Innovating in a Connected World

I recently read Bhaskar Chakravorti’s book “The Slow Pace of Fast Change: Bringing Innovations to Market in a Connected World.” There is an interview with him in Ubiquity [link via Viswanath Gondi]. A few quotes:

Fast change is any new idea, technology, innovation or product that makes a fundamental difference in our social, political or commercial lives. My argument is that the process by which technology has an impact is actually quite slow even if the intrinsic benefit of the innovation is enormous. It’s a point that seems to have been lost on many people in the last few years.

If you have a problem you must understand who the relevant actors are in that problem, what is the nature of the status quo, and what are the choices that explain the current gridlock. One actor may be doing things that constrain anybody else from adopting an innovation.

The current status quo is in a gridlock equilibrium because all the players are interconnected with each other. They are part of a network and they cannot act alone.

In order to get from here to there, you break down the problem into the choices of individual players: what their current choices are and what you want those choices to be. You also have to think about what is driving those choices. You create a map of potential barriers or motivating factors for specific players that you as a strategist might be able to influence.

An interesting aspect of the interview is Bhaskar’s comments about the network computer (or the thin client):

I don’t think that a network computer in its pure form, as articulated by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison several years back, will happen. However, many aspects of that original idea are already happening. It’s the classic example of fast change in innovation taking a long time. When the innovation appears, it does so in a form that is embodied in a completely different incarnation.

At the time when Ellison was talking about the network computer, people were getting interested in something totally different. It was a little device called a Palm Pilot, which took off like a rocket. The Palm Pilot had very few applications but some aspects of it had the same value proposition as the network computer. It was a so-called “thin client,” as it didn’t have a whole lot of intelligence sitting on it. However, if you stuck it into a pocket, it could synchronize with a central server, which was the user’s personal computer, and you could match up the data on your Palm Pilot with the stuff on the PC and vice versa. You could use it for a limited number of purposes and then come back and dock it into the server. That’s not very different from a much broader set of applications that the NC was designed around.

On the related concept of grid computing, he says: “That vision is not very different from a notion of network computing where the intelligence is somewhere in a server inside the enterprise. However, the ultimate penetration of a utility computing concept will also have to reckon with an inter-connected network of participants and a coordination of their choices. This is similar to the challenges that the network computer had to confront.”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.