This article on blockchain in the food supply chain is good reminder that technological innovations aren’t just for revolutionaries. Sometimes they are even better at entrenching the entrenched. Continue reading
Microsoft acquiring GitHub, the largest open-source code repository, brings them full circle to the infamous 1976 open letter by Gates to computer hobbyists who were sharing, not buying, their BASIC software for the Altair. The irony should be savored.
In ’75, Microsoft got its start when Gates and Allen adapted BASIC for the Altair 8800. BASIC was originally written by two Dartmouth professors, who put it in the public domain. As Paul Ceruzzi wrote in A History of Modern Computing:
“with its skillful combination of features taken from Dartmouth and from the Digital Equipment Corporation, [BASIC] was the key to Gates’ and Allen’s success in establishing a personal computer software industry.”In 1981, MS-DOS, Microsoft’s operating system for the IBM PC, was acquired for $75,000 from the tiny Seattle Computer Products (who themselves borrowed it from Digital Research’s CP/M).
That wasn’t the last of Microsoft’s creative pursuits.
Microsoft Word was originally written by Xerox PARC engineers as Bravo (but never marketed); it became a Microsoft product when Microsoft hired one of its original authors, Charles Simonyi, away from PARC.
Excel was derived from Visicalc by Software Arts, and from Lotus.
And the graphical user environment that is Windows first appeared at PARC in the Alto personal computer, and then in the Apple Macintosh, before becoming Microsoft’s flagship product.
The world is powered by building on and recombining what has come before. Too often, where we stand on this fundamental creative process depends on whether we profits from creating or defending our innovations.
Some exceptional folks in entrepreneurship at HBS just announced Harvard was closing their NYC-based Startup Studio. Considering the program’s ambitions matched the leadership of the Entrepreneurship program and the largesse of the school, the outcome offers a great window into the challenges of teaching entrepreneurship.1 Continue reading
For my 2016 Innovation of the Year—celebrating that innovation which most changed the game—one stood clearly in front of all others. Largely because it also stood clearly behind so many of the others: hype. Like all past IOTY winners, hyperbole wasn’t invented in 2016 but this was the year it demonstrated its truly disruptive potential. Continue reading
Something in our nature enables us to ignore problems until it looks like we can solve them. Continue reading
Straight from the horse’s mouth, the father of the theory of Disruptive Innovation Clay Christenson pronounces Tesla’s Electric Vehicle not technically (theoretically) a disruptive technology. It can still have dramatic impacts on the auto industry and beyond, but it’s just old school innovation. Continue reading
Lesley Gore passed away this week. She’s probably best know for It’s my Party but my favorite is You Don’t Own Me. To teenage girls in the early 1960s, looking at a bleak future in a Mad Men world, this must have been a powerful message (the song later became a feminist anthem). It’s hard to appreciate innovations like that 2-minute song without having the context of the times. So to honor her memory, my daughter and I played the song and then, to appreciate the context, watched the Folgers coffee ads of the time. Continue reading
FastCompany released its annual “50 Most Innovative Companies” list, one of the more enjoyable of the dozens published every year. Pick up any one of these and three things become immediately apparent. First, there is no shortage of role models for innovation. Second, outside the crowd favorites (Apple, Google, and Facebook) there is little overlap between lists. Third and perhaps most importantly, each company and what makes them innovative ranges wildly. Continue reading
Tesla recently announced its plans to be as big as Apple within 10 years (a bold statement given the electric car company sold 35,000 cars last year, just beating out the 30,000 iPhones Apple sold each hour last quarter). Regardless of Tesla’s promises, the future of electric cars hinges on advances in batteries which, in turn, hinge on how companies—and the country—choose to pursue those advances. Continue reading