Innovation comes from “the horizontal”

Great piece on the Israeli Fintech Industry < here >

One of many key messages is that innovation is not coming from the finserv sector… “In Israel, the country’s fintech know-how is largely a by-product of innovations in other fields”

What a shame then that so many so called experts still look vertically for innovation instead of recognising that most innovation tends to be found in the horizontal

Advertisements

Everybody’s talkin’ at me

Digital transformation, disruption and the increasing pace of change – are you using current business and technology lingo correctly?

Everybody’s talkin’ at me
But I don’t hear a word they’re sayin’
Only the echoes of my mind

These lyrics, made famous by Harry Nilsson in his 1969 version, are currently doing the rounds in an advert by a technology vendor about “moving to the cloud” (don’t even get me started!) – but they did make me think about the use or misuse of certain words and phrases.

You see, I got caught up in a number of seemingly semantic debates recently thanks to my apparent poor choice of words. What I found interesting though, was that I was actually using words and phrases that have become increasingly common in the modern business and technology narrative. I’m going to share them with you and see what you think.

The first, and the one that caused the most immediate response, concerned the “increasing pace of technology change” and the question was straightforward – is technology really moving any faster than before? David Moschella from the Leading Edge Forum said recently that “the time it takes for a new technology to be adopted by 50% of US households has long been a metric for cross-technology comparisons. By that measure both radios (8 years) and black-and-white TV (9 years) reached the 50% threshold much faster than PCs (17 years) or mobile phones (15 years)”. So is it really about speed or simply the fact that there is just so much technology out there that everything just feels faster? There are so many new things (apps, devices, solutions) coming at us from so many different directions that the volume can be overwhelming.

The second discussion focused on term “Digital Transformation”. Yes I know, it’s used everywhere but I’m convinced that very few people actually mean it when they say it. You see, to transform actually means an “irrevocable change in form, appearance, or structure; essentially a metamorphosis” – and the key point here is the irrevocable change. Far too many organizations talk about ‘transformation’ when what they really just mean is ‘change’. They don’t actually want to be anything new – they just want to do a few things differently to satisfy investors, markets or their perception of customer needs. Very often it’s just lipstick on a pig. Not to say there’s anything wrong with that. Indeed many organisations would benefit from digitising many of their operations and processes to improve efficiency, reduce cost and actually engage with some customers, but that’s not transformation.

Finally there’s the old chestnut: “disruption”. Well this column is called “The Disruptive CIO”, but whenever I hear the word, I immediately wonder what you are trying to disrupt and more importantly – why? Earlier this year the American-born entrepreneur and investor Julie Meyer commented that this is “the era of design; not disruption” and in that simple phrase she highlighted the positive rather than negative aspects of disruption. Too often we laud the displacement or destruction of an activity as it becomes disrupted rather than the development or improvement of something – which I consider to be positive disruption.

So there you have it. As the Bee Gees said – “It’s only words…” – but next time I’ll be choosing them a bit more wisely.

You’ve done it all ….

originally published in CIO magazine on 3rd June 2015

You’ve done it all, you’ve broken every code, pulled the rebel to the floor
You spoilt the game, no matter what you say
For only metal – what a bore!

Yet another huge showcase event from another of the technology behemoths – this time Google I/O in San Francisco – ends ultimately in a feeling of disappointment. All foreplay and no climax if you excuse the pun.

Is it just me or are these big tech events all becoming a bit passe? Too much razzamatazz and not enough substance. Jeez, I know someone said that developers are the “new Rock Stars” but does that mean that every big corporate tech CEO has to think they’re Bono.

Perhaps, in a world increasingly dominated by style over substance, these events have to “play it large”. At the recent Salesforce World Tour in London, Keith Block prefaced his keynote with a full on James Bond / 2012 Olympics style video enhanced entrance. Now don’t get me wrong, I love that Salesforce continue to push the boundaries of enterprise software, but this year’s London event seemed to be joining the ever increasing world of “my show’s bigger than your show”.

The sad thing is these launch events actually launch very little that’s genuinely new. They seem destined, for now at least, to be the homes of incremental upgrades – but each one paraded to the sound of adoring whoops from the gathered faithful rather than being the homes of any great innovation (btw, a note to our US cousins, Brits don’t whoop – for anyone or anything, so don’t take it personally).

Nowadays, long before the first whiff of sulphur from the pyrotechnics has passed, we’ve already heard all that needs to be heard. It’s all pre planned leaks and tweets or so called secret blurry pictures secured with Jack Bower like espionage from a far flung manufacturing facility.

Maybe need every change wrapped in unnecessary pyrotechnics. Maybe my next Internet of Things enabled, fully cognitive, predictive, geolocated, voice activated toaster really does have to arrive at my house on a mock Back to the Future hover-board, along with flying drones playing a heavy meta soundtrack and firing stage cannons. Or maybe we really have done it all, seen it all and been everywhere – man ??

Certainly not !! Only today I sat in amazement at the latest innovation in robotics, connected everything and AI coming out of South Korea. So, I’m not going to settle for whooping wildly in fake amazement at incremental advancement. I’m not going to accept style over substance in an auditorium where they measure success by the number of people who couldn’t attend. I am going to continue to actively seek out the sources of genuine innovation (and potential disruption) and make some noise about them – and I invite you to do the same.