Guest AuthorPavan Soni

Inflexion Point, July 2019

By | Dr Pavan Soni | IIM-B Innovation Evangelist 

Welcome back to Inflexion Point, the monthly from the domains of Innovation, Creativity, and Strategy.
In this edition, I present to you how Neil Armstrong got wrong some 50 years back, the secret sauce of Alibaba, elements of innovation culture at Tata Group, Issac Asimov’s commentary on creativity, how leading companies leverage AI, the dark side of gamification, the secret of mentally tough people, and the future of hybrid airlines.  
On the 50th anniversary of the first man landing on the moon, one of the big questions humanity is asking is- was it really a giant step for the mankind? The answer seems to be no! In this fact packed, sharply written MIT Tech Review piece, the author argues how the space mission hasn’t helped humanity all that much after all, including the promised multi-planet settlement. He equates the space mission to the Egyptian pyramids, in terms of their value to humanity! A compelling case, indeed. (Source: MIT Tech Review)   
What makes Alibaba one of the most valued companies in the world? Knowing well that it just started in 1999, and that too, in China. The secret is the overarching strategy of building an ecosystem for e-Commerce that connects the sellers to the buyers and the logistics partners, finance, manufacturing, storing, insurance et al.. The author takes the instance of Ant Financial and Taobao to depict how the nimble giant is leveraging AI to disrupt the industry, globally. (Source: Harvard Business Review)
Innovating at Google, Amazon, Facebook is one thing, but that at over-a-century-old conglomerate, with around half-a-million employees is quite another. Tata Group, arguably one of India’s most respected and diversified business houses, hones a very successful and robust innovation management program dubbed as ‘Tata Innovista’. Aimed at generating awareness, felicitating successful (and even failed) innovations, and enabling cross-pollination across group companies, the innovation platform is worthy emulating. Igniting Innovation, a book by Ravi Arora, offers a first-hand perspective. (Source: Medium)  
That’s one of the most brilliant essays I have read on creativity and that too from a person who gave us a preview of AI. Issac Asimov wrote this piece almost half-a-century ago and it recently got published at MIT Tech Review. In this short piece, Issac talks about how people get new ideas, and laments that creativity is about making new connections between the hitherto unconnected, disparate concepts, and that a relaxed, jovial environment encourages creativity. A must read. (Source: MIT Tech Review)   
A survey of 1000, $1 billion+ companies from across regions and sectors indicate that just 8% of those studied are able to leverage the benefits offered by AI and Analytics. The reason being misalignment of strategy and execution. Authors identify nine factors, clubbed under strategic alignment, building the right foundation, and conquering the last mile, as how the leaders do it differently. Read on to crack your analytics code. (Source: McKinsey & Co.)
Games are as old as civilization, and a staple for entertainment, motivation, competition, and other social rituals. However, there’s an increasing desire to introduce game-like elements into business interactions, such as workplace productivity, or customer loyalty. The author presents a fact-based narrative on why gamification may not be all that entertaining, let alone fun, and productive. There are several, long term destructive impacts on morale, this gamification. (Source: Co.Design)
Empathy is the cornerstone of human-centricity and, hence, innovation. Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, has shown how empathy helped him not only design and commercialize better products but also transform a rather toxic culture. However, mental toughness, or the ability to take difficult or unpleasant decisions, is often considered as antipathy to emotional intelligence. The author identifies three traits of mentally tough yet emotionally intelligent people- being comfortable with emotions, understanding emotions, and channelizing those in productive ways. (Source: Fast Company)
Can the technology that powers hybrid cars be soon powering air travel? Looks like, at least on the short haul, with fewer than 50 passengers. Firms like Ampaire, Zunum Aero, and Airbus are already running smaller versions of the reality, over shorter distances and this could soon change the flying experience. More importantly, some of these experiments and experiences can be handy back on the surface. (Source: The Economist)
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