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IT Leadership: Grab A Tiger by the Tail

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Shortly after taking office, President Obama’s CIO (Vivek Kundra) formed a “tigre” team (technology, innovation, and government reform) in order to implement IT reform within the US government The US IT budget representing an astounding $80B, representing over 2,000 data centers.

This recent article by the Sydney Morning Herald highlights Mr. Kundra’s focus on IT transparency including an online IT dashboard with performance rankings. The result of his effort was a shift towards consolidation (to increase datacenter capacity) and virtualization (to leverage cloud-based provisioning speed and consumption based costing).

While Mr. Kundra has since moved on (he joined after a brief stint at Harvard), his innovative IT dashboard lives on as an open source offering.  More importantly, he highlighted the importance and value of IT transparency.

Corporate IT department can learn a lot form Mr. Kundra’s TIGRE initiative. The most important lesson and most difficult being practices of transparency. If your IT organization is trying to figure out how to drive more value, innovation can help, but innovation without transparency will give you only average results. IT leaders can produce breakthrough value by building innovation behaviors at every level. This requires transparency between employee and their managers, and transparency between IT and the business units.

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Innovation at the World Economic Forum: Apple vs. Google

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Apple vs. Google… Creativity vs. Science… Convergence and Collaboration 

If you’re curious where the world is heading and what is top of mind for global leaders, there’s few better vantage points than from Davos and the World Economic Forum. 

World-changing innovation is also discussed at Davos. 

This year, there was an interesting discussion about innovation by consultant John Kao, as reported by the New York Times (click here for the original article).

The innovation discussion and article focused on the differing strategies of Apple and Google. 

Mr. Kao compared Google and Apple’s approach to innovation, pointing out it “highlights the ‘archetypical tension in the creative process.’”  

The article notes, “The Apple model is more edited, intuitive and top-down. When asked what market research went into the company’s elegant product designs, Steve Jobs had a standard answer: none. ‘It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.’” 

Regarding Google, the article reasons: “Google speaks to the power of data-driven decision-making, and of online experimentation and networked communication.  The same Internet-era tools enable crowd-sourced collaboration as well as the rapid testing of product ideas — the essence of the lean start-up method so popular in Silicon Valley and elsewhere…”

Importantly, the article quoted Errol B. Arkilic, program director at the National Science Foundation, on the important use of “the scientific method to market-opportunity identification.”   

While not expressly mentioning it, the article highlighted the value in collaboration. In fact, regarding the importance of collaboration, the article referenced how some of Apple’s top ideas have been sourced through collaboration. 

Consider these article highlights about Apple: 

“Apple product designs may not be determined by traditional market research, focus groups or online experiments. But its top leaders, recruited by Mr. Jobs, are tireless seekers in an information-gathering network on subjects ranging from microchip technology to popular culture. “ 

The article further notes that Apple’s early computing design included a point & click mouse and graphical, on-screen icons that came from a visit to Xerox’s Palo Alto labs; and Siri, a more recent acquisition and now key iPhone feature, originated in the Pentagon’s DARPA. 

Wow! What innovation nuggets. 

Apple leaders tirelessly pursue convergences of market data and trends - and collaboration with other entities has been critical to Apple’s success.  It would be interesting to apply our Innovation Styles diagnostic across Apple leadership to see if they have a mix of complementary styles. 

Interestingly, we at The DeSai Group have been focused on two fundamental drivers to innovation:  1.) convergence of market issues/trends; 2.) collaboration.   And it looks like these strategies have been responsible for some of the world’s top innovations. 

That’s good to know, especially today as I am currently leading several innovation leadership sessions with a major India-based, multi-national conglomerate in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Chennai, India. 

I’m guiding the innovation discussion by summarizing global trend convergences and identifying how specific collaborations can make a major impact in the world.   And we’re specifically addressing key concerns voiced at the World Economic Forum. 

What do you think about Apple vs. Google’s approach to innovation? 


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