Saturday, June 8, 2013

T-shaped research

I visited Jim Spohrer at IBM Almaden recently. Jim, as many of us know, was responsible to conceptualizing the broad set of research questions (and the multi-disciplinary approach to addressing these) that is known today as service science. The Service Science Society of Australia, which I have the privilege of serving as President, is tasked with promoting service innovation in Australia, along the lines that Jim originally conceived.

My conversation with Jim left me with many good ideas. The idea of T-shaped skills is compelling. Very little T-shaped research tends to happen, yet this is perhaps where the biggest wins are. There was quite intense discussion on the impediments to inter-disciplinary research at the International Conference on Service Science and Innovation in Kaohsiung, Taiwan in late May (where I presented an invited talk and led a panel discussion on Service Engineering). Many recent research successes in our space (which I define very broadly) is the outcome of T-shaped research - IBM's Watson system is probably a good example.

Very little T-shaped research seems to happen in my neck of the woods. Japan, Taiwan and South Korea seem to have invested seriously in service science, and in T-shaped research.

It is probably time for Australia to do the same.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The trouble with discourse on open innovation

Much of the discourse on innovation centers on the use of open innovation models. Firms set up innovation portals, often in the form of intra-enterprise social networking sites, and seek to incentivize employees to think about and articulate potential innovations. Mainly they hope for the best. Recent results suggest that this doesn't work particularly well. The best metaphor I can think of is that of shooting darts at a dartboard. If the board is pretty big, the bulls-eye pretty small, and the incentive to throw darts at it minimal, the chances of hitting something useful are pretty small too.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Systematizing innovation

We've tied ourselves up in knots trying to figure out how to foster innovation. There is a growing discourse that argues that so called "open innovation" does not deliver.

Can innovation be systematized?

Methinks it can....

The grand challenges for computing

This is going to be terse. The challenges are:

1. Big knowledge (as distinct from big data)

2. Normative design

3. Event processing

4. Ubiquitous decision support

Big data is useful in supporting all of these, but does is it remain a grand challenge?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Greenwash and climate fraud....

Not too long ago, Australian newspapers carried the story of a company that was engaging in fraud by collecting money by way of carbon credits (the owner became quite vague when asked which specific carbon mitigation projects the money was being spent on). I fear that too much of that is going on...Any number of commercial operators will gladly accept your money and promise to deliver a greener planet, a more sustainable future or some such in return.

How do we tell the good ones from the bad? Some operators deliver real value, some minimal value, and some are downright fraudulent. Let the market decide, you might say, because it always has, in other areas of human endeavour. But this is too important to let slip. A business knows when it is being delivered value, and when it isn't. A business can there pick and choose.

The planet too knows which bits are real, which products deliver real green value. But it can't tell us.

We need an impartial academic body to sit in judgment. Perhaps certify....

Software engineering in the service of human functionality

Software engineering uses (hopefully, or seometimes) rigorous techniques to design computer-based functionality. But the functionality doesn't have to be computer-based - it could be any functionality, to be executed by human, machine or some combination thereof. This opens up exciting possibilities, and takes software engineering where it has never gone before. I sometimes have people respond by saying - oh yeah, that's business process management (BPM). How I wish it were...The current state of play in BPM theory and practice leverages software engineering only minimally. And formal software engineering (where I think the real excitement lies)? Almost not at all.

And then again, is business process modeling the final word on the modeling of human-executed functionality? I think not (and there's a body of literature poking holes in the current state of play in process modeling that would agree).

The paper ("A Formal Approach to Service Management in the Rural Sector") describing our tool and methodology, UNNOTI, is now set to appear at the International Conference on Services for Emerging Markets. This is a gold-mine of high-impact results, and we have only started scratching the surface.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Collaborate for a greener planet!

I've been trying to convince my academic colleagues that this is a no-brainer. I was watching a documentary on green energy, and someone from Princeton's Carbon Mitigation Porject spoke quite emphatically about the need for efficiency - that the quickest wins are to be had by doing better with available technologies, by operating existing infrastructure more efficiently. They've designed the "wedges game", with physical, wooden wedges that also drives home this point. But our leaders (and the vast majority of us) are missing the point. Why pour money into new technologies when we haven't even started leveraging efficiency opportunities with existing technologies?

We have to optimize to survive.

The Optimizing Web project that I've been working on seeks to leverage agent-based distributed optimization and planning techniques to ensure that we don't just locally do the right thing (which, as things stand now, is the best that we might do - and we aren't even making efforts in that direction) but do the right thing globally. It isn't enough to simply do the greener thing from our local perspective. We need to collaborate to be greener from a broader, more global perspective. What is optimally green from a local perspective might be significantly suboptimal from a more global perspective. Locally suboptimal behaviours might actually do better when we broaden the view.

So (in the spirit of the earlier motto "no taxation without representation") I might say "no carbon mitigation without collaboration".

More soon.