Consumer Technology enables SCALE and RAPID INNOVATION

Consumers enable SCALE and RAPID INNOVATION in Technology. As I walked around the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), I could see how the technology will “bubble up” into business and into enterprises quickly. Initially, technology came from business to consumers – think PCs. The sheer size of consumer market, hunger for new functionality, and its willingness to put up with beta releases makes the consumer world the ideal proving ground for the less fault tolerant enterprise world. Companies that span both world can leverage the consumer world for its SCALE and RAPID INNOVATION and bubble those innovations into the enterprise world for higher profits.

Drones are an example of bubbling up. While they started in the military, they are now a big segment of the consumer market. Drones or autonomous flying vehicles have been improving including automated stabilization, 4K cameras, enhanced flying times, etc. Many of them have dozens of computers on board and some rather impressive programming to make them simple to use. First it was movies, then multi-million dollar homes and now you see mid-market homes with drone footage. It has become a toy for teenagers, too.

Due to the wide-spread usage of drones in the consumer market, they are vastly improved and far less expensive. One of the leader’s in the industry (Drone Market Map)( https://www.droneii.com/top20-drone-company-ranking-q3-2016)), DJI’s basic drone is just under $500, flys for ~25 mins, includes GPS tracking, tracks subjects based photo recognition using a 1080 camera for photos and stills. Lots of knock offs are even cheaper.  “Toy Drones” are just $50! Five years ago, the DJI basic drone would have been a top of the line $5K drone, if even available.

Part of the attractiveness of the consumer world is scale. The other factor is that the consumer world is filled with willing beta testers and relatively low liability costs. The consumer world is an agile one where cycles occur very quickly. A typical enterprise development cycle is 18 months. In the same time in the consumer world, you’d see a major hardware, firmware, and at least 30+ releases of software.

The demand for new and the tolerance for risk is high in the consumer market. Recent releases of drones from reputable consumer companies come with lots of complaints on the internal boards of them not flying well, not following waypoints, and simply flying away. In the business world, failure to perform would be a breach of contract and might result in loss of property or life. In the consumer world, the drone manufacturer can just send a firmware update, a letter, a coupon, award you status on their web site as hero or pioneer, or at worst – replace the drone. It’s a trivial price enabling those dipping into the consumer world to advance faster than those in the business world.

While scale makes the money, it is the willing beta tester that enables advancement. Haven’t you signed up to be a beta or an alpha tester. I know I am for many of IBM’s early release programs. We have marvelous internal site called “Technology Adoption Program” where individuals submit their software inventions. Many have become key enablers of IBM’s business. They grew up fast by being adopted and depended on by IBM’s business.

What else might bubble up? Virtual Reality has real possibilities for training. Augmented Reality with heads up displays and glasses will be welcomed the field. Giving schematics, UV and Infrared vision, and more to workers. What will make it become easily affordable and useful – another Pokemon Go that plays with glasses pushing it onto millions of users’ foreheads.

3D printing is coming of age, but I can see point where 25% of households have plastics printer and your hardware store has a metal one. No inventory of 500K parts – just print it. Lots more like LED lights, Home Automation, Sports Fitness, etc. will bubble up.

Finally, Artificial Intelligence (AI) may be the biggest winner from the bubble up effect of the consumer. The key to AI is having huge knowledge base or corpus and lots of training. Where better than the consumer market with a potential of 7 billion users – the population of the world – to train your AI. Whether it is Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Watson, or Google, these companies’ AI programs will benefit from the consumer training it. You get a voice interface and they get you to train their AI.

What do you think will be the next big bubble up technology from the consumer world to the enterprise world?

 

 

Releasing innovation from non-innovators

Innovaton Lightbulb EarthHow do you get innovation out of people whose job is not innovation thereby generating the most meaningful innovation. Most of us think how do we inspire our design team, our coders, or even our consultants. These groups all are expected to innovate and I’ll admit to mixed results. It seems to be bell shaped curve on these teams where a few are always innovative, most are sometimes innovative, and a few that seem to be allergic to innovation and think mobile phones are a fad.

I met my friend, eBay‘s Innovation Leader, Bala (http://linkd.in/1welbjf) before I flew out of San Jose, CA and we had a wonderful discussion on innovation. Even if I didn’t care about innovation, and I do strongly, watching Bala talk about innovation is a delight because he lights up with energy. His idea is not to make innovative teams innovative, but to make the whole world innovative. The only requirement is you have an idea and he will even help you find that!

He holds a series of workshops to help groups or companies innovate. He has a multi-step process that draws the potential innovators and resources along a flowing stream until the idea becomes real. He makes it easier for non-techies to join the process. I’ll point out a few steps, but I’m including a link to his non-profit company’s web, Innovationbala, site so you can dig in further.

Play-a-thon: In this step, Bala and team, bring in lots of the latest gadets, gizmos, and software where everyone is invited to play with all the “stuff”. People, even non-techies, can play and try all the cool stuff in the market ranging from robots, to designer computer boards, to software development tools in a non-threatening environment..

Date-a-thon: In this step, idea holders are paired with many developers in speed dating model to find their ideal team. Not sure speed dating works for finding true love, but it does seem to work for finding your true team and again gives non-technical people an opportunity to get in on innovating Silicon Valley style.

Shark-a-thon: This is more of corporate commitment step, but each team pitches its idea to a team of SVP’s who can elect to sponsor the idea. What is cool about eBay is that if you are on team that gets sponsored, you are now given 4 months off your current job, no questions asked, and put on the team to deliver the idea.

There is lots more at innovationbala (http://www.innovationbala.com/) if you’d like to see the whole process.

Overall, I’m impressed by the commitment of eBayPayPal, and hopefully to both companies post split up, to their culture of innovation. I suspect a lot has to do with Bala’s commitment and vitality he brings to the topic. Now I have to challenge myself, what am I going to do to make my company more innovative?