Aakash: A Disruptive Innovation in the Truest Sense

Much has been, and will be, written about the Aakash tablet.

[With apologies for the situational monsoonal imagery …] As I awash myself in Aakash, I am particularly taken by:

  • The order of magnitude reduction in price point. With a stated cost of about $50, marked-up prices are still close to an order of magnitude more affordable than the incumbent offerings (e.g., the iPad, Android-based tablets, etc.). Even Amazon’s Kindle Fire is 2-3 times more expensive.
  • The adoption of Android as the innovation platform. I take this as yet another data point (YADP) in firmly establishing Android as the leading future proofed platform for innovation in the mobile-computing space. As Aakash solidly demonstrates, it’s about the all-inclusive collaboration that can occur when organizational boundaries are made redundant through use of an open platform for innovation. These dynamics just aren’t the same as those that would be achieved by embracing proprietary platforms (e.g., Apple’s iOS, RIM QNX-based O/S, etc.).
  • The Indian origin. It took MIT Being Digital, in the meatspace personage of Nicholas Negroponte, to hatch the One Laptop Per Child initiative. In the case of Aakash, this is grass-roots innovation that has Grameen Bank like possibilities.
While some get distracted comparing/contrasting tech specs, the significant impact of Aakash is that it is a disruptive innovation in the truest sense:
“An innovation that is disruptive allows a whole new population of consumers access to a product or service that was historically only accessible to consumers with a lot of money or a lot of skill.  Characteristics of disruptive businesses, at least in their initial stages, can include:  lower gross margins, smaller target markets, and simpler products and services that may not appear as attractive as existing solutions when compared against traditional performance metrics.”
I am certainly looking forward to seeing this evolve!

Disclaimers:
  • Like Aakash, I am of Indian origin. My Indian origin, however, is somewhat diluted by some English origin – making me an Anglo-Indian. Regardless, my own origin may play some role in my gushing exuberance for Aakash – and hence the need for this disclaimer.
  • I am the owner of a Motorola Xoom, but not an iPad. This may mean I am somewhat predisposed towards the Android platform.
Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on Aakash by commenting on this post.

The MFA is the New MBA: Illustrations by Steve Jobs and Apple

In March 2005, Dan Pink asserted “… the MFA is the new MBA”.
Why?

… businesses are realizing that the only way to differentiate their goods and services in today’s overstocked marketplace is to make their offerings physically beautiful and emotionally compelling. Thus the high-concept abilities of an artist are often more valuable than the easily replicated L-Directed skills of an entry-level business graduate.

I can’t think of a better illustration than Steve Jobs’ story of how the Mac became the first computer with beautiful typography.
And of course, true to form, Jobs illustrated Pink’s assertion more than two decades ago.
And since 1984, Jobs and Apple have made the illustration even more compelling with the current generation of Macs, the iPod, and most recently the iPhone.
Note-to-self: Look into MFA programs!

Aside: I’ve blogged previously about Pink’s book and its implications for displacing knowledge workers.

An Eight Pack of Leadership Traits

I recently came across an article by Hank Marquis on effective leadership traits for those in IT

Marquis distills the following eight pack of traits:
  1. Leadership means focusing on the needs of others, not yourself
  2. Leadership comes from your actions, not your title
  3. Leadership makes you accountable, even if it’s not your fault
  4. Leadership is not a 9-to-5 activity
  5. Leadership takes trust from your followers
  6. Leaders get their best ideas from their team
  7. Leadership thrives on diversity
  8. Leadership comes from continuous communication
Marquis elaborates on each of these traits in the article.
And as two final nuggets to further whet your appetite, consider the following two quotes:

Effective leaders build a trusted team and then follow the team’s advice.

… always give the credit to the team. The leader’s credit comes only by crediting the team he or she leads.

Collaborative, Browser-Based Mind Mapping with MindMeister

I serendipitously happened across MindMeister about thirty minutes ago.

Since then, I’ve created a mind map from scratch, plus imported and exported maps with FreeMind – my incumbent mind-mapping software. (The importing/exporting appears to work very well. This is one of the capabilities of Google Docs & Spreadsheets that makes it a keeper, so kudos to the MindMeister team infor getting this right in a beta version!)

So, based on less-than-an-hour’s experience, I am quite impressed. This is yet another example of a browser-based application that performs as if it’s installed locally – on a powerful laptop/desktop! Although I haven’t been able to confirm this yet, I suspect that MindMeister is based on AJAX – just like Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

As you can read for yourself from more-comprehensive reviews, others are also impressed with MindMeister even though it lacks a number of features/functionalities. For example as a former use of Mindjet MindMapper, and current, frequent user of FreeMind, what I’m missing the most in MindMeister (so far) is the ability to attach notes and hyperlinks to my nodes. I’m sure that capabilities such as these aren’t far away.

In addition to being intuitive and responsive, the online aspect of MindMeister is impressive. Taking another page out of the Google Docs & Spreadsheets’ book, this inherently online element is used to enable collaboration.

And just to close with some wild speculation … MindMeister would make a nice acquisition target for Google. It’d be a complimentary inclusion in their expanding online productivity portfolio. I would also expect it to be an interesting fit with Google’s JotSpot wiki and even Google Notebook.

The Service Oriented Architecture (SOA): The Key to Recontextualizing the Knowledge Worker for the Conceptual Age

Consider the following snippet from Cloninger’s book:

In his book A Whole New Mind, author and business consultant Daniel Pink proposes that we are transitioning from the information age into the “conceptual age” … According to Pink, three forces – abundance, Asia and automation – are currently displacing the knowledge worker. In time, mere software skills will become increasingly less valuable than the conceptual ability to recognize what works and what doesn’t.

As a knowledge worker, I’m concerned about being displaced.

And even though I’m at the earliest of stages of internalizing Pink’s message allow me to suggest, that if Pink is correct, this shift underscores the value of the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).

Thomas Erl defines a SOA as follows:

Contemporary SOA represents an open, extensible, federated, composable architecture that promotes service-orientation and is comprised of autonomous, QoS-capable, vendor diverse, interoperable, discoverable, and potentially reusable services, implemented as Web services.

SOA can establish an abstraction of business logic and technology, resulting in a loose coupling between these domains.

SOA is an evolution of past platforms, preserving successful characteristics of traditional architectures, and bringing with it distinct principles that foster service-orientation in support of a service-oriented enterprise.

SOA is ideally standardized throughout an enterprise, but achieving this state requires a planned transition and the support of a still evolving technology set.

With the exception of the explicit reference to Web Services, Erl emphasizes SOAs from a conceptual perspective.

Taking Pink and Erl together then, it is more important to possess the conceptual ability to understand what works and what doesn’t from a SOA perspective, than the software skills to actually implement a SOA solution.

Also at this early stage, it’s interesting to speculate on Pink’s three forces and SOAs:

  • Abundance – SOAs are experiencing significant uptake. Why? SOA-based solutions address needs. These needs and corresponding adoption of SOAs have resulted in an abundance force.
  • Asia – As the World Wide Web leveled the playing field for document-oriented interactions, SOAs are doing the same for the programmatic-oriented second generation Web (Web 2.0). Such a service-oriented paradigm means that the burgeoning development community in Asia (the Asian force) is as likely to contribute to SOAs as anyone elsewhere on the planet.
  • Automation – As is evident from Erl’s definition (above), automation is a key benefit of a SOA. However, it’s automation that allows for business processes to be completely re-engineered, not merely accelerated. This results in an automation force.

Even though highly speculative at this point, it’s fairly clear that the three forces driving Pink’s predicted shift into the conceptual age are not entirely at odds with Erl’s notion of a SOA.

Thus understanding SOAs via books, courses, etc., would appear prudent for all of us to-be-displaced knowledge workers.

Note-to-self: Read Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind.