The end of retail as we know it. A scenario of virtualization.

21 03 2010

Health toilet in Japan - Source: ideaconnection.com

It is always interesting to see how pushing some trends to the limit create challenging scenarios. While most people will agree about the existence of a trend, few will care to walk through the unintended consequences. Here is a great example of how our mental models if unchallenged can leave some gigantic blind spots in our understanding of what the future may hold.

Pr. Sanjay Sarma from MIT recently gave a presentation to an audience of supply chain executives on the state-of-the-art of sensing. Sensors are now ubiquitous: in you car, your house, your cell phone, etc. There is a clear consensus that this is just the beginning. More complex sensors are becoming more affordable everyday. The computing power and infrastructure to handle the data is also getting exponentially cheaper. With your IPhone, you can already scan the bar code of the product you want to buy, and search on the Internet where to find it at the cheapest price. We are just a couple of years away from sensing appliances in our homes. Your fridge will sense when you will be out of milk or Diet Coke and will signal it to you. The sensing toilet is a reality in Japan. After analyzing your “body fluids,” the toilet makes recommendations for your diet and will give you information that you used to only get through a blood test i.e. sugar level, etc.

Everybody in the audience bought into a future where sensing was omnipresent. The supply chain executives could already experience in their businesses how sensing has become a pervasive innovation – from GPS tracking to RFID tags. However, when asked about the potential implications in such a future, they quickly concluded that dynamic routing would be the most important impact in their respective industries. Sure, being able to reroute your fleet to avoid congestion will allow saving a lot of money. But, is it really the most dramatic impact you can think of for this type of technology? Read the rest of this entry »





Geeks have done their share; it is now up to you, business leaders, to innovate!

5 03 2010

Cleantech Gap, Source: Clean Horizon Consulting

In their recently published book “Wired for Innovation,” MIT Professor Erik Brynjolfsson and Wharton lecturer Saunders contend that: “even if all technological progress were to stop tomorrow, business could create decades’worth of IT-enabled organizational innovation using only today’s technologies.” As a society, we all expect technology innovations to bring more progress to everybody, and at a faster pace. However, we rarely reflect on whether our business leaders innovate enough to match the high expectations we have for the technology community. How many times have you heard of a revolutionary technology vs. a revolutionary business plan?

Humor me on this one: should a technology be discarded because its benefits under the current business model does not overweight its costs? or should it be discarded because we could not think of any business model in which its benefits overweight its costs? Let’s take the electric vehicle as an example. In a previous post, I have shown some reserves regarding electric vehicles adoption because the technology still does not make economic sense in the current business models. However, I also affirmed that it could become a reality, today, with a company like Better Place which offers a revolutionary business model. Electric vehicles only make economic sense if you look at the total cost of ownership i.e. car’s price tag + fuel cost + maintenance cost. Therefore, Better Place knew they needed to find a business model that would leverage this challenge as a strength instead of a weakness. Instead of selling you a car, Better Place will sell you kilometers to drive, which translates into charged batteries. Like with a cell phone, you will buy the hardware (the car) and you will choose a plan that best fits your driving needs. Better Place owns the batteries and will provide you with a network of charging stations to recharge them – monitoring your consumption while doing so. cye88sebwgzu CYE88SEBWGZU Read the rest of this entry »





The power of self-fulfilling stories in financial markets

26 02 2010

Soros, the new Citizen Kane? (Credits: mindfully.org)

On December 2009, the euro traded at $1.51. Today, it trades at $1.35. What can explain this 11% downfall in little bit more than 2 months? An avid reader of the Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times will eloquently explain that it just reflects the faster recovery of the US economy out of the crisis vs. Europe, amplified by fears that Greece may default on its sovereign debt. End of story? Not so fast. A closer look will reveal the perfect case study for the power of self-fulfilling stories in financial markets.

Deeply ingrained in our collective subconscious is the fear that we are getting manipulated by higher forces. Not so long ago, people questioned the power of mass media and how Rupert Murdoch or Silvio Berlusconi could bend reality with their editorial lines rather than reporting it. I will argue that hedge fund managers and other leading investment bankers have become the new Citizen Kane, shaping reality with powerful storytelling. Financial markets have slowly but surely built a very advanced language that now allow them to communicate and broadcast complex stories. Puts, call, credit-default swaps and other derivatives constitute the building blocks of their vocabulary. Traders have become the journalists that put those words together, following the editorial line dictated by their fund manager. The assets under management, the equivalent of circulation, provide more or less clout to the fund editorial line. Read the rest of this entry »





Why “Vitamins for your futures” plural?

6 01 2010

Long term thinking is a very humbling experience. You have to accept to be wrong to hopefully be right. In a sense, there is something “organic” in such an approach. Nature has always favored redundancies and failures to celebrate the triumph of the fittest. The evolution process thrives on countless variations of genetic codes that could have been the most optimal answer in a different environment.

Likewise, forward thinking is all about studying all those futures that could exist provided forthcoming events follow a certain path. Of globalization and technological innovations like the Internet emerged a growing human network that has exponentially accelerated the pace of changes. Describing the world in the next ten years becomes increasingly challenging. Just look back to all the things that happened in the last ten years, could you imagine commenting to this post on your Iphone while traveling through your daily commute?

Read the rest of this entry »





Why this Blog?

5 01 2010

Photo: © Hiroshi Sugimoto, Wired Website, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

In a highly connected society, the difficulty does not rely in gathering information but rather digesting it. On the one hand, the acquisition cost of new information keeps dropping – to even zero e.g. free online version of mainstream publications. On the other, making sense of it does not become cheaper if not more expensive – time and energy necessary to sort through the increasingly available data.

How many times have you encountered a relevant piece of information and simply discarded it because you could not unlock the “so what” underneath it? Most inspired leaders explain that success and vision are all about connecting the dots. It always seems easier to connect those dots looking back than looking ahead.

However challenging this may seem, analyzing currently available data with a forward-looking lens is critical to prepare for what the future throws at you. This Blog does not pretend to predict The Future but rather to stimulate your thinking by laying out potential futures.

“Chance favors the prepared mind.” Louis Pasteur

Consider reading this Blog as your intake of vitamins to help you digest present trends and uncertainties as well as to fortify your long-term vision.