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.