Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Faster Innovation and the "Google-ization of Business"

The Wall Street Journal had a fascinating piece yesterday call "The New, Faster Face of Innovation". MIT scholars Michael Schrage and Erik Bryn Jolfsson have traced the implications of the faster and more iterative approach to innovation that we are seeing from companies in today's market.

We have referred to this trend in past blog posts as "the Google-ization of business". Yesterday's article does a great job of describing the trend and cites excellent examples of its implications.

We think about the implications of faster innovation specifically from the perspective of what does it means to communications in today's world; when you combine this rapid pace of innovation and change with an "architectural" view of communications which we have discussed at other places in this blog, it has vast implications. To keep things simple, following are two of the key changes.

1. While having an idea of what image you are trying to create and a hypothesis of how you will get there is more important than ever (because of the transparency of communications), today it is no longer necessary to feel that your first communications stake-in-the-ground is indelible.

2. This new iterative approach to innovation means that you can communicate more frequently and with more trial balloons to help educate the market. Ultimately, when used well, it is likely to enable reaching your communications goals both more effectively and perhaps even more efficiently.

This new flexibility is quite liberating. When communicating, you no longer have to worry about whether every point is the "perfect" point. And you can learn along the way in order to make your communications better.

Please don't misinterpret this flexibility as a recommendation to just throw material into the communications chain and pay no attention. As referenced above, we still feel it's very important to have a clear hypothesis of what you want to communicate over the long term and how you think you might get there (this is what we call the "communications architecture").

The big difference now is that you can course-correct much more easily.

At the end of the day, we believe this new world means you should communicate more than ever before.


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Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Sad Day for Progress

Today, a wonderful client of ours, PolyFuel, Inc., announced that it is ceasing operations. This is a refrain we have all heard too often these days and it is certainly tough on the people involved with the company. We are thinking of them.

But, with this news, there is a greater concern to be focused on as well: PolyFuel has been a leader in developing important next generation fuel cell technology. With this shut down, as a result of the poor economy, the research and development that has happened to date will just go fallow.

This is a shocking outcome. While PolyFuel had forces working against it and it didn't get to commercialization soon enough to survive, the most distressing thing is that all of the work it has done will essentially be lost. And we are not talking about a company in the entertainment space or other market where progress may mean more fun but . . .

And, sadly, PolyFuel is not the only company with truly meaningful development that is being shut down as a result of the economy. I have spoken with a number of my friends who invest in life science venture capital and they each have stories to tell about important companies on the road to commercializing life-saving treatments that have had to shut down. This is bad.

I don't really know the solution to this tremendous problem. But it seems somehow we need to find a way to support companies that are just at the wrong stage of the cycle during this economic downturn.

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