It is the story of ten days in London in 1854, but it’s also an attempt to tell that story at three different scales of experience: from the point of view of the humans living through it, but also from the point of view of the cholera itself, and the city.

Tomorrow: The Ghost Map (continued)

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