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We’ve only seen the Impressionist debuts of the Internet of Things

Visiting the post-impressionist gallery on the 2nd floor of Musée d’Orsay in Paris, I realized how rapidly painting in the late 19th century evolved. 

However revolutionary it may have been, Impressionism was superceded fairly quickly. It rocked the boat in the 1860s, gained prominence in the 1870s, exhibiting 12 times between 1874 and 1886 in the Salon des Refusés (literally, the Exhibition of the Rejected), but by the end of the 1880s radically new styles and techniques were already emerging:

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Three innovation metaphors from Jardin des Plantes in Paris

December 1, 2013 Leave a comment

20131201-190537.jpg On a quiet Sunday afternoon, I roam the gardens and exhibition halls of Jardin des Plantes in Paris. In the glasshouses, I stumble on three statements about the evolution of ancient forests and life in today’s ones, which instantly resound in my ears as three innovation metaphors.

1. As plants first emerged from the sea in the Silurian and Devonian periods (440 to 350 million years ago) and started to spread on land, which by definition was desert at the time, they had to develop a strategy to resist the over exposure to sun and heat, and avoid dessication. Such strategy consisted in the development of: Read more…

Nature v Norm – How language drives innovation culture

September 10, 2013 Leave a comment

20130907-202617.jpg There are moments when you connect unexpected dots and some new level of understanding clicks. Last week I was enjoying the park at Vaux-le-Vicomte designed by 17th century master of gardens ‘à la française’ André Le Nôtre, who went on to design gardens at Versailles and many other places throughout France and Europe. Le Nôtre’s vision of nature is one that is domesticated, made to fit a pattern, where seasons and distance are mastered, the latter through the use of perspective tricks, the former through the use of evergreen plants. Today, listening to a Modern Language professor at the University of Southampton, I picked this insight that a good behaviour referred to as ‘natural’ in English will be called ‘normal’ in French, a language subtlety that underpins deeper differences in the English and French ways of thinking. Read more…

Science paradigm-shifts for dummies

August 15, 2013 3 comments

20130815-105741.jpg In his landmark book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas S. Kuhn describes how science progresses through phases of continuous improvement in-between paradigm shifts.

An emerging scientific paradigm (which can be referred to as a theory or a model) can be compared to a net which is just good enough to hold a few large pieces of evidence that have been observed – but so far not grasped – by the scientific community. At the risk of overworking the metaphor, picture a net-bag holding Newton’s apple: as a bag, it is rather unsophisticated, but it is good enough to catch the apple as it falls. If it also manages to catch a few other pieces of fruit, the bag becomes effective and consistent enough in the eyes of the scientific community, that everyone adopts it as THE bag that will enable them to grasp ANY piece of fruit. A paradigm is born and everyone believes in its abiliy to explain the whole world.

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Measuring the ROI of R&D is illusory, but shortcutting Prototyping & Scaling-up will destroy it

Return On Investment of Innovation What is the Return On Investment (ROI) of R&D? The question regularly resurfaces but never seems to get a satisfactory answer. Here are two insights, one which explains why we cannot get a proper answer, the other what we can do to avoid destroying the ROI.

Insight 1. Samsung’s rule of thumb for R&D investment is: when spending $1 on R&D, they spend $4 on prototyping & scaling-up. Since all that follows R&D is necessary for the output of R&D to get to market and start generating a return, it becomes clear that the $1 investment in R&D has to be seen in combination with the $4 investment in ‘the rest’. So, calculating a return on the $1+$4 investment makes sense, but calculating a return purely on the $1 investment doesn’t.
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Innovating for the post-crisis rebound

December 12, 2012 4 comments

creative-destructionSchumpeter defines innovation as a process of creative destruction. The point is not merely that innovation can still happen in times of crisis; it is that crisis are the best time for era-defining innovations to emerge. In yesterday’s session of the Mardis de l’Innovation cycle (in French), Marc Giget highlighted a few powerful examples of companies, which emerged or re-emerged stronger out of the Great Depression of the 30s with winning products, such as GE and its refrigerators and washing machines, Converse and its emblematic (and ugly) shoes, or the entire machine-tool sector. As it turned out, the Great Depression became one of the most innovative periods in American history.

Today, some post-crisis winners are already emerging, though others may still be in the making. Examples include: Read more…

Sustaining the case for innovation

July 4, 2012 3 comments
A few weeks ago I attended a meeting of Innovation Directors from many different industries, where we shared our experience of making the case for innovation and sustaining the investment with or without having to re-make the case every year. From those discussions, I took away a very simple model – a virtuous circle indeed – to sustain the case for investment in innovation.