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Sunday, November 19, 2017

How a Student Competition Led to a New Cyber Security Approach 11-19




Cybersecurity is a big concern for nearly every industry. But for the banking sector, that concern is paramount and the arms race to stay ahead of digital criminals requires innovative thinking. That’s why the London-based SWIFT Institute, set up by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications to enable cross-learning between academics and bankers,  issued a challenge to teams of Canadian university students to come up with new ideas.

The winner, Team Pulse OS, devised a process that allows for reliable early detection by analyzing the unique power-use signatures on mobile devices. Team leader Nataliya Mykhaylova, who is pursuing a doctorate in chemical engineering at the University of Toronto, discussed her project with Knowledge@Wharton following her win at the October 2017 competition. Peter Ware, director of the SWIFT Institute also joined the conversation about cybersecurity.

An edited version of the transcript follows.

Knowledge@Wharton: What prompted the SWIFT Institute to devise this competition?


Peter Ware: We launched the SWIFT Institute Student Challenge last year primarily to engage with students. Part of what the institute does is give research grants to academics. We’ve been dealing with academics for about five years now, so we wanted to go beyond that and try and tap into some young, upcoming, engaging minds.

We linked this specific challenge to a conference that we held in Toronto called Sibos. We thought that we would focus primarily on students at Canadian universities. Before the challenge started, we went to the Canadian banking community and asked, “what is at the forefront of your minds? What is keeping you awake at night that we can try and help you solve?” Unsurprisingly, it was cyber. They helped to find the idea of trying to protect a bank’s channels to its customers from cyber attacks. That’s the challenge that we put to students.

Knowledge@Wharton: Nataliya, why did you want to be a part of this competition?

Nataliya Mykhaylova: I was excited to hear about this competition because cybersecurity was something that is really big on everybody’s mind. A lot of the attacks right now are undetected. I have been kind of researching this field from the hardware side. Doing my Ph.D. at the University of Toronto, I was testing different devices and got lots of ideas about how this could be prevented on a hardware level. I was really excited by this competition and thought I would submit my ideas.

Knowledge@Wharton: Tell us more about your winning idea.

Mykhaylova: You hear on the news all of these companies that have an issue with cybersecurity. What I noticed when looking through those cases is that there is a lot of effort being put into preventing the attacks, which is understandable. But I noticed there is not quite as much attention being spent on detecting those things early. In fact, only 30% of the cyber security attacks are detected in-house. This is a huge problem. There are lots of creative ways in which those attacks happen, and we need better systems to detect them at the edge or before they have a chance to spread.
“There are lots of creative ways in which cyber attacks happen, and we need better systems to detect them at the edge or before they have a chance to spread” –Nataliya Mykhaylova
When I was doing my Ph.D., I was assembling and testing different devices, different sensors. I discovered there is this pattern that you can detect and correct through artificial intelligence models. And you can actually detect the changes in those patterns very early. For example, if the system is compromised even in the early stages, those performance signatures — like heat, CPU, other patterns — change very quickly. You are able to differentiate them from the normal operations of the system. Basically, an attack would leave a series of breadcrumbs as they are compromising the system, so you can detect them before it has really a chance to spread. This was an interesting discovery. This is something that inspired this idea going forward.

Knowledge@Wharton: Do you give consideration to the fact that so much banking is done on mobile devices?

Mykhaylova: Yes. The interesting aspect of the system is that it can work across different types of devices. We are checking up on our accounts on our mobile devices all the time — our  laptops, our desktops. You have to have a system that works effectively throughout interfaces so we can detect things before they have a chance to spread through the banking channels. Part of this system is going down to the very low level, to the hardware level.

With each new version of these devices, they have better and better ICs, the integrated circuits that go into those devices. A lot of them are now able to use features that allow us to run machine-learning models in real time to be able to detect changes in the operation of the systems.

This is a very interesting area, and I feel that it’s been unexplored. This is something that we have been doing, and realizing that there is a lot of opportunity to explore those parts of the system. Because this is something that is much harder for the cyber attackers to fake, they cannot really change the hardware patterns as easily as they would be able to change the software that is running on the system and to hide their traces.

Again, this is something that can be deployed running across the devices, so this makes it very powerful to be able to run the script on your cellphone, on your tablet, on your laptops.

Knowledge@Wharton: Peter, what is the significance of what she is describing?

Ware: It’s something that is very useful, and quite advanced and different from what I think a lot of banks have been looking at. A lot of the ideas that came from other teams in the challenge were all very good ideas. They were dealing with things such as four-factor authentication, voice and facial recognition. But this was a very unique approach from Nataliya, the idea of looking at pattern or usage recognition on our devices. It’s a novel approach. It’s something that, hopefully, banks can take forward and try to implement.

Knowledge@Wharton: Has there already been a reaction from banking institutions to the ideas generated by this contest?

Ware: It was actually the banks that voted on Nataliya to be the winner. We had a panel of four judges, which included some bankers from within Canada and some fintech experts, and we did audience voting online as well. It was the banking community itself that voted on the winner. There was also a lot of engagement among the banks and Nataliya and the other team members. A lot of these ideas are going to be taken forward, I am sure.

Knowledge@Wharton: Is there any possibility that some of those institutions will get involved in developing this idea?

Ware: That is something that would happen directly between the banks and Nataliya, so it is something that we are trying to foster. We are trying to foster that engagement and contact between the banks and the students. What happens next is something that is on a direct relationship between the two of them.

Knowledge@Wharton: Nataliya, can your idea be adapted and applied to sectors beyond banking?

Mykhaylova: I am really interested in potentially scaling this solution. I am passionate about cybersecurity, and I think banking is a great place to start. But I feel like every day we have new channels through which we interact with the world, and we have new devices in our homes through which we interact. We have IoT devices [internet of things], we talk to Alexa and so on. They are really easy channels for attackers to get into our system. I think we can make pretty much any channel more secure.

We have already started conversations with some banks in Canada as well as internationally, so I am very fortunate to have been part of the Sibos competition. But there is a lot of interest I received from the IoT technology sector, which is developing these devices that we all have in our homes now. I am quite excited about the interest and potential scalability of this.

Knowledge@Wharton: The SWIFT Institute will have its 2018 conference in Sydney, Australia. Do you plan to stick with cybersecurity as the theme?
“I am passionate about cybersecurity, and I think banking is a great place to start.” –Nataliya Mykhaylova
Ware: We are going to run the Student Challenge again, but we will come up with a different idea. We’ve gone to the Australian banking community and explained the concept of the challenge to them. There is a great deal of excitement there. They are in the midst of coming up with the idea that is relevant to their community. At this point, we don’t know what the idea is. We have already contacted 43 universities across Australia to explain what Sibos is, what the SWIFT Institute is and the idea behind the challenge. There is a great deal of interest from universities.

Knowledge@Wharton: What are the next steps for you, Nataliya?

Mykhaylova: Our goal right now is to test this system on all of the possible use cases, finalize the models and launch it through a few partner banking institutions to really showcase the benefits that it could provide.

As I mentioned, it can be run on any system, it’s fairly low cost and fast to set up, it’s an easy solution to implement, and it could have a higher return on investments for banks. We are looking to finalize the model and launch it by next year.

Knowledge@Wharton: Banks operate on different systems. Was that a challenge for you in the process of developing this concept?

Mykhaylova: Yes. Banks have all of the infrastructure right now for various types of divisions and for most internal interactions between the employees as well as with the customers. That was one of the biggest aspects that we wanted to incorporate into this solution so that we could deploy a system at scale to detect issues before they have a chance to spread through the network, which I think is one of the biggest concerns with the recent cases of companies being compromised.

Ware: Even within a single bank, they have multiple systems. There are so many different mergers and takeovers that have happened over the decades, and they all have these legacy systems that they try and put together. The idea of Nataliya having something that could be relatively easy to implement is going to be music to the banks’ ears. It’s a great initiative.

Knowledge@Wharton: Do you have to consult with, in this case, the Canadian government for implementation?

Mykhaylova: To some extent. Currently, this system can be operated across a number of different devices and trained on a number of different systems. Right now we are starting kind of small, really validating on very focused case scenarios. But later as it expands, I do feel that it would be important to involve the government because cybersecurity is going to be key for all of our operations. It would be important to think about it on a larger scale.

Knowledge@Wharton: As banks have retreated from some places, a vast number of areas are becoming unbanked, and there is a tremendous increase in financial inclusion with some of the fintechs entering the spaces. Is the cybersecurity solution that Nataliya has proposed relevant to those kinds of entities as well?

Ware: I think it is. You’re absolutely right that the more fintechs open up their systems and create new systems to provide banking services to anyone and everyone around the world, it’s creating more opportunities for cyber attacks. A lot of those smaller fintech companies are not as well regulated, if they’re regulated at all, compared to the banks.

The security they put in place might not be as good as what the banks have in place. Nataliya’s idea could be very relevant to them, and I think it’s absolutely necessary that a lot of those fintech companies try to adopt as stringent security measures as possible.
“The people perpetuating cyberattacks actually operate as a business. They buy and sell information from and to each other.” –Peter Ware
Knowledge@Wharton: Financial institutions may be hesitant to partner with each other, but sharing information would help ensure everyone has a high level of cybersecurity. Do you agree?
Ware: Absolutely. Looking at how banks can share information is something that we have explored from a research perspective. Banks do share cyber-threat information with each other anyway, but we’re always looking for ways on how that can be improved.

The people perpetuating cyber attacks actually operate as a business. They buy and sell information from and to each other. From a protection point of view, the banks are increasingly starting to think along those lines as well. The same would be true for any other industry.

Knowledge@Wharton: Another concern for consumers is the speed in which the information from a breach is relayed to the public. Many within the IT community say time is needed to understand what happened. From that perspective, maybe Nataliya’s solution would speed up this process.

Ware: Exactly. The earlier that those threats can be detected, the more time that banks and anyone else would have to be able to react to it.

Mykhaylova: It takes an average of 98 days to detect an attack, sometimes after years. This is very crazy that we still have to spend so much time detecting those things. Part of the reason is that it is also becoming harder and harder to detect. There are new types of malware, new types of zero-day attacks and other threats that are becoming more and more common. So, it’s important to have systems that don’t need to be signature-based, that can detect those kinds of attacks without any prior knowledge of the threat. This is where our system excels, and it can detect patterns in an unsupervised manner. You don’t need to build up those signature libraries ahead of time.

Knowledge@Wharton: Do you think we will get to a point where potential break-ins are done and figured out in real time?

Mykhaylova: Yes, so that is the goal. Our system runs in real time, continuously tracking things, categorizing them and evaluating how risky they are. I think that is key to be able to do that in real time.

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Towards a Hindu Pakistan? India may never mirror its western neighbour, but already apes some of its worst aspects 11-18

By Sadanand dhume (Resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC.)




Is India in danger of becoming a Hindu Pakistan?

Though, it is a bit preposterous even to imagine such a thought in India, (not as of now at least) in other countries, such thoughts are germinating in the minds of people.

In Washington this question, once too ludicrous to contemplate seriously, has lately acquired currency. For an Indian, it’s a query that can trigger a powerful emotional response. At one extreme stand those who greet it with bilious outrage. At the other are those for whom it evokes quivering concern.

Let me start by stating the obvious: the odds of the officially secular republic of India ever fully mirroring the Islamic republic of Pakistan are vanishingly small.

To begin with, look at demographics. About one-fifth of Hindu-majority India’s population consists of religious minorities; the Pew Research Center predicts that this will rise slightly to nearly one-fourth by 2050. By contrast, Pakistan is 96% Muslim. The only minority group of note is the beleaguered Shia community, estimated to number between 10% and 15% of the country’s 208 million people.

Founding principles matter too. India was born as a secular republic in 1950. Indira Gandhi only wedged the word “secular” into the Constitution’s preamble in 1976, during Emergency, her infamous suspension of democracy. But right from the start India’s Constitution guaranteed equality before the law and freedom of worship, and prohibited any religious test for office.

By contrast, as early as 1949 the Objectives Resolution passed by Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly declared that “Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accord with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and the Sunna.”
In ‘Purifying the Land of the Pure’, a compelling history of Pakistan’s religious minorities, Farahnaz Ispahani argues that this was the first step towards the country’s further Islamisation over the decades. In Pakistan, by law only a Muslim can become president or prime minister.

Nor do Indian secularists face the ideological challenge faced by their counterparts in Pakistan. The Sangh Parivar’s Hindu nationalism may look upon Muslims and Christians with suspicion, but it lacks both the global organisation and the overarching ambition of Islamism, the quest to order all aspects of the state and society according to the tenets of Islamic orthodoxy.

Islamists can fall back on vast jurisprudence and relatively recent historical memory to make their case for a state governed by sharia law. Luckily for India, even the most rabid Hindu fanatic does not seek to reorder 21st century life by the ancient laws of Manu.

All this is for the good, but suggesting that India’s record on minority rights will likely always be better than its western neighbour’s is not really saying very much. Once we get beyond the false question of equivalence, we’re left with an unpleasant truth. In some ways India has already begun to copy some of Pakistan’s worst aspects.

Take, for instance, impunity for violence against members of a religious minority. A string of high profile lynchings of ordinary Indian Muslims by Hindu cow vigilantes has yet to lead to a single conviction. In some cases, as in the 2015 murder of Mohammad Akhlaq in Uttar Pradesh, powerful politicians have instead demanded an investigation of the victim’s family.

Or consider the gradual ghettoisation of concerns about minority rights. Increasingly, India’s secularists appear almost as inconsequential as their Pakistani counterparts. They can draw attention to outrages, such as the roadside lynching of dairy farmer Pehlu Khan in Rajasthan this year. But their ability to sway public opinion has withered.

Chief minister Vasundhara Raje may well receive a thrashing from Rajasthan voters next year. But it won’t be on account of her failing to protect the lives of Pehlu Khan or Ummar Khan, another alleged victim of cow vigilantes, or to swiftly bring their murderers to justice.

In parts of India, cow vigilantism has come to resemble Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy law. Merely the accusation carries with it the implicit threat of mob violence. Earlier this month, Reuters reported on vigilante gangs in BJP-ruled states that seize cows from Muslims with impunity. Apparently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s calls to end cattle-related violence have not worked.
Given what has come to pass already – with little effective pushback – it’s not hard to imagine things taking an even darker turn.

Take the term Islamophobia, described by one wag as “a word created by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons.” A new generation of Hindu activists has begun to actively promote the related term Hinduphobia. While framed as a tool to fight discrimination, it will likely have the same malign impact as its Islamic equivalent – of shutting down critical inquiry and fostering a destructive culture of conspiracy theories and self-pity.

From here it’s only a short hop, skip and jump to a Hindu version of takfirism, the dangerous Islamist innovation that allows radicals to declare fellow Muslims as apostates. I grew up in an India where a person who seldom visited a temple and was known to enjoy a fine steak was no less a Hindu than anyone else. It’s fair to wonder whether in the promised new India this will remain the case.
In sum, it’s absurd to claim that India will turn into a Hindu Pakistan. But the readiness of some Hindu nationalists to pilfer the worst ideas from Islamism suggests that fears about India’s trajectory are not entirely misplaced.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Can fintech deliver the personal touch in banking? 11-17





Humans are social creatures. We crave interaction and attention. We like to be treated as individuals and not as “a number”. For example, you feel better when you are recognised at your favorite restaurant or when you are addressed by your name when flying on a plane or when a hotel receptionist says “welcome back”. We all love to be treated as individuals. Delivering the personal touch is challenging, companies have used loyalty programs and CRM systems to focus their efforts on their “most valuable customers”, but this alienates everyone else. Rapid advances in technology have enabled some leading firms to deliver “mass personalisation experiences” and in the process have delighted their customers. So, in this age of personalisation, does your bank offer you a personal touch?

Until reasonably recently, the only way to interact with banks was through their branch networks, and those branches had branch managers and other staff who took pride in knowing their customers. However, with the proliferation of channels and increasing time pressures on customers, the need to visit bank branches came down and banking interactions started becoming less personal. As technology became more capable and pressures on costs increased, banks focused more on “standardisation” and the personal touch continued to disappear. As with many other industries, disruptors sensed an opportunity. Fintechs and many new age banks realised that customers were looking for something more and were ready to choose them because of the unique experience that they had to offer.

But it is not just about the experience. It is not just about convenience. It is not just about cost. Customers today want to be treated as individuals; they want products and services that are tailored to their specific needs. Ideally, they want companies to anticipate their needs, but in a non-intrusive, non-creepy way. When it comes to financial services, they want products and services which cater to their specific requirements, for example offering pre-approved loans when their balances are low and there are upcoming payments, or tailoring terms, rates, pricing to meet their individual requirements.
     
For banks and other financial institutions, aligning their products and services to match customer expectations is a tremendous challenge. To make it more challenging, they need to deliver personalized products, tailored recommendations, and individual communication - profitably. The good news is that technology can help. Insights derived from predictive analytics can help fine-tune the target customers and identify the key parameters for new products.

Technology can help banks create new loan products in minutes, so they have the flexibility to offer a unique loan product to each and every customer – if they choose. Backed by analytical insights, banks also know the most preferred channels to reach out to their customers. And when banks reach customers at the right time using the right channel, customers are much more likely to engage in interactive conversations. With mobile banking apps in their smartphones, customers are far more connected to their banks. So the personal touch is not just restricted to the first engagement during the initial “sale” of the product but extends throughout the loan lifecycle.

For example, lending provides considerably more opportunities to interact with customers during the loan servicing period, than in the short time when the original loan is being “sold”. During the life of the loan, a well-crafted personalized approach can translate into repeat business for the bank. With a higher conversion rate, personalization in lending can bring down the overall cost of customer acquisition. And let’s not forget that while cost is an important driver, it is not the only driver. Research has shown that customers are willing to pay more if they are offered a product/service that suits their needs and is wrapped in an experience that matches their expectations. Thus, personalization can also serve as an enabler for a unique positioning and premium pricing.

This kind of focus on personalization may appear to be complex, but with the advances in technology, backed by artificial intelligence and machine learning, it can be handled quite easily. And as technology continues to evolve, it is easy to see a time when bots / digital assistants working on behalf of customers will be interacting - with growing levels of autonomy – with bots working on behalf of financial services providers. Robust processes, reliable systems and self-directing technologies that can handle the details at micro level while facilitating large volumes at high speed at macro level would be absolutely critical in these kinds of scenarios.

Banks are founded on trust. In the past they had a strong personal connection with their customers, however over time that connection has eroded. As consumers’ attention spans shrink (to about 8 seconds now), and as options continue to explode, it is critical for banks to reconnect with their customers at a personal level. The good news is that banks know how to do it and the better news is that the technology now exists to enable them to do it profitably.

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Which Innovation Model Is Right for Your Company? 11-17





Innovation is a leading priority for CEOs: more than 70% list it as one of their top three areas of focus. Yet only 16% of companies we’ve surveyed believe that they’re better innovators than their peers.

What’s holding them back? In our experience, innovators typically fall short for one of two reasons. Either they pursue the wrong innovation model for their business and competitive context, or they don’t support a good model with the capabilities it requires.

BCG recently studied more than 100 of the world’s most innovative companies—industry leaders in TSR and fixtures in BCG’s annual innovation report. (See, for example, The Most Innovative Companies 2016: Getting Past “Not Invented Here,” BCG report, January 2017.) Our goal was to determine which types of innovation models the leaders use, which models are most successful in which industries, and which underlying capabilities are necessary to deliver on each model. 

Six Innovation Models

Our research revealed six distinct innovation models: creator, solution builder, leverager, expander, defender, and fast follower. (See the exhibit.)

Let’s take a quick look at these models and the types of companies that embody them: 
  • Creators fit the popular notion of highly innovative companies. Typically led by a strong, bold, visionary leader, they disrupt their core markets, protect their intellectual property, and make highly focused big bets that become the stuff of industry lore. Apple, which had a TSR of 21.2% from 2008 through 2017, is the classic example.
  • Solution builders look to the market for inspiration, drawing on observations and deep insight to address customer priorities and problems. Nike (16.5% TSR) typifies this model, combining customer insights with cutting-edge design and technology. For instance, shoe-based sensors link to web-based platforms offering highly personalized feedback that customers value. 
  • Leveragers create a superior business model and then capitalize on it to sustain their industry leadership. Zara (whose parent company had a TSR of 16.8%) is a Spanish retailer whose fast-cycle innovation and fashion-forward designs changed the industry. At the heart of Zara’s success are its breakthrough design, manufacturing, and distribution processes, which dramatically shorten the time it takes for new items to reach stores.
  • Expanders apply their core capabilities in new ways to take over adjacent markets and spur growth. Pharmaceutical innovator Gilead (14.4% TSR) continually enters new disease categories and markets in search of growth, achieving success through strong management, repeatable R&D and manufacturing processes, and a tolerance for risk that enables a long-term view. By acquiring Pharmasset in 2011, for instance, Gilead was able to develop two best-in-class treatments for hepatitis C and gain access to that promising market.
  • Defenders tend to win in mature or slow-changing industries and to innovate defensively in order to protect their advantage. As technology transforms more and more industries, adhering to this model becomes increasingly risky. The key to success is the ability to monitor the landscape for potentially disruptive innovations and to defend against them using tactics such as partnerships and acquisitions. When Allstate Insurance (6.4% TSR) used this approach, it was able to identify the shift to online and app-based products—and to acquire pioneer Esurance to keep from falling behind.
  • Fast followers optimize their capabilities across all dimensions in order to quickly respond to—and often improve upon—competitive innovations. Reckitt Benckiser Group (14.7% TSR) is a best-in-class fast follower in the consumer products industry, which is characterized by low consumer-switching costs and short product development cycles. To minimize risk and maximize speed, the company focuses technical capability and resource investment downstream, in product testing, with minimal energy spent up front, in consumer insight and ideation.

Context Is Critical

Choosing the right innovation model for your company is all about context. Industry context matters because only a subset of models can succeed in most industries. Some models are better suited to—and increase shareholder value in—certain industries and sectors than others. For example, four models drive TSR premiums in consumer retail:
  • Creators take on more risk but can achieve dramatic success. Lululemon Athletica (15.6% TSR), for example, capitalized on the growing yoga movement by offering a distinctive life style brand that encompasses everything from the actual products to the in-store customer experience to corporate philanthropy.
  • Solution builders create loyalty by understanding specific shopper segments and meeting their needs. For instance, Target (8.1% TSR) delivers a “cheap but chic” set of offerings that meet the needs of its young, often trendy customers. 
  • Leveragers create a superior business model and then capitalize on it to sustain a position of industry leadership. Costco (13.4% TSR), for example, combines everyday low prices, a lean supplier network, and a members-only approach to stand out from the retail pack. 
  • Expanders achieve rapid share growth by moving into adjacent markets. For instance, Amazon (30.3% TSR) brings its consumer data analytics, logistics capabilities, and exceptional customer service to an ever-expanding number of retail sectors, including fashion, luxury apparel, and—with the company’s recent purchase of Whole Foods—brick-and-mortar grocery. 
Companies struggle when they pursue an innovation model that their industry doesn’t reward. For instance, retailer Sears (–23.6% TSR) used the defender model, counting on its brand recognition and network of brick-and-mortar stores to stay ahead. But when agile online players upended the retail industry, Sears lost its edge.

A company’s individual context is also critical when choosing the best innovation model: How important is innovation to the company’s strategy, its competitive position in the larger market, and the capabilities and advantages that set it apart? As the examples above show, companies in the same industry can succeed with different models—but the chosen model must align with a company’s strategy, strengths, and capabilities. For example, Amazon and Costco both have advantaged—but different—business models. The expander model is a better choice for Amazon because it reaches a much broader pool of consumers and drives more rapid top-line growth, both of which align closely with the company’s strategy and ambition.

Answering a set of common questions can reveal your company’s context. Is innovation seen as a growth engine or a defensive tool in your overall corporate strategy? How strong is your company’s competitive position, and how durable is the source of your competitive advantage? How important is brand, and what is the relative strength of your brand equity? How robust are your innovation-related capabilities compared with others in your industry? How much are you willing and able to invest in innovation? And, most important, how quickly does your sector change—and what value can be gained if your organization stays ahead of the curve?

When choosing a model, look for one that competitors either aren’t using at all or are using poorly.

When choosing a model, look for one that competitors either aren’t using at all or are using poorly. Consider the investment required in terms of dollars, time, and the cost of upgraded capabilities, and then filter the options through the lens of your ambition and resources.

Making It Work

Migrating to a new model or better aligning your capabilities with an existing one are the most challenging aspects of transforming a company’s innovation capability. The six innovation models are not abstract ideas. Each has a set of design principles and characteristics that govern the whole. 
It helps to have an innovation blueprint clearly laying out all the interconnecting pieces that must align with and support the model. These include the company’s organizational structure and culture; tools and processes for idea generation, commercialization, and portfolio management; and metrics and incentives to drive, track, and measure results. Such a blueprint can help companies commit to and reinforce their models through the design decisions that flow through their organizations. Consider the following: 
  • The fast-follower model adopted by Reckitt Benckiser has potential for success in the consumer products industry, but the company’s individual success is enabled by other factors as well, such as a flat organizational structure that maximizes speed to market. 
  • Under Armour is a solution builder. To build more targeted solutions, the company invests in advanced analytics to better understand what the data reveals about the behaviors and needs of its fitness community.
  • Amazon’s best-in-class expander model would not work without the company’s high tolerance for risk, which is reflected in its internal metrics and people incentives. 
In our experience, the six innovation models offer a powerful way for organizations to evaluate and refine their innovation strategies. They also help executive teams grapple with critical questions, such as, Which model are we pursuing and why? Are our processes and organization aligned with that model? Does the model confer advantage in our industry? Which models are rivals pursuing—and how well are they doing? Should we reconsider our innovation strategy and model? What investments and capabilities would a shift in those areas require?

Working through these questions will help companies choose the right model, develop the supporting engine to drive it forward, and reap the growth dividends that accrue from innovation success.

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Designing for Diversity Inclusive design matters. 11-07





Lately, in every article or newsletter I read about user experience design, the terms “diversity” and “inclusive design” flash before my eyes. The UX design community has been buzzing about diversity and inclusion. Design professionals, in the corporate world and agencies, are racing to show how diversity makes their teams strong and unique, how they design not only for users of all ages, but of genders, races, levels of impairment and disability, culture and ethnicity. Diversity and inclusive design are no doubt on the forefront, as we come together as a global economy.

I recently had the opportunity to be a speaker at an event hosted by Designers & Geeks in San Francisco. The theme was diversity and design — what roles do diversity and inclusivity play in design today, and why is that important?

This got me thinking about what these terms really mean to me. While I have been in the UX design industry for many years now, I started recalling experiences outside of my career. About 20 years ago I migrated to the United States, still at the earlier stages of my adult life. Anyone who has tried to make a new home in a country with a totally different culture and ideology can tell you it’s one of the most overwhelming things you could experience. Many of the problems that users encounter with a new environment, are caused by design teams with biases and assumptions about how things should work. When users encounter such design biases, they are often forced to unlearn their prior mental models and learn a new approach — essentially having to adapt their thinking and behavior in order to use the product. Clearly this is not user centered or universal design, and we should do all that we can to reduce this gulf of evaluation for our users.

I appreciated this speaking opportunity as a chance to highlight all the efforts towards diversity and inclusivity that I see around me at IBM Design. More so, I appreciated this chance to reflect upon what these concepts really mean to me. Those 20 years ago as a newcomer to the U.S., I experienced first hand what it feels like to be on the outside looking in. These kind of experiences help us see what it means to truly be inclusive, and how the presence or absence of inclusivity has a huge impact on people and outcomes.

Thoughts of diversity and inclusion were relevant and important to me long before these words were used in advertising campaigns. Today, I’m glad to be in an industry that has come to value them, and is working to make these ideas a larger part of our everyday lives. When it came time for me to prepare for my talk, I thought about how diversity plays a role in my job today. As design practitioners, we must pursue a diversity of approach in all that we do: from how we make things (that is, our design approach), to who we make them with (diverse teams), to who we make them for (our users). I didn’t need to look far as IBM Design Thinking features these two core principles:
  • Focus on user outcomes
  • Diverse empowered teams
You may have heard these principles being repeated so often that they sometimes almost lose their meaning. However these terms are truly embedded into our design culture. As designers, we don’t miss any opportunity to use our super power: empathy. Whether it’s the IBM Accessibility practice or the sponsor user program, our goals revolve around inclusivity and empathy. We constantly remind ourselves that we are not our users. As a global company, we recruit people and work with clients from different cultures, with different perspectives. Diversity and inclusiveness are close to the heart of IBM Design.



                                                Source: IBM Design
I’ve seen these principles applied to everything we do at IBM Design, over and over again. With incoming design hires, we offer an in-depth, immersive design thinking bootcamp, where we not only educate new designers on the methods, tools and guidelines, but we also introduce and foster empathy, experientially via empathy map techniques, storyboards, journey maps, etc. From the very beginning, we teach all our design recruits to put the user at the very center of whatever business challenge they are working on.

When I was visiting one of our bootcamps some time ago, I got to sit in on a user research session where the organizers brought in a visually impaired person as part of user research study. The participants heard a first-hand account from the speaker of what it was like to navigate interfaces with a visual disability. I also got to see early career designers carry out low vision simulations and truly get a feel of what it’s like to lack visual acuity. Using filters that simulated various visual disabilities, designers were able to quickly test designs for contrast, type scale and visual clarity. These are just some of the many examples that I have seen inclusivity deeply integrated into our design practice. I was struck with the dedication of our IBM Design team to constantly put the user at the core of our work, and bringing that into our design education.

I believe that we have a moral responsibility to embrace diversity in all that we do. It is also essential to the success of our teams. When building teams we have to realize that, we aren’t just assigning resources — we are framing our approach to the problem. Each team member brings their unique point of view and expertise to the team, widening the range of possible outcomes. If you want to generate a breakthrough idea, intentionally form diverse teams by design.

Diverse teams approach the same problem from many perspectives. They tend to generate more ideas, making them more effective problem solvers. While it takes effort to align different perspectives, it’s at the cross section of our differences that our most meaningful innovations originate. Diverse teams that believe and practice inclusive principles, will have the deepest impact in building products and experiences designed for everyone.

We need to consider all spectrums of diversity and inclusion: visible differences (genders, race, language etc.), non-visible differences (e.g., LGBT) and diversity of mindset (different thoughts, perspectives, experiences). Diversity and inclusivity are not just buzzwords. These words are burgeoning with potential, and have the power to move our society towards something better. A case in point is the “Inclusion drives innovation” theme of this year’s U.S. National Disability Employment Awareness Month (October). As I look around at the work we do at IBM, the design community, the design approach and ethos, I am proud to say that I am a part of a design culture that truly appreciates the meaning of innovation through diversity and inclusiveness.

In pursuit of healthy aging 11-07




Harvard study shows how intermittent fasting and manipulating mitochondrial networks may increase lifespan.

Manipulating mitochondrial networks inside cells — either by dietary restriction or by genetic manipulation that mimics it — may increase lifespan and promote health, according to new research from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study, published Oct. 26 online in Cell Metabolism, sheds light on the basic biology involved in cells’ declining ability to process energy over time, which leads to aging and age-related disease, and how interventions such as periods of fasting might promote healthy aging.

Mitochondria — the energy-producing structures in cells — exist in networks that dynamically change shape according to energy demand. Their capacity to do so declines with age, but the impact this has on metabolism and cellular function was previously unclear. In this study, the researchers showed a causal link between dynamic changes in the shapes of mitochondrial networks and longevity.

The scientists used C. elegans (nematode worms), which live just two weeks and thus enable the study of aging in real time in the lab. Mitochondrial networks inside cells typically toggle between fused and fragmented states. The researchers found that restricting the worms’ diet, or mimicking dietary restriction through genetic manipulation of an energy-sensing protein called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), maintained the mitochondrial networks in a fused or “youthful” state. In addition, they found that these youthful networks increased lifespan by communicating with organelles called peroxisomes to modulate fat metabolism.

“Low-energy conditions such as dietary restriction and intermittent fasting have previously been shown to promote healthy aging. Understanding why this is the case is a crucial step toward being able to harness the benefits therapeutically,” said Heather Weir, lead author of the study, who conducted the research while at Harvard Chan School and is now a research associate at Astex Pharmaceuticals. “Our findings open up new avenues in the search for therapeutic strategies that will reduce our likelihood of developing age-related diseases as we get older.”

“Although previous work has shown how intermittent fasting can slow aging, we are only beginning to understand the underlying biology,” said William Mair, associate professor of genetics and complex diseases at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study. “Our work shows how crucial the plasticity of mitochondria networks is for the benefits of fasting. If we lock mitochondria in one state, we completely block the effects of fasting or dietary restriction on longevity.”

Next steps for the researchers including testing the role mitochondrial networks have in the effect of fasting in mammals, and whether defects in mitochondrial flexibility might explain the association between obesity and increased risk for age-related diseases.

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A strange new world of light 11-06




Metasurface generates new states of light for fundamental research and applications.

There’s nothing new thing under the sun — except maybe light itself.

Over the last decade, applied physicists have developed nanostructured materials that can produce completely new states of light exhibiting strange behavior, such as bending in a spiral, corkscrewing and dividing like a fork.

These so-called structured beams not only can tell scientists a lot about the physics of light, they have wide range of applications from super resolution imaging to molecular manipulation and communications.

Now, researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have developed a tool to generate new, more complex states of light in a completely different way.
The research is published in Science.

“We have developed a metasurface which is a new tool to study novel aspects of light,” said Federico Capasso, the Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering at SEAS and senior author of the paper. “This optical component makes possible much more complex operations and allows researchers to not only explore new states of light but also new applications for structured light.”

The Harvard Office of Technology Development has protected the intellectual property relating to this project and is exploring commercialization opportunities.



The new metasurface connects two aspects of light, known as orbital angular momentum and circular polarization (or spin angular momentum). Polarization is direction along which light vibrates. In circularly polarized light, the vibration of light traces a circle. Think about orbital angular momentum and circular polarization like the motion of a planet. Circular polarization is the direction in which a planet rotates on its axis while orbital momentum describes how the planet orbits the sun.

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