Harvard Business Review presented 20 breakthrough ideas for 2007 (free). Here are my favorites.
Duncan J. Watts
In his best seller The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell argues that “social epidemics” are driven in large part by the actions of a tiny minority of special individuals. The idea seems intuitively right—we think we see it happening all the time. Nevertheless, this isn’t actually how ideas spread. It’s better to focus on getting enough plain, ordinary people to sign on.
Japan’s economic rebound is generally attributed to the turnaround of corporate giants and to industry consolidation. But it is also fueled by the emergence of new companies led by entrepreneurs in their twenties and thirties. An entrepreneurial Japan—no longer an oxymoron—may ultimately overshadow the much touted start-up cultures of China and India.
Harry Hutson and Barbara Perry
Most business leaders shy away from the word “hope.” Yet hope has been shown to be the key ingredient of resilience in survivors of traumas ranging from prison camps to natural disasters. So if you are an executive trying to lead an organization through change, know that hope can be a potent force in your favor. And it’s yours to give.
Eric von Hippel
Most countries, developing and developed alike, view innovation as a vital input to their economic growth and spend varying portions of their national budgets to support it in companies and research labs, for the ultimate benefit of essentially passive consumers. Denmark is taking a different tack: It’s making “user-centered innovation” a national priority.
“Continuous partial attention”—distinct from multitasking—is an adaptive behavior that presumably allows us to keep pace with the never-ending bandwidth technology offers. Now there are signs of a backlash against the tyranny of tantalizing choices.
Use your conscious mind to acquire all the information you need to arrive at a difficult decision, but don’t try to analyze it. Instead, go on holiday and let your unconscious mind digest the information for a day or two. Whatever your intuition then tells you is almost certainly going to be the best choice.
Geoffrey B. West
Newfound general mathematical relationships between population size, innovation, and wealth creation challenge the conventional wisdom that smaller innovation functions are more inventive. They may explain why few organizations today have matched the creativity of a giant like Bell Labs in its heyday.
Your customer data indicate strong consumer satisfaction: Repeat purchase levels are high, and many customers have been with you for years. Good news, right? Well, appearances can be deceptive. Buried in the data may be a “stealth” segment of apparently loyal customers whose ethical concerns make them ready to bolt as soon as an alternative emerges.
Companies are usually told to “think globally and act locally.” But thanks to their own global information systems and the Internet, knowledge from faraway places can be acquired relatively easily and cheaply. This means that firms have to discover and quickly incorporate good ideas from these diverse sources before their rivals do.
The bulk of open source projects fail, and most of the remaining successes are quite modest. Still, open systems are a profound threat to many businesses, not only because they outsucceed commercial firms but, more important, because they outfail them.
(Hat tip: Renee Blodgett)