Guest AuthorPavan Soni

Inflexion Point, September 2019

By | Dr Pavan Soni | IIM-B Innovation Evangelist 

Welcome back to Inflexion Point, the monthly on insightful reads from the domains of innovation, creativity, and technology. 
This edition covers lessons from 9/11 on crisis communication, how open offices are killing creativity, Marie Curie’s radioactive waste, ways of freeing up your brain’s space, understanding the Pasteur’s Quadrant, how robotic swarms are reaching difficult places, on when and when not to trust intuition, Amazon’s gamble on crowdsourcing Alexa’s answers, health benefits of sleeping naked, and how timing is as important as necessity for successful innovations. 
Kindly reflect on your experience and share liberally.
Arguably one of the biggest Black Swan events in the present century, 9/11 remains fresh in most of our conscious. Such events shake the very foundation of any organization and that of the leadership’s preparation. The author draws some insightful tips on how organizational communication and employee morale could be managed effectively under such situations. For starters, resort to decentralized operations but centralized decision making, and make improvisations grounded in corporate fundamentals. (Source: HBR)
One of the present day vogue is open offices, co-working spaces, and tightly packed communities, by design. The idea is of promoting collaboration, chance interactions, free-flow of thoughts and a rapid communication– however, the whole point about creativity is missed here. Creativity is a solitary process, where synthesis of knowledge leads to new ideas and concepts; something that a co-working space doesn’t allow. Bill Gate’s Think Week are famous for a reason. (Source: FT)  
Imagine this — the cite where Marie Curie used to conduct her experiments over a century ago on radioactivity is today described as the Chernobyl of Seine! There are materials with a radioactive half-life of over 4 billion years; with locals at a constant risk of exposure. France, which draws over three-fourth of its power needs from nuclear energy, has over 900 nuclear waste cites and that’s a serious issue looking at the very long half-life of the materials. Is that a price worth for science? (Source: BusinessWeek)   
Your brain is highly adept at optimizing its space and functioning through a process called ‘synaptic pruning’ where synaptic joints between neurons give way to newer connections. Glial cells in our brain help prune synaptic connections, mostly while we are at sleep. In fact, over 60% of connections get removed while at sleep by these microglial cells and so does the very powerful impact of power naps, of about 10-20 minutes, on the brain activities. Sleep deprivation is more dangerous than being previously thought. So, use the brain’s delete button more consciously. (Source: Fast Company)  
Scientists, if they manage to put this skills to right use, can impact humanity in some fundamental ways. Think of a 2×2 matrix, with the ‘quest for fundamental research’ on the vertical axis, and ‘consideration for use’ on the horizontal axis. Basic research, of the likes done by Niels Bohr, has high quest for fundamental research but low applicability, while that by Thomas Edison falls on the opposite quadrant with low levels of research and high usage. The kind of research that drives both policies and humanity are the ones which are use-inspired basic research, of the likes done by Louis Pasteur, the one who gave us vaccines. (Source: Nature)  
Imagine a robotic swarm with each autonomous entity, no bigger than 23.5 centimeters in diameter, and with the only capabilities of expanding and shrinking. Such a loosely organized and decentralized cluster can perform complex tasks, such as search and rescue operations and even drug delivery to specific human organs. With no single point of control and rudimentary level of intelligence in each entity, the total is far more resilient and adaptable to varied contexts. (Source: Scientific American)
There is a interesting debate on the benefits and biases created by intuition, especially in high stake situations. The Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman made his career highlighting how most intuition based decision are wrong, and most executives gets trapped in their over-confidence till it becomes too late, while his opponent Gary Klein identifies the upside of intuition under conditions of a finite structure and with a possibility of feedback. Have a look at this very interesting debate and make your own mind. (Source: McKinsey) 
Next time you pose a question to Amazon’s AI platform Alexa you might get an answer from a fellow human being, though a curated answer here. Having witnessed the failure for Microsoft bot and Yahoo Answers, this gamble by Amazon can go sour, especially if the users aren’t compensated for giving away correct answers for long. Gamification can be a possible resort Amazon is trying to beat Google in its own game. Can Amazon pull this one too? (Source: Fortune)  
Here’s something you wouldn’t be expecting covered in Inflexion Point, but the wonderful insight here couldn’t escape me, and here’s a nudge for the sleep-time. Sleeping naked lowers the body temperature which helps sleep faster and more sound, leading to better brain functioning. Further, it helps distribution of body fats evenly, leading to faster weight loss, and of course, one is more comfortable with one’s own body, leading to a higher self-esteem. (Source: Medical News Today) 
Have you ever wondered why some of the well conceived ideas perish on meeting the market realities? One of the core reasons is that the market isn’t ready yet, or in today’s parlance, there’s isn’t an ecosystem to make the idea work. Necessity, which is deemed as the starting point of every invention, needs to have enablers for success, and one of them is the right timing, and guess what, timing can be shaped. Effective innovators accelerate market adoption instead of waiting for the large wave. (Source: HT Mint)
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