Author Archives: Greg Satell

How To Solve A Really Tough Problem In 3 (Not So Easy) Steps

By the early 20th century, the world’s great mathematicians knew they had a big problem. The very foundations of logic, held sacred since the time of Aristotle, were under siege after the discovery of troubling paradoxes by Cantor, Frege and Russell. It was unclear whether things could ever be set aright. It was against this backdrop that David Hilbert, the ...

Read More »

The Silver Bullet Myth

In Eric Ries’s bestselling book, The Startup Way, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur explains how he helped lead General Electric’s transformation from a stodgy industrial era dinosaur into a lean, entrepreneurial enterprise. Yet strangely, as Steve Blank points out in Harvard Business Review, the effort ended up with the ousting of GE’s CEO for underperformance. Why did such a seemingly promising ...

Read More »

Why Most Technologies Move Slower Today

Ten years ago hardly anyone had a smartphone. Social media was in its infancy. Artificial intelligence was still science fiction. Yet today all of those things are mature technologies that have become an integral part of everyday life. Anywhere you go you see people using all of them as a matter of habit. It’s become conventional wisdom to look at ...

Read More »

America Can Win Manufacturing in the 21st Century

It’s become conventional wisdom that the last 30 years have been a hotbed of innovation, but evidence suggests otherwise. As Robert Gordon explains in The Rise and Fall of American Growth, productivity growth peaked between 1920 and 1970 and has declined ever since. Economist Tyler Cowen calls this the Great Stagnation. Part of the reason for the dissonance is that ...

Read More »

How To Win In The New Era Of Innovation

IBM, to a large degree, invented the information technology industry. For the first half of the 20th century, it dominated the market for tabulating machines. Then digital computing posed new challenges and, by the 1950s it had begun to cede ground to UNIVAC, which led to Thomas Watson Jr’s $5 billion gamble to build the System 360. That effort was transformative, but ...

Read More »

A 270 Year Old Mathematical Formula Can Teach Us A Lot About Innovation

Accountants tell us that numbers don’t lie, because for them numbers are the same as facts. Mathematicians see it differently though. They see numbers as abstract representations of reality that, when combined with other numbers, have an almost mystical ability to create patterns that unlock hidden truths. In other words, as the great early 20th century numbers theorist G. H. ...

Read More »

The 70-20-10 Rule for Innovation

One of the things I always get asked about from the companies I work with is how to manage their innovation resources. Should they bet big on an unproven, but possibly breakthrough idea? Or focus on improving the products that they already know their customers want? Or maybe leveraging existing resources into a new market? This is an important question. ...

Read More »

Four (4) Skills That All Great Innovators Share

I spent the majority of my adult life managing organizations and I always felt enormous pressure to innovate, but whenever I went looking for guidance, what I found was a confused jumble. Disruptive innovation, design thinking, open innovation, lean launchpads and on and on. Unlike marketing or finance, there wasn’t any one clear framework. So I spent nearly a decade ...

Read More »

We Need To Focus More On Networks And Less On Nodes

In the mid-1980s, a Robert Kelley of Carnegie Mellon University began to research why some engineers at Bell Labs performed so much better than others. Initially, what he found didn’t make much sense, By any conventional analysis, the outperforming engineers were nothing special. They seemed just like anyone else. Yet when he looked at their networks, he began to understand ...

Read More »

When Corporations Fund Startups, Both Can Win

How to Protect Breakthrough Innovation

Ever since the Netscape IPO in 1995, venture capital has taken on an almost mystical quality. The idea of investors in khakis backing a few kids in a garage to rival the world’s largest corporations has far more romantic appeal than fat-cat bankers chomping away at cigars in stuffy boardrooms. Before long, corporate America wanted in on the action, with ...

Read More »