Business speed: How does technology change?

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EconomistFundamental technological shifts redefining business in the 21st century were the focus of the Ideas Economy: Innovation Forum 2013, organised by The Economist and held on March 28, 2013 in Berkeley, California.

by Kamran Saddique

Under the catchphrase Redefining the Speed of Business, the conference drew upon today’s leading practitioners and business minds to examine the ways large-scale technological change will reinvent business for the next 100 years. Keeping in mind that digitisation of manufacturing is revolutionising the industry and 24/7 connectivity and social networking are changing the overall way business works, a global innovation revolution is happening that is arguably more profound than any in the last two centuries.

The forum, covered by Inside Investor, was the fourth conference on innovation and ideas, a series run by The Economist at the Haas School of Business in Berkeley, California. It was organised in a lecture style seating with the involvement of some big names from the industry such as Google, Cisco, X Prize Foundation, Levi Strauss, FedEx, Adobe Systems and others.

The Economist’s China Business Editor, Vijay Vaitheeswaran, opened the forum, whose entire series is sponsored by the Qatar Foundation.

The opening session was conducted by Chris Anderson, author of the insightful book Makers: The new industrial revolution. He was digging deeper into topics of hyperconnectivity and digitisation of manufacturing, the effects of both on the global economy and their potential to ‘disrupt’ or at least impact work and life. Anderson discussed the 3 necessary ingredients that are transforming the web similar to what happened with automation in manufacturing in the 19th century: 1. Desktop – 3D printers, 2. Digital – web innovation models and 3. Cloud Computing. Shares of companies engaged in those fields increased by up to 184 per cent over the past year at NYSE and NASDAQ. Entire economies are transforming themselves to accommodate this new development, for example in Singapore which wants to establish itself as a new hub for 3D printing. (See the related story on Investvine.com , a portal of Inside Investor, http://investvine.com/spore-sees-technologic-future-in-3d-printing.)

Anderson also talked about the opportunity this presents to the West to potentially take back economic potential from the East as they did with the low cost of labour. The question is: Is this where plaudits should go to a country like Singapore?

A very interesting point discussed was the suggestion that the supply chain needs to move closer to the consumer market. This has been discussed in many of The Economist’s reports over the past 3 months and is an area where Mexico is in prime position to take on the giants of Asia. Consumers want speed in delivery, especially in the new age of constant change and innovation. The US has seen many job eliminated in manufacturing for this reason, and for the future if would be better to create new jobs through innovation.

The question remains how innovation can be commercialised and what the critical volume for an innovative product is. The magic number in manufacturing is seen as being 10,000. While this is too small of a number for mass production but already too big for prototyping, it allows small start-ups and even big companies to compete for a niche segment. One example is the smart watch launched by Sony that connects to an Android operating system and allows Twitter feeds and SMS messaging, another the Pebble watch project which was supported by crowd funding via Kickstarter.com and is now shipping 15,000 watches a week.

Crowd funding and sourcing was mentioned throughout the event, with a focus on how it is helping create young entrepreneurs taking and managing risks in the US. However, this alternative form of financing is also on the rise in Asia.

The rest of the event was looking at key areas of market innovation which has been possible through social media for giants such as Cisco and Levi Strauss. For example, Cisco has revised its customer relations management via social media, and complaints are now contained and compacted via social platforms. The result was that the company can now handle 7,000 of these complaints a day which allows rapid solutions. This would not have been possible without social media, Cisco said.

Overall, the forum was very insightful for the entire innovation industry to get a feeling in which direction the global economy is moving. Such events are necessary and beneficial for the business community as a whole, and perhaps certain countries in Asia and universities could benefit from working with The Economist to bring new ideas to companies that are still stuck to an old business model. There were a lot of lessons learned on bringing more of these events into Asia and the areas where further collaboration should be explored.

 

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Fundamental technological shifts redefining business in the 21st century were the focus of the Ideas Economy: Innovation Forum 2013, organised by The Economist and held on March 28, 2013 in Berkeley, California.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

EconomistFundamental technological shifts redefining business in the 21st century were the focus of the Ideas Economy: Innovation Forum 2013, organised by The Economist and held on March 28, 2013 in Berkeley, California.

by Kamran Saddique

Under the catchphrase Redefining the Speed of Business, the conference drew upon today’s leading practitioners and business minds to examine the ways large-scale technological change will reinvent business for the next 100 years. Keeping in mind that digitisation of manufacturing is revolutionising the industry and 24/7 connectivity and social networking are changing the overall way business works, a global innovation revolution is happening that is arguably more profound than any in the last two centuries.

The forum, covered by Inside Investor, was the fourth conference on innovation and ideas, a series run by The Economist at the Haas School of Business in Berkeley, California. It was organised in a lecture style seating with the involvement of some big names from the industry such as Google, Cisco, X Prize Foundation, Levi Strauss, FedEx, Adobe Systems and others.

The Economist’s China Business Editor, Vijay Vaitheeswaran, opened the forum, whose entire series is sponsored by the Qatar Foundation.

The opening session was conducted by Chris Anderson, author of the insightful book Makers: The new industrial revolution. He was digging deeper into topics of hyperconnectivity and digitisation of manufacturing, the effects of both on the global economy and their potential to ‘disrupt’ or at least impact work and life. Anderson discussed the 3 necessary ingredients that are transforming the web similar to what happened with automation in manufacturing in the 19th century: 1. Desktop – 3D printers, 2. Digital – web innovation models and 3. Cloud Computing. Shares of companies engaged in those fields increased by up to 184 per cent over the past year at NYSE and NASDAQ. Entire economies are transforming themselves to accommodate this new development, for example in Singapore which wants to establish itself as a new hub for 3D printing. (See the related story on Investvine.com , a portal of Inside Investor, http://investvine.com/spore-sees-technologic-future-in-3d-printing.)

Anderson also talked about the opportunity this presents to the West to potentially take back economic potential from the East as they did with the low cost of labour. The question is: Is this where plaudits should go to a country like Singapore?

A very interesting point discussed was the suggestion that the supply chain needs to move closer to the consumer market. This has been discussed in many of The Economist’s reports over the past 3 months and is an area where Mexico is in prime position to take on the giants of Asia. Consumers want speed in delivery, especially in the new age of constant change and innovation. The US has seen many job eliminated in manufacturing for this reason, and for the future if would be better to create new jobs through innovation.

The question remains how innovation can be commercialised and what the critical volume for an innovative product is. The magic number in manufacturing is seen as being 10,000. While this is too small of a number for mass production but already too big for prototyping, it allows small start-ups and even big companies to compete for a niche segment. One example is the smart watch launched by Sony that connects to an Android operating system and allows Twitter feeds and SMS messaging, another the Pebble watch project which was supported by crowd funding via Kickstarter.com and is now shipping 15,000 watches a week.

Crowd funding and sourcing was mentioned throughout the event, with a focus on how it is helping create young entrepreneurs taking and managing risks in the US. However, this alternative form of financing is also on the rise in Asia.

The rest of the event was looking at key areas of market innovation which has been possible through social media for giants such as Cisco and Levi Strauss. For example, Cisco has revised its customer relations management via social media, and complaints are now contained and compacted via social platforms. The result was that the company can now handle 7,000 of these complaints a day which allows rapid solutions. This would not have been possible without social media, Cisco said.

Overall, the forum was very insightful for the entire innovation industry to get a feeling in which direction the global economy is moving. Such events are necessary and beneficial for the business community as a whole, and perhaps certain countries in Asia and universities could benefit from working with The Economist to bring new ideas to companies that are still stuck to an old business model. There were a lot of lessons learned on bringing more of these events into Asia and the areas where further collaboration should be explored.

 

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