What’s your sperm count?

Reading about Gary Hamel here, I came across this wonderful analogy.

“Getting pregnant is considered a big success despite the millions of wasted sperm – so what’s your corporate sperm count?”

The question that Gary is asking is how open you are to failure and trying new things in order to achieve innovation. The key is that nature has worked that out. It has created a system where there are millions of sperms at a cheap cost to overcome the challenge.

That’s what we need for innovation – a culture of failure, an ability and system to start innovation prototypes efficiently and to weed out the failures.

The key for service work especially in social stuff is the efficiency of prototypes. You can’t model it in clay for example. That will be the key in the long run to be able to be successful in innovation.

So, what’s your sperm count?


R&D/Innovation requires risk money

From SF Gate on Water.org:

“When you’re trying to innovate, you have to experiment. But traditional sources of funding require statistics and data, illustrating impact. Yet, in R&D that’s not possible,” Birch said. “That’s why I was keen to support some of these ideas that have long-term impact but are high-risk investments, perhaps, in the short term.”

At my employer, The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI), we are trying to do the same thing but on a more deeper scale. We develop the solutions and fund the initial R&D and then would like to scale it up with a partner. The big key question is getting large funding to support R&D.

Second Road

From Second Road Consultancy:

The Western world, from Aristotle onwards, has sought truth and direction along two different paths:

  • a first road represented by the principles of logic – the engine room of analysis and analytic inquiry
  • a second road constituted by the principles of rhetoric – intent, invention, persuasive argument and socialisation.

Aristotle believed the first road is most suitable for answering questions of science and nature, the second for managing human nature and civic affairs.

Both roads are powerful. Both yield insights. Both are necessary.

Business today is not what it was a century, or even a decade ago. Interconnectedness, velocity, volatile change and the critical importance of people make it impossible to simply ‘make a plan and stick to it’. Logic and analysis alone are not enough to prepare an organization for a future in a shifting, global environment.

Leaders need the second road (the path of invention and design) to envision compelling yet flexible strategy, create common purpose and mobilise people into action. They need new skills derived from the arts of language and design.

Second Road is at the forefront of the ‘second road’ today.

Education, skills and India’s demographic dividend

From Equitymaster:

While there are several macroeconomic issues plaguing the Indian economy, there is one very pressing concern that needs to be attended to with utmost urgency. Or else the long term ramifications would be disastrous for the country. We are referring to nothing but education and skill training. The statistics will tell you why we cannot afford to ignore this sector. Of India’s 1.2 bn population, 65% is under the age of 35 years. And in fact, 54% of the population is under the age of 25 years. It must be noted that in both- absolute and percentage terms- these numbers are the highest. In other words, India is set to have the highest working population in the coming times. A huge work force bodes well for the economy. But only if it is educated and skilled!

Though India’s enrolment rate is robust at 96% for entering primary schools, the story then on is not very encouraging. Only 20% of the population tends to complete primary education. The number for secondary and tertiary education dives down to 1.3% and 3.1%, respectively. The gross enrolment rate of 13.5% for higher education is among the lowest in the world. This means that a huge chunk of young populations enters the workforce with poor education and skill sets. How can such an unskilled workforce translate into a democratic dividend? It is because of these reasons that in recent years, policymakers have started laying great emphasis on education and skill development. The National Skill Development Mission (NSDC) has set a target of skilling 500 million people by 2022. This is indeed a mammoth task and will require public-private partnerships. Due to the large-scale poverty in the country the government has made education free, a constitutional right. Thou gh the government spends about Rs 5,000-6,000 per student for 10 years or more, an additional amount needs be spent on skill development. This could help make many unemployed youth employable.

JC Penny – Integrated Strategy


This piece of video is gold from Fortune Brainstorm Tech. 
Its less than 5 minutes but shows the thinking behind the integrated strategy that Ron Johnson is carving out at JC Penny.
For a bit of a background. Ron Johnson worked at Target and was picked by Steve Jobs to lead the retail strategy for Apple. In 10 years he made Apple Stores the most profitable and the highest sales per square foot stores for any retail operation beating even many premium brands.
Ron moves to JC Penny, a discount retailer in the US as the CEO. The first step he takes is to remove all kinds of promotions from the shop, 540 a year and move to a everyday low price strategy. The rest of the stuff he talks on the video connects to that core pricing strategy.

Future That Has Already Happened

Drucker writes this in his book The Ecological Vission as the work of the Social Ecologist. This theme comes up regularly in many of his books including the latest, Management, Revised Edition. The idea is to focus on what has already happened and use that as a way to forecast the impact of those changes. I think this is such a powerful tool if well implemented.

If social ecology is a discipline, it not only has its own subject matter. It also has its own work-atleast for me. But it is easier to say what is work is not than to be specific about what it consists of.

I am often called a “futurist”. But if there is one thing I am not-one thing a social ecologis must not be-it is a “futurist”. IN the first place it is futile to try to foresee the future. This is not given to mortal man. And the idea that ignorance and uncertainity become vision by being put into a computer is not a particularly intelligent one. One problem is that the things the most brilliant and most successful predictor never predicts are always the things that are more important than the things he does predict. Futurists, always measure their batting average by how many things that they have preducted came true. They never count how many of the important things that came true they did not predict.

A good example is the most successful futurist in recorded history, the Frech science fiction write Jules Verne (1828-1905). Most of the technologies he predicted have come true. But he-probably quite unconsciously-assumed that society and econmy would remain what they were around 1870-and the changes in society and economy have, of course, been atleast as important as the new inventions.

But also, and more important, the work of the social ecologist is to identify the changes that have already happened. The important challenge in society, economy, politics is to exploit the changes that have already occurred and to use them as opportunities. The important thing is to identify the “Future That Has Already Happenned” – the tentative title of another book which I did not write, a book which was intended to develop the methodlogy for perceiving and analyzing these changes which had happened-and irreversibly so-but which had not yet had an impact, and were indeed not yet generally seen.

Gina Rinehart on the future of mining and prosperity in Australia

Many in Australia may not like the way Gina Rinehart, the billionaire mining owner is going for Fairfax Media however, what she has to say about mining and the future prosperity is critical.

The latest data is showing that more and more businesses are going bust in the non-mining states like South Australia, Victoria and Sydney. And the carbon tax and mineral resource tax along with red tape and immigration issues will kill the mining states. Within no time Australian citizens may lose the wonderful life they have now. We cannot take these things for granted.

It seems too easily forgotten that people who know what it is to hire people – even thousands of Australians, also understand better than most what could prevent them from doing so. While I have many investment options in a globalised economy, the place where I most want to create sustainable jobs is Australia.

Yet others are increasingly feeling forced to make a different choice.

West Perth, where my offices are, for instance, is filled with companies investing in low-cost, highly resourced Africa.

Now the evidence is unarguable that Australia is indeed becoming too expensive and too uncompetitive to do export-oriented business (businesses that must sell their product in the world economy at world market, not Australian, prices). What was too readily argued as the self-interested complaints of a greedy few is now becoming the accepted truth, and, more ominously, is showing up in incontrovertible data.

ANDEV members and I have been voicing our concerns and warning about this over the last two years. What hurts business can devastate our already grossly in-debt nation.