Stanford Graduate School of Business
What an amazing place, Stanford University! We had the likes of Charles O’Reilly and Bill Barnett present to us during the 6 day Leadership Program run at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Charles O’Reilly was one of the people responsible for turning IBM around many years ago. These professors consult to the likes of Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook, Larry Page of Google, Bill Gates of Microsoft, etc to name just a few. Offcourse, proximity to the Silicon Valley has its perks!
Frank Flynn of Stanford talked about Communication and Persuasion. Based on their study, the most common criticism of leaders was that they were “poor listeners”. How would you know if someone is listening? —- People judge you based on “what they see you do” more so than “what they hear you say”. To make it work (building Culture in an organisation), one has to be:
Authentic (should not appear to be contrived)
Observable (others are aware of it)
Routine (doesn’t happen just once and for show)
One must also avoid the “Illusion of Transparency”. Once we know something, we are prone to under communicate it as we believe everyone else also knows it. In an organisation,
Motivation = Communication.
Fear generally holds people from progressing within an organisation. Offcourse, it also boils down to the Culture within that organisation and whether or not people are allowed the ‘freedom’ to think and innovate.
At Algasco in the US, the CEO gives out visiting cards to employees when he visits them. One side of the card has the CEO’s name and other contact details. The other side says “Get out of Jail”. People can turn this in when they have tried something that has failed.
Jeff Bezos of Amazon has a monthly reward for employees who act without getting permission first. Offcourse, this has to be within a controlled environment where staff has some autonomy to work for the betterment of the organisation within boundaries set by management.
Why raise this issue? Without innovation, “Disruptive Technologies” create an entirely new market through the introduction of a new kind of product or service. Example would be Kodak. It failed because it didn’t innovate.
More often than not, managers revert to inertial behaviour and do more of what they know best. Here are some examples of companies that faced “Disruptive Technologies” and didn’t innovate and didn’t succeed:
Phillips, Xerox —Global Competition
Delta, Wells Fargo — Deregulation
DEC, Firestone — Technology
Sears, Fiat — Demographics
A recent McKinsey & Co study of 85 big companies found that two-thirds of senior managers had been replaced by the time the businesses were revived. –The Wall Street Journal, 1995.
And, the pace of change globally is increasing exponentially! I like this quote from Dee Hock, Founder and Former CEO of Visa:
“The problem is never how to get new innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get the old ones out.”
Can our leaders (both Business and Government) use culture as a source of competitive advantage — and not get trapped by history?
This was just a fraction of the case studies we dwelled upon over the 6 day course. The last day we did some Silicon Valley company visits and these were fascinating! I will share just a few with you.
Scanadu is building the Tricorder, a medical technology straight from the world of Star Trek. Scanadu has assembled top scientists, engineers, and biohackers at their lab in the NASA Ames Research Park, located in Silicon Valley, California. Our vision is to put Tricorders into the hands of millions of people all around the world, enabling the individual to be a stakeholder in health, and bringing about a citizen-driven revolution in medicine worldwide.
Healthcare is rapidly becoming quantitative, a numbers game. Patients as well as doctors will be overloaded with “big” data. This will open up a massive market for auto-diagnosis. But this market needs a tool, just like the mobile market needed a mobile phone. In January 2012, Peter Diamandis, CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, announced the Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE, to spur the creation of a wireless, portable health device to monitor and diagnose an individual’s health conditions. To win the Tricorder X PRIZE, a device must diagnose 15 distinct diseases in a group of 15 to 30 people. Critically, the tool must be used by a regular person, not a doctor or nurse.
Healthcare all over the world is broken. It is the last infrastructure of the industrial age waiting to be decentralized, waiting for the empowered medical consumer to take the place of a patient. Scanadu, recognizing this need and opportunity, is bringing the new, educated individual a tool just for them – the Tricorder – to scan and track health in real time. Advances in sensors, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing technology, along with the coming ubiquity of mobile phones, makes this device possible. Scanadu has partnered with NASA and other innovative institutions to bring this mythical device to reality.
Management: Walter de Brouwer, CEO
Walter is or has been many things: an academic, a publisher of computer magazines, an internet entrepreneur, a telecom operator, a lab chief, a banker, an extreme scientist, a father, etc. He holds an M.A. in linguistics and a Ph.D. in semiotics. He is a student of formal grammars, parsers, Nikola Tesla patents and deconstructionism. His wife says he is an anarchist as long as he is in charge.
De Brouwer was born in Aalst, Belgium. He earned a Master’s degree in linguistics from the University of Ghent in 1980, and a PhD in Semiotics from Tilburg University in 2005. He was a lecturer at the University of Antwerp (UFSIA) and an adjunct professor at the International University of Monaco from 2001-2004. He has been an Entrepreneur in Residence with the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning at Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge since 2004, and he sits on the editorial advisory board of the Journal for Chinese Entrepreneurship.
De Brouwer set up Riverland Publications in 1990 to publish personal computer magazines. In 1994, De Brouwer sold his titles to VNU. He then published the cyberpunk magazine Wave, edited by Michel Bauwens and designed by Niels Shoe Meulman. Wave was a cult Belgian avantgarde magazine that joined Boing-Boing and Mondo 2000 as bridge between the underground and the world of the future.
In 1996 De Brouwer was one of the founders of PING, later sold to EUnet. In April 1998 the company was sold to Qwest Communications International, which in turn later merged EUnet in with the ill-fated KPNQwest. In 1999, his electronic employment site Jobscape merged with eight similar sites to make up Stepstone, which went public with a price tag of £365m on the London Stock Exchange. In 2008, De Brouwer set up OLPC Europe, the European branch of One Laptop per Child.
In 1996, de Brouwer set up Starlab, specializing in “blue skies” research, deep future research, and BANG (Bits, Atoms, Neurons and Genes) research. Starlab produced generic patents in intelligent clothing, and worked on time travel. One of its spinoffs (spitters.com) was collecting spit for personal genomics typing, which 23andme started doing 6 years later. The laboratory closed during the dot-com bubble in 2001.
In 2011 De Brouwer joined the Brain-Computer-Interface company Emotiv, where he became the CEO of Europe. He is a board member of Tau Zero Foundation, formerly known as NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Program which recently published the state-of-the-art work The Frontiers of Propulsion. He is also currently the CEO of Scanadu.
De Brouwer is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and served as President of RSA Europe from 2006 to 2008. He is a member of TED, a Founding Member of TEDGlobal, and curator of TEDxBrussels and TEDxKids Brussels. He is a Knight in the Order of Leopold, and a member of the Education Board of the Lifeboat Foundation. Since 2009 De Brouwer has been the Director of the Founder Institute Brussels.
Inspired by new White House policies supporting increased government partnership with the commercial space sector, Moon Express, Inc. was formed as a privately funded lunar transportation and data services company to establish new avenues for commercial space activities beyond Earth orbit.
Moon Express emerged quickly onto the commercial space scene in October when announced by NASA as one of six U.S. companies selected for its commercial lunar data program. Moon Express received further notoriety when announced by the X PRIZE Foundation as a new contender in the $30M Google Lunar X PRIZE competition.
The company was founded by Barney Pell and his two co-founders: Dr. Robert (Bob) Richards, a founder of International Space University, who serves as CEO, and philanthropist, entrepreneur, and visionary, Naveen Jain, who serves as company Chairman. All three Moon Express founders also work together as trustees of Singularity University based at the NASA Ames Research Park.
Management: Robert (Bob) Richards, Co-founder & CEO
Space entrepreneur. Orphan of Apollo. Co-Founder of International Space University, Singularity University and Google Lunar X PRIZE competitors Odyssey Moon Ltd. and Moon Express, Inc., where he currently serves as CEO.
As Director of the Optech Space Division from 2002-2009, Bob led the company’s technology into orbit in 2004 and to the surface of Mars in 2008 aboard the NASA Phoenix Lander, making the first discovery of falling Martian snow.
Bob studied aerospace and industrial engineering at Ryerson University; physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto; and space science at Cornell University where he became special assistant to Carl Sagan. In 1987 Bob co-founded the International Space University (ISU); today a global institution with a central campus in Strasbourg, France. While a student in the 1980’s he also co-founded the Space Generation Foundation and the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS).
In 2008 Bob joined Peter Diamandis, Ray Kurzweil and other leading thinkers in the founding of the Singularity University, an institution based at the NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley dedicated to preparing humanity for accelerating technological change.
Bob is an evangelist of the “NewSpace” movement and has been a catalyst for a number of commercial space ventures. He is the recipient of a number of international space awards, including the K.E. Tsiolkovski Medal (Russia, 1995), the Space Frontier “Vision to Reality” Award (USA , 1994), the Arthur C. Clarke Commendation (Sri Lanka, 1990) and Aviation & Space Technology Laurel (USA, 1988). He is a contributing author of “Blueprint for Space” (SmithsonianInstitution 1992); “Return to the Moon” (Apogee Books 2005) and “The Farthest Shore” (ISU Press 2009).
In 2005 Bob received a Doctorate of Space Achievement (honoris causa) from the International Space University for “distinguished accomplishments in support of humanity’s exploration and use of space.”
NASA Research Park
Singularity University was jointly founded by Dr. Peter H. Diamandis and Dr. Ray Kurzweil. The concept of a new university that could leverage the power of exponential technologies to solve humanity’s grand challenges was proposed by Diamandis to Kurzweil and to International Space University colleagues Dr. Robert D. Richards and Michael Simpson in April 2007. An exploratory meeting was held at NASA Research Park, Moffett Field in November 2007, followed in September 2008 by a Founding meeting also hosted at NASA.
A number of exponentially growing technologies will massively increase human capability and fundamentally reshape our future. This warrants the creation of an academic institution whose students and faculty will study these technologies, with an emphasis on the interactions between different technologies. Our mission is to assemble, educate and inspire a new generation of leaders who strive to understand and utilize exponentially advancing technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges.
With the support of a broad range of specialists in academia, business and government, Singularity University creates a global network of like-minded entrepreneurs, technologists and young leaders to participate in crafting a road map to guide the evolution of these disruptive technologies. SU helps create solutions and applications of these technologies for the benefit of humanity through its Graduate Studies and Executive Programs. SU is based at the NASA Research Park campus in the heart of Silicon Valley.
As co-Founder & Chairman of the Singularity University, a Silicon Valley based institution partnered with NASA, Google, Autodesk and Nokia,
Dr. Peter Diamandis counsels the world’s top enterprises on how to utilize exponential technologies and incentivized innovation to dramatically accelerate their business objectives.
Diamandis is also the Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, which leads the world in designing and launching large incentive prizes to drive radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. Best known for the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for private spaceflight and the $10 million Progressive Automotive X PRIZE for 100 mile-per-gallon equivalent cars, the Foundation is now launching prizes in Exploration, Life Sciences, Energy, and Education. Diamandis is also an international leader in the commercial space arena, having founded and run many of the leading entrepreneurial companies in this sector including Zero Gravity Corporation, the Rocket Racing League and Space Adventures.
Dr. Diamandis attended MIT, where he received his degrees in molecular genetics and aerospace engineering, as well as Harvard Medical School, where he received his M.D. Diamandis’ personal motto is: “The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself!”
Ray Kurzweil has been described as “the restless genius” by The Wall Street Journal, and “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes. Inc. magazine ranked him #8 among entrepreneurs in the United States, calling him the “rightful heir to Thomas Edison,” and PBS included Ray as one of 16 “revolutionaries who made America,” along with other inventors of the past two centuries.
Ray was the principal developer of the first CCD flatbed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition.
Ray is the recipient of the $500,000 MIT-Lemelson Prize, the world’s largest for innovation. In 1999, he received the National Medal of Technology, the nation’s highest honour in technology, from President Clinton in a White House ceremony. And in 2002, he was inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame, established by the U.S. Patent Office.
He has received nineteen honorary doctorates, and honours from three U.S. presidents. Ray has authored six books, four of which have been national bestsellers. The Age of Spiritual Machines has been translated into 9 languages and was the #1 best-selling book on Amazon in science. Ray’s latest book, The Singularity is Near, was a New York Times bestseller, and has been the #1 book on Amazon in both science and philosophy. Kurzweil AI.net has over one million readers annually.
Note: Singularity University cannot get a designation as an accredited university as one of the requirements of the Board of Studies is to have a set curriculum. Given the pace of change in technology today, they change their course 6 TIMES PER YEAR to remain relevant!
There were some resoundingly obvious characteristics in the Silicon Valley:
Failure was not condemned but put down to “Experience” and not punished. As long as the ‘effort’ was there, people were always willing to help others both with technical expertise and capital to launch new ventures.
There was the reality of ‘sharing’ ideas and not hiding them in fear of it being stolen. “Everyone knows everything at the Silicon Valley”. A great way to ‘test’ the hypothesis was to launch it to one’s top 200 contacts to see if it was plausible and to get feedback on fixing/altering it.
No one person is smarter than the lot!
It is for these reasons that there is so much innovation coming out of the Silicon Valley and there are so many success stories (offcourse there are the failures too but these are simply life experiences).
It is this collaborative and transparent approach to innovation that leads to world class product/service offerings.
‘Betterment of Mankind’ seems to be the overwhelming drive underpinning most ideas. The Silicon Valley is optimistic for the future of mankind and is striving towards eradicating many diseases and poverty globally.