Tag Archives: Productivity

The search for alien tech

There’s a new plan to find extraterrestrial civilisations by the way they live. But if we can see them, can they see us?
By Corey S Powell – Are we alone in the Universe? And if not, should we be excited – or afraid? These questions are as immediate as the latest Netflix hit and as primal as the ancient myths that associated the planets with spirits and gods. In 1686, Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle, the long-term secretary to the French Academy of Sciences, put an Enlightenment stamp on speculations about alien life with his book Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes (Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds). In a series of spirited philosophical conversations, he declared that ‘it would be very strange for the Earth to be so well inhabited, and the other planets perfectly solitary’, and argued that alien beings might attempt to communicate with us or even visit us using some advanced form of flight.

Ever since, each age has featured its own version yearning for contact with life from beyond, always anchored to the technological themes of the day. In 1818, the German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss proposed communicating with aliens using a heliotrope, a system of mirrors that he devised to send coded signals using reflected sunlight. After the development of early electric lights, the French inventor Charles Cros suggested that such lamps could be amplified to beam messages to Venus or Mars. Nikola Tesla wrote in 1900 that ‘interplanetary communication has entered the stage of probability’ using newfangled radio waves. A year later, he reported that he had detected likely signals broadcast from another world.

Then the search got stuck. Radio persisted as the alien-hunting medium of choice, even as technology continued to change faster than ever. A full century after Tesla, researchers engaged in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (commonly shortened to SETI) were still scanning the heavens with antennas and listening for artificial radio transmissions incoming from other worlds. The efforts led to ever-tightening statistical upper limits and a handful of briefly exciting false alarms, but mostly a whole lot of nothing. more>

Engineering Fundamentals: Is Moore’s Law the Wright One? Battery Tech Hopes So

Will Moore’s Law yield to the Wright one for battery technology?
By John Blyler – Scientific laws describe observed phenomena, like Newton’s Law of Gravity. Engineering “laws” tend to focus on design or manufacturing processes, such as Moore’s Law. Although this most famous of engineering laws is really a corollary to a more comprehensive principle (as we’ll see shortly), it is nevertheless so well known that non-semiconductor experts refer to it often in their predictions. For example, several technology advocates have lamented the lack of a Moore’s Law equivalent in the automotive battery space.

“There is a focus (in the battery market) on halving cost while doubling energy density in the next three years,” observed Michael Doyle, Corporate Fellow in Material Sciences in the Dassault Systemes Strategy and Research Team. The specific reference to doubling within a particular time frame mimics Gordon Moore’s famous design and manufacturing law predictions. But let’s see what is behind Doyle’s statement for trends in battery technology.

What drives this desire for the doubling of density every three years (as opposed to 18 months with semiconductor nodes)? Several issues explained Doyle. Cost is one driver. The reality is that $50,000 for a new car is not an everyman or mass-market solution. So, costs will have to come down, hence the halving prediction. Fortunately, a scale price reduction has been a common occurrence in the semiconductor and automotive sectors. Of course, these sectors are not mutually exclusive as automobiles are dependent upon semiconductors and related technologies. more>

Car Makers Reap What’s Sown During Chip Shortage

By George Leopold – Despite optimistic predictions that auto makers have seen the worst of ongoing semiconductor shortages, sources closer to the technology supply chain maintain things will get worse before they get any better.

Industry consultant Semiconductor Intelligence downplayed auto industry assertions about the second quarter representing the “trough” of IC supply chain disruptions. Citing a growing list of auto production cutbacks stemming from the chip shortage, the market tracker countered in recent weeks that “the shortage of semiconductors for automotive applications is getting worse.”

It cited production cuts at Ford, GM, Hyundai, Toyota, the merged Fiat-Chrysler-Peugeot group called Stellantis and Volkswagen. more>

Updates from McKinsey

When agile marketing breaks the agency model
The journey to agile marketing can be hard. But for many marketers and agencies, it offers the opportunity to forge a better partnership.
By Clay Cowan, Jennifer Ellinas, and Rachael Schaffner –
Key takeaways

  • Agile marketing teams can deliver real business value for an organization.
  • But agile transformations can be challenging and place outsized strain on a marketing group’s agency relationships.
  • The most successful agile marketing teams are doubling down on sound agency management practices, including approaches to scopes of work, fee arrangements, improved operating model, talent and culture, and metrics./li>

Marketing leaders are increasingly turning to agile methodologies to help improve the speed and performance of their teams along with the many partners they use for creative, production, and measurement expertise. In our experience, though, the shift to agile is often far from seamless for these constellations of teams. Our recent survey of marketing executives found that only 3 percent characterized their transition to agile marketing with their partners as “smooth,” while more than 80 percent reported the journey to be filled with obstacles.

Managing multiple external partners can already be complicated in a traditional marketing department, and it’s an understandably significant shift to borrow operating methodologies from the IT world. Compounding that challenge is the fact that marketing requires engaging with so many more types of third parties, which include measurement, platform, and publishing partners. Google, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn were mentioned by 40 percent of the executives as being among the additional partners they coordinate with today.

It’s no wonder, then, that when switching to agile methods, marketers often struggle with how best to involve their external partners and other third parties in their transformation. The result can leave some professionals feeling that agile marketing broke their agency model. more>

Updates from McKinsey

Moving beyond agile to become a software innovator
Companies need to borrow a page from the tech industry’s playbook to understand how to use agile to build better products and experiences.
By Santiago Comella-Dorda, Martin Harrysson, and Shivam Srivastava – t the end of the movie The Candidate, Robert Redford is sitting in a hotel room surrounded by cheering staffers after his character has won the election for the US Senate. Looking a little perplexed and forlorn, he turns to his advisor and asks, “What do we do now?”

Many executives who have led their businesses through successful agile programs can probably relate to Redford’s character. They have overseen sizable improvements in software product development thanks to agile; our Developer Velocity research shows that adoption of agile practices at the team level can be one of the most critical dimensions for companies that are in the early part of their journey.

But many of these businesses have run into a ceiling where incremental gains are minimal. The same Developer Velocity research, for example, showed that while third-quartile companies in terms of overall software-development performance scored 41 percent higher on agile practices than fourth-quartile companies, the differences between companies in the first and second quartiles dropped to less than 20 percent. In other words, once a business hits a certain level of excellence, improvements to how teams work in agile alone drive diminishing returns.

For companies that have realized many of the initial gains from adopting agile, there are valuable lessons to be learned from how tech companies develop products. The industry’s intense competition and pace of change have forced tech companies to develop a set of capabilities that take the fullest advantage of agile, of which the following are the most important:

  • grounding every decision on customer value through world-class product management and experience design and adopting an operating model built on products and platforms
  • creating a software-engineering culture that nurtures and celebrates technical craftmanship, empowers teams, and provides them with high levels of psychological safety in addition to supporting developers with automation and world-class tools
  • embedding data and analytics at every level of product development

more>

The real stakes of Apple’s battle over remote work

By Shirin Ghaffary and Rani Molla – For the past several months, a fight has been brewing inside Apple, the world’s most profitable company, about a fundamental aspect of its business: whether its corporate employees must return to the office.

Apple expects employees to return to their desks at least three days a week when its offices reopen. And although the Covid-19 delta variant has made it unclear exactly when that will be, Apple’s normally heads-down employees are pushing back in an unprecedented way. They’ve created two petitions demanding the option to work remotely full time that have collected over 1,000 signatures combined, a handful of people have resigned over the matter, and some employees have begun speaking out publicly to criticize management’s stance.

Apple employees who don’t want to return to the office are challenging the popular management philosophy at many Silicon Valley companies that serendipitous, in-person collaboration is necessary to fuel innovation. more>

Updates from McKinsey

Running on all five sources: Actions leaders can take to create more meaningful work
Knowing about the five sources of meaning is a great start, but the real magic occurs when leaders begin to embed them into how the work gets done.
By Timothy Bromley, Taylor Lauricella and Bill Schaninger – Research shows that when people view their work as meaningful, their performance and job attitudes improve significantly. Previously, we proposed a strategy that leaders can use to create meaningful work: making the connection to and highlighting the impact their work has on society, customers, the company, team, and individuals’ personal success—otherwise known as the five sources of meaning.

Knowing about the five sources of meaning is a great start, but the real magic occurs when leaders begin to embed them into how the work gets done. There are three steps leaders can take to start integrating the five sources this week:

  1. Determine what matters most. Start a dialogue with your team to understand what sources resonate most. This can be done during one-on-one check-ins or as a group exercise during a team meeting.
  2. Hardwire meaning into day-to-day work. Once you know what sources of meaning resonate most for your team, find small ways to hardwire them into existing activities and communications. Perhaps it’s adding an “impact story” or recognition to the start of a meeting, encouraging team members to lead meetings and complete work autonomously, or sharing customer feedback in a weekly recap email.
  3. Create connections. A common thread across the five sources is the impact of the work on others. Providing opportunities for your team to assist, mentor, support, or simply spend time with customers, other teams, members of the community, and one another is key to providing a touchpoint for meaningful experiences—particularly as the workforce returns from remote work.

There’s no shortage of inspiration in how other companies put the five sources of meaning into practice. Many organizations have found creative and bold ways to integrate the five sources of meaning into their communications, talent processes, and day-to-day activities. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

When giving feedback, focus on the future
By Sarah Kuta -When managers give performance-improvement feedback to employees, they presumably want the conversations to result in positive changes—not to inspire defensiveness, excuses for poor performance, or skepticism of the managers’ point of view.

Offering forward-looking feedback can help keep such conversations productive, suggests research by Humanly Possible’s Jackie Gnepp, Chicago Booth’s Joshua Klayman, Victoria University of Wellington’s Ian O. Williamson, and University of Chicago’s Sema Barlas.

Performance-improvement feedback often fails when managers spend too much time diagnosing or analyzing what went wrong in the past, according to the researchers. When managers and employees talk about possible next steps and solutions, however, employees tend to be more receptive to the feedback and more likely to intend to act on it, the researchers find.

Recipients respond just as well to predominately negative feedback as they do to positive feedback, so long as the conversation focuses primarily on how the recipient can best move forward, the research suggests. more>

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Updates from Chicago Booth

What does business owe society?
Experts from across the globe consider the Friedman doctrine and the social responsibilities of contemporary companies
By Amy Merrick – Fifty years ago, the late Milton Friedman, an economics professor at the University of Chicago who would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, challenged the argument that businesses have obligations separate from their responsibility to make as much money as possible for shareholders.

In his op-ed for the New York Times, published on September 13, 1970, Friedman declared, “There is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.”

Friedman was pushing back against the idea that businesses should avoid price increases to hold down inflation, pay more toward mitigating pollution than the law required, or hire less-qualified workers to reduce poverty. He did not say that businesses should profit by any means necessary; he wrote that corporate executives should conform “to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom.”

Today, some executives and economists reject Friedman’s conception of businesses’ social obligations. Last year, the Business Roundtable, which represents the CEOs of some of America’s largest companies, updated its statement on the purpose of a corporation, emphasizing a “fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders” and outlining a list of responsibilities: deliver value to customers, invest in employees, deal fairly and ethically with suppliers, support the communities in which they work, and generate long-term value for shareholders. Some have argued that global challenges such as COVID-19 and climate change are existential threats that require leadership from businesses—for the sake of their own survival, as well as that of the broader society. more>

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Updates from McKinsey

Scaling a start-up: Launching innovative products in international markets
Expanding internationally is a major step in the life of a start-up, one involving a number of important considerations. Here’s how Impossible Foods is tackling the challenge.

Key insight #1: International product launches in smaller markets foster agility and offer invaluable learnings.

Key insight #2: When prioritizing resources between growing existing products and launching new ones, learn how to say ‘not now’ rather than simply ‘no.’

Key insight #3: International launch teams need to be strategic, flexible, and plugged into the local market and culture.

Key insight #4: Different markets call for different start-up playbooks.

Key insight #5: Dealing with the business impact of COVID-19 requires the flexibility to adapt to current conditions while still pursuing long-term goals.

By Tomas Laboutka and Nick Halla – For many start-ups, the decision to expand internationally is not straightforward. CEOs must choose between the growth-opportunity costs in their home market and the resources required for the new markets. The product has to be ready and the teams set up to handle the increased complexity. What was your decision-making process? When did you know you were ready?

I think it’s a bit different for every business. For us, it was really driven by our mission to produce and deliver the most delicious meat, fish, and dairy foods the world has ever experienced—all made from plants, with a much lower environmental impact to help restore the planet’s biodiversity. We launched in the United States in 2016, but Asia consumes 44 percent of the global meat production, so we knew we needed to address the Asian markets early.

We entered Hong Kong in April 2018 and saw it as a great first international market that was small enough so we could pivot and change relatively quickly. Hong Kong is a mecca for global cuisine, so we had a large “lab” to start learning about consumers and their preferences. A lot of the aspects that we designed into product 2.0, from cooking performance to consumer tastes, we learned in Hong Kong. Our product 1.0 needed to be more robust in cooking so it could handle the diverse cooking methods and different types of cuisine. Impossible 2.0 helped us tap into local culture and accelerate growth. Additionally, we started learning how to run a global business and how to operate as a global company. As we continue to scale, we now know how to run the processes so we can build in the necessary complexity early on.

Obtaining organization-wide support to launch internationally was critical for our success. Food-industry market launches require total commitment, as opposed to doing a pilot test in consumer tech, where the scale and complexity are so much smaller. We needed to move fast. We had to make a call to go for it, even though we couldn’t check all the boxes up front on the first launch and had to learn a lot as we progressed. more>

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