About Li Minyong Davis

Before you speak, listen. Before you write, think. Before you spend, earn. Before you invest, investigate. Before you criticize, wait. Before pray, forgive. Before you quit, try. Before you retire, save. Before you die, give." -William Arthur Ward

Transparency: Singular profile

I believe one of the most talked about issues with technology (esp. with social technologies) is privacy.

During class, we spoke about FB’s vision of creating a singular view of its users. This is not a new concept.

#1: Businesses wants a singular view of their customers!

Businesses had been striving to have a singular and consistent view of its customers to better serve them or to segment them. Truth is, we give our IC numbers, telephone numbers, email addresses to the forms we fill up.

Okay, in this 21st century, consumers are getting smarter and more educated thus balancing the former information asymmetry played by commercial and government organizations. So, facing commercial or charity organizations, we often do not like to reveal too much such as IC number and handphone numbers. As Prof had mentioned in an experiment, email addresses are likely to be exchanged for something else such as lucky draws, etc. We all can guess the reasons, we often have the idea that we can control our emails and it’s easier to handle spam mails than prank calls.

Nowadays, consumers use email addresses or Facebook accounts to become a “bridge” to gain something out from the tangible world. Stand a chance to win an automobile or a iPad 3? Sure, fill in this particulars: Name, IC, HP, Address, Email address or even DOB. Stand a chance to win a $50 hamper? Sure, I will just fill in my name and email address.

The notion is that my online profile is still a distance away from the real me in real life. However, many are not aware or simply didn’t care that on a daily basis, they had been pouring our intimate information online which very much easily links back to their real lives!

Now, how about government agencies? People are more likely to divulge more information to play safe or to portray “obedience”. (This is subjected to various power-distance index of different countries [1])

Therefore, how users give up their online privacy is largely psychological and not technological.

#2: Media companies/Journalists wants a singular view of you as well!

Just made an observation and would like to share them. There is no hard evidence I could have gathered and it’s just pure speculation on my part.

I am not sure if this is an SOP that journalists will first cross check their databases before covering a new story. But I encountered a journalist [I call this person J1] who asked me about a fellow interviewee’s [I call this person ABC] age, I was told that ABC gave a age which did not match up after cross checking with the database. ABC was also featured on newspaper 2 years ago. Well, I told J1 then you can do simple maths and know what is the current age of ABC.

So, I was figuring that if some journalist were to write a story about you, he will definitely want to find out your history, at least on his database. However, the problem is social media, a simple google search can bring up wealth of information about you. And who knows what he will gather to get a better scoop of his story.

Imagine that 10 years ago you were a featured hero on newspaper. Today, you were involved in a fraud or scandal. A journalist who is covering your story might dig your past and say, “XYZ Scholar involved in ABC scam fraud!” This is a better headline than “Mr Plain Vanilla involved in an ABC scam fraud”

Conclusion of the matter

Countering the conventional saying of “You run but you can’t hide”.
There can no longer be any hiding online. With social media and the psychology behind users’ online behavior in converging online and offline identities, you can no longer run nor hide.

[1] http://www.clearlycultural.com/geert-hofstede-cultural-dimensions/power-distance-index/

Apple versus Microsoft: Who’s more sustainable?

I would like to apply the elements of a sustainable company to Apple, Inc.

The focus is on Apple’s agility, ability to think differently and its focus which made Apple truly a sustainable company. Currently, Microsoft is trying to muscle in a strong retaliation with Apple’s hold onto personal mobile devices industry (Consumer electronics if you may).

From Yahoo! Finance, Apple’s stock prices had always been below and sometimes way below Microsoft’s. Apple leapfrogged Microsoft when the iPhone was introduced to the world in 2007.

The road of Apple’s current success: (Agility, thinking differently and focus of the company)
1997 – App store iTunes.
2001 – iPod launched.
2003 – iTunes 4 with 10 million songs sold.
2004 – 100 million songs downloaded from iTunes making it the most successful legal only music download service in the market.
2007 – iPhone, greatest success ever. Also in 2007, Apple changed its name to Apple Inc. to reflect the company’s ongoing expansion into the consumer electronics market in addition to its traditional focus on personal computers. (See how focus Apple is compared to Microsoft)
2010,2011 – iPad 1 and 2, another emerging huge success.

I did not mention iMac in 1998 even though it brought profits back to Apple because iMac did not make Apple hot and a cultural icon we see today.

While Microsoft ventured heavily into the PC industry and some effort in the Gaming industry (Xbox), Apple had been paving way for the mobile industry while at the same time making significant efforts in the PC industry with improved releases of MacOS.

I believe Microsoft in the late 90s and early 2000s had been pre-occupied competing with various competitors such as outmaneuvering Apple’s PC market share and therefore failed to think differently in investing heavily into the personal mobile devices market. (Except for their failed attempts of Pocket PC 2002 and Windows Mobile operating systems for mobile devices)

Not forgetting Microsoft is always fighting everyone and this includes the familiar Google. I believe Microsoft is trying to think differently but because it is a huge and incumbent dominant player in the PC industry, it is hard for it to attain an effective discipline of innovation like Apple. It looked like Microsoft is trying to combat the Innovator’s dilemma by dividing its attention to so many industries.

Look at how many products Apple really has to offer? Macintosh computers and its MacOSes, an App store and mobile devices such as iPod, iPhone and iPad. We can name almost every Apple product because Apple is focused.

What about Microsoft? Operating Systems such as Windows, Windows mobile, Windows Server; Internet Explorer against Netscape’s, Xbox and Xbox-Kinect for gaming, Bing for search engine, and more recently their social ad solution [1].

Microsoft is like an octopus ranging from Computer software, Consumer electronics, Digital distribution, Computer hardware, Video games, IT consulting, Online advertising, Retail stores, Automotive software, and at the same time Microsoft could lose its reign.

It seems like Microsoft adopted a reactive response than a pro-active response in the market. Some suggestion to the above claim:

Windows 8: Microsoft has put a lot of time, effort and money into making Windows 8 a touch-based operating system. It seems that Microsoft is betting that touch (and tablets) will be a big thing during the reign of Windows 8, but the company is making its assumption based on one device – Apple’s iPad.

Tablets have been around in one shape or form for over a decade, but each new model withered and died on the vine. The fact that there’s a market for the iPad doesn’t mean that there’s a broader market for tablets in general. Take the enormous success of the iPod for example, there were many companies that saw the success of the iPod and thought that would translate into a broader market for MP3 players in general. It wasn’t the case, and companies lost a lot of money pursuing a dead market. [2]

[1] Microsoft’s Social Ad Solution
[2] Windows 8

You can find a comprehensive infographics history of Apple and Microsoft on http://www.redmondpie.com/apple-vs.-microsoft-the-history-of-computing-infographic/

Classifying sources of innovation

While reviewing this week’s lecture that follows up on Peter Drucker’s Discipline of Innovation, I came to a few questions for discussion.

If New Knowledge takes a longer time to fruition, then what is Disruptive Technologies supposed to be?

So, can I say that Disruptive Technologies may not be birthed from a new knowledge but usually they are formed due to changes in perception or even incongruities? If Disruptive Technologies is a form of new knowledge, it is unlikely it will stun the industry and displace an incumbent company. Agree?

Hard-disk industry, people started looking at a “lower” and cheaper tech and it became part of PCs and Laptops. Maybe I can call this example a “Low-tech” disruption.
(Is this source of innovation from incongruities or new knowledge?)

Okay, how about iPhones? Apple has such fore-sight that when it came out with its iPods, they weren’t satisfied. They were thinking ahead. Why don’t we marry music playing with telecommunication functions?
When the Sony Walkman (I would say it’s the pioneer of portable music) came about, most music devices target the portability utility and hardly anyone thought of combining a phone and a music device.
And then comes the iPhone from Apple, marrying entertainment, personal organization (inspired by Palm Pilot,etc) with telecommunications.

So in your opinion, is an iPhone innovation from an Incongruity source? Or we can classify them under Incongruities and in Changes in Perception?

IMHO, I think smart phones and other consumer electronics nowadays aren’t new knowledge but more of a creative fusion of anything someone can think about.

If we finally adopt the flexible displays (fold-able phones and those newspapers you see in Harry Potter movie where a newspaper can transmit videos on the page itself), then this is definitely a source of New Knowledge innovation.

Whatever innovation we are speaking of, do not forget Geoffrey A. Moore’s Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers. Where it speaks of the technology adoption lifecycle where five main segments are recognized; innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. Once your tech product crosses the chasm, you can expect a large buying market. Hence, crossing the chasm.

The diagram you see is from Tech Startup 3.0 which classified Moore’s diagram into something we can identify with.
So please interpret the below contemporary diagram as
Innovators – Tech Enthusiasts.
Early Adopters – Visionaries
Early Majority – Pragmatists
Late Majority – Conservatives
Laggards – Skeptics

(1) Something interesting about Sony Walkman, the founder or innovator of this innovation saw hippies in the US shouldering large radio sets on the streets blasting their music. And the idea of a walkman portable music player came forth.

Personal Reflection on “The Discipline of Innovation”

Dear all, it’s just my raw personal reflection (In blue)

Please criticize it as thorough as possible so I can learn from your insights and examples.

Peter Drucker write in this article, innovation is real work and that most innovative business ideas come from methodically analyzing seven areas of opportunity, some of which lie within particular companies (intrapreneurship) or industries and some of which lie in broader social or demographic trends.

Entrepreneurship is not about a certain kind of personality but a systematic practice of innovation.

However, in my opinion, personality does play a part in innovation. A person who has high inter- and intra-personal intelligence often observes his surroundings, follows current affairs, asks unconventional questions to conventional systems, discusses new initiatives and ideas, and talks to people and being curious about their lives. These people often have the natural or an “easier” time purposefully searching for innovation opportunities.

There are 7 sources of innovation mentioned in the article.

Four areas of innovation opportunities exist within a company or industry.
1. Unexpected occurrences.
2. Incongruities.
3. Process needs.
4. Industry and market changes.

Three areas of innovation opportunities lie outside a company but in its social and intellectual environment.
5. Demographic changes.
6. Changes in perception.
7. New Knowledge.

Unexpected occurrences
The easiest and simplest source of innovation lies in the unexpected. It could be an unexpected success: IBM developed the first modern accounting machines designed for banks but banks did not buy them in the 1930s. However, the New York Public Library wanted a machine and so IBM’s founder and CEO Thomas Watson Senior sold more than a hundred of his unsalable machines to libraries.

Entrepreneurship is not about an eureka moment (AHA! effect), but rather an eureka insight. It’s a lot of researching, talking to people and sensing the market. No innovative idea will be an innovation until it’s executed and proven by the ruthless market before being accepted as a product. Interestingly, many entrepreneurs started out thinking if it’s a great idea for them, it will be a great idea for others. In this case, IBM might thought the same because it did not consider the trend of the banking industry at that time: they did not have enough money or interest in buying machines. The unexpected success of IBM came about when libraries at that time, have that kind of money and interest! For your business to float above the sea, you need funding!

The next unexpected success came about 15 years later and when people finally believed that computers were designed for advanced scientific work and businesses showed an interest in automated payroll. IBM redesigned its machines to rival UNIVAC’s machine specialized for mundane applications such as payroll. After since, in 5 years, IBM became a leader in the computer industry and it has maintained this position till now.

Unexpected failures may be an equally important source of innovation. Ford Edsel (Car model) was the biggest new-car failure in the automotive industry. However, Edsel’s failure was actually the foundation for the company’s (Ford’s competitor was General Motors) later success. Similar to what the article will mention about psycho-graphic and demographic changes in the market, Ford realized that the automobile’s market can no longer be just segmented by income groups, but “lifestyles” group. Ford’s response was a car with a distinct personality called Mustang. From then on, Ford reestablished itself to be an industry leader.

Do not be rigid with your product, business or past. Mistakes are a huge source of future innovation and success. Take for example, the Post-It. The company 3M initially wanted a super adhesive gluey compound for their new product. However, a mistake happened. A type of gluey compound sticks well but not well enough and it can be removed easily. The mistake wasn’t the end, it became a by-product for a new product called the Post-It!

Marketers and entrepreneurs should understand that not all creations of products/services can serve the current market. Consumers can be educated or be made aware of a new need identified by entrepreneurs. Don’t always think of a product or service that serves an existing need, go beyond that. Have eureka insights and build on them, you will never know if a future need can be met by your current innovation.

I like this source of innovation because I often like to question conventional systems and wisdom. We came a long way before modern technology is pervasive in many societies. Many old ways, processes and legacies were passed down either for “heritage” purposes or best practices purposes. Take for example the ministerial salary review, pension was proposed to be scrapped.

In this section, Peter Drucker showed us that by filling in a gap comes the success and sources of innovation. Incongruity or gaps can happen in processes, the way people work, the way people perceive, and any markets or segments of people un-served or under-served (Similar to Blue Ocean strategy)

Take for example my a year ago initiative with NUS’ Office of Student Affairs. I saw an un-served or under-served segment of special needs students who might struggle to travel from point to point in the campus. The maps and directions of the campus aren’t suited for them at all! Considering this fact, my team and I took the innovative step in identifying wheelchair friendly routes and present them on a 2D map (I used Microsoft Visio to create these schematic maps).

Right now, we are currently in talks to push for an official support and hopefully our initiative can be official. Our goal is to help special needs students (Targeting on the physically challenged for now) to travel in the campus in order to enjoy the school’s facilities as much as possible.


Process needs
In the article, Peter Drucker talked about the process of driving on highways where reflectors on highways and on vehicles allowed cars to “detect” each other and thus enabled smoother traffic and with minimum accidents.

Relating this to businesses and organizations, a new product or an adoption of a new technology may require business restructuring and process innovation. There will always be a process where needs are not met perfectly and thus a source of innovation.

Industry and market changes
Change is the only constant in life. (Heraclitus)

I would relate this source of innovation to rapid advancement of technologies and the famous “The Innovator’s Dilemma”. From mainframes to minicomputers to today’s affordable consumer electronics: Desktops, Laptops, Netbooks, Ultrabooks, Tablets and smart-phones.

When a company has an entrenched and fortified position of serving a particular profitable segment of customers, they usually have a dilemma when something seemingly insignificant (disruptive innovations) “stuns” the market place. This company would have asked itself, “Should I serve this small segment of customers too? Or should I continue on my Business As Usual (BAU) activities?” These companies in history would ended up winding down their business because a disruptive innovation would have destroyed them. Some examples include industries such as Hard-disks and from mainframes to minicomputers to Personal Computers.

Another example I always like to learn from is Nokia. With no doubt, Nokia is still one of the best mobile phone manufacturer and designer. However, it had lost hugely to Apple iPhones and to phones adopting Android OS. Nokia insisted in coming out with their own latest smart phone OS called the Symbian 3 released in Q4 2010 and launched inside flagship Nokia N8 phone. Well, I tried N8 for a day and decided it wasn’t for me, in as much as I was a Nokia fan myself. It grossly lost to the network effects of iOS and the open-sourced Android OS.

Currently, Nokia phones like Lumia 800 and Lumia 710 adopted Windows Phone 7 OS. I respect Nokia’s decision in winning back their smart-phone markets but I believe this mistake is related to its legacy. A huge and entrenched company often takes a long time changing its direction and often gets out-maneuvered by smaller and dynamic companies.

But one thing we all can learn from the article: Markets and industries always change. So, have foresight and have risk management.


Demographic Changes
Population statistics change, education levels change, occupations change, age distribution change, geographic locations can also change. Many due to globalization. According to Peter Drucker, following these types of innovation sources is the most common, most rewarding and least risky among other sources.
People have needs and needs change when the society changes. This is not difficult to understand because we are in the society itself sensing the beats of the population.

Changes in perception
A change of perception DOES NOT change a fact but it changes their meaning.

Take smart-phones as an example, it is essentially a phone combined with music playing, visual entertainment and personal organization tools. However, the mobile phone industry recognized the buying power of the younger population that phones have nowadays become a fashion accessory. For example, the LG Prada Phone.

Apple had been very successful in helping their fans and customers perceive iPhones as a fashionable asset and the feeling of “uniqueness”. Older models of iPhones are no longer produced when the newer ones are launched. This creates a steeper supply curve in order to raises the “value” of demand. In some sense, iPhones are no longer perceived just as a phone, iPhones were perceived as a fashion statement and an “entry-proof” to belong in a community of Apple fans/cults.


New Knowledge
This is one of hardest innovation source to manage. It takes a long lead time for new knowledge to converge and to be converted into an usable and highly demanded technology or social instrument.

It’s so difficult I can’t think of any examples myself. Anyone?

Because innovation is both conceptual and perceptual, would-be innovators must also go out and look, ask, and listen. Successful innovators use both the right and left sides of their brains. They work out analytically what the innovation has to be to satisfy an opportunity. Then they go out and look at potential users to study their expectations, their values, and their needs.

Above all, innovation is work rather than genius. It requires knowledge. It often requires ingenuity. And it requires focus.


This conclusion perfectly coincides to my opinion that the motivation and personality of entrepreneurs does matter for successful innovations. To be effective, an innovation has to be simple, and it has to be focused. It should do only one thing; otherwise it confuses people. (Using the Strategy Canvas to help innovators see if their new product/service is indeed a Blue Ocean Strategy)

You would have realized there are 3 innovation opportunities related to the word, “Changes”. No wonder we often hear, “Get out of that comfort zone!”

==End notes==
The intrapreneur focuses on innovation and creativity, and transforms an idea into a profitable venture, while operating within the organizational environment. Thus, intrapreneurs are Inside entrepreneurs who follow the goal of the organization.