Three Great Jobs in the Fourth Xerox Revolution

In the history of innovation, Xerox (where I work) has starred in three stories so far: Xerography, personal computing and production digital printing. The first created the modern workplace, the second destroyed and recreated it. The third, probably the least familiar to end-consumers, since it is an industrial technology, might end up topping the first two — the technology is on the verge of dethroning the venerable Gutenberg press. But that’s all old hat. Let’s talk about how Xerox is poised to launch a FOURTH history-making disruption (*gasp*, most companies have trouble doing it once): making social media grow up from its chicken-throwing infancy (sorry Facebook widget coders; couldn’t resist that dig!), and turning the world of services-work upside down. And how, if you have the right skills, you can join my buddies and me in the eye of the perfect storm. Call this a Job Posting 2.0, or a Kool-Aid infomercial — I am helping recruit for 3 seriously exciting positions in the lab I work in. The kind for which you should ditch your startup idea.
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Outsider Innovation 101

This article is an introduction to an idea — outsider innovation — whose time has come. I’ll present the idea, and along the way include short reviews of three fun books about innovation (Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko, Make us More Innovative by Jeffery Phillips, and Awake at the Wheel by Mitch Ditkoff) that belong at what I would call the 101 level. These are books that treat the subject at extremely basic levels, compared to the advanced end of the literature that full-time researchers like me try to keep up with (and which I review more often here). I almost decided not to review them, until I suddenly realized, while taking a walk, why such books are extremely important today in enabling an economy based on true ‘innovation everywhere’ principles. Or as I prefer to call it at its current stage of evolution, ‘outsider innovation,’ by analogy to outsider art. If you are an ‘insider’ this article should help you prepare for the coming ‘outsider’ fueled models. If you are an outsider eagerly awaiting the democratization of innovation, and itching to one-up us smug PhDs, this should help you get started.

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The Evolution of Work-Life

Most people think of only one notion relating work and life: the work-life balance notion. You and I of course, are smarter, and we know that the relationship has been evolving over time. Here’s a picture of this evolution. I’ll leave it for you to figure out how to correlate this to generational attitudes and important technological enabling events.


(Feel free to use the graphic for your own purposes. Linkbacks appreciated).

Megacommunities and Macrotrends

Big and complex problems sometimes do require require big and complex solutions. This thought was hammered home for me powerfully last week by way of a triple-punch: a conference I was attending, a book I was reading, and the earthquake in China. The conference was the IRI Annual Meeting, where I was part of a panel of speakers on the theme of “Networked World.” The theme of the conference was “Macrotrends Creating Opportunities.” On the flight out and back, I was reading Megacommunities: How Leaders of Government, Business and Non-Profits Can Tackle Today’s Global Challenges Together by Mark Gerencser, Reginald Van Lee, Fernando Napolitano and Christopher Kelly, all consultants with Booz Allen Hamilton. The book is among the most original, thoughtful and necessary books I have read in a long time. Reading it at this particular conference underlined its importance even more. As for the earthquake, the deep connections between global and local today also hit home, since a Chinese colleague at work was directly affected. I actually happened to mention earthquakes in my talk to make a particular point, before I caught up with the developing news.

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Jump Point by Tom Hayes

Tom HayesJump Point, a recent addition to the emerging World 2.0 canon presents an argument that evokes a foggy sort of deja vu. If you’ve been keeping up with the literature, you’ll probably frown a bit and think, “wait, this is familiar, somebody’s said this before.” But as you process the argument, you’ll realize that though it is fairly straightforward, and something others have flirted with (The World is Flat and Wikinomics being the prominent ones), nobody has said it quite this way before. The argument is this — we won’t feel the full-scale impact of the Internet until penetration levels are near complete. At that point, we’ll see a massive structural impact on the world that will make what we’ve seen so far pale in comparison. For Hayes, the critical moment is the moment when the 3 billionth human gets connected to the Internet (which current projections suggest will happen around 2011). The number 3 billion isn’t arbitrary — it is roughly the size of the global workforce. So Hayes’ argument is that something dramatic will happen when the world’s workforce gets completely wired. What and Why are the subjects of the book.

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Ronald Coase and Salvation from Anthropological Economics

Economics as a subject has never enjoyed healthier times — a universe of Freakonomics clones is appearing and the subject is galloping along in popularity as an undergraduate major. Yet, these are also the most worrisome times ever for the subject, because it is in danger of losing sight of the big mission — building conceptual models of the economy at large — that makes it so valuable to the rest of us. I’ll explain why it is a problem, and how the coming of The Chosen One, a descendant of Ronald Coase, can get economics back on track addressing the important problems of our century. Let’s start with a little family tree.

Economists Social Network

(portraits by Yurij Alexander)

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A Map of the World 2.0 Canon

I have been reviewing a good many books that fall into the loose category of ‘World 2.0.’ Books that attempt to organize our understanding of the impact of Web 2.0 and social media. Structure the blooming, buzzing confusion, so to speak. So I thought I’d go meta and attempt to visualize this emerging canon. This graphic started as a tangent while I was making notes for my review of Tom Hayes’ Jump Point. Here’s the graphic (click for full-size), with an explanation and links to reviews below.


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The New Location, Location, Location

So far in my series on virtual geography, I have talked mainly about relative location — the 50-foot-rule, the Twitter Zone and the notion of ambient presence are all about where a is in relation to b, in cognitive and physical ways. What can we say about absolute location? The man with the best (and I believe, right) answer is Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, The Flight of the Creative Class and now, what might be his Magnum Opus: Who’s Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life

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Generation Blend by Rob Salkowitz

Generation Blend: Managing Across the Technology Age Gap, by Rob Salkowitz is a book that might have saved me a lot of trouble. I have been managing a social media evangelism effort at Xerox for the past year, and learned many of the lessons in this book the hard way. But then, a year ago, this book probably could not have been written; 2007 was, in many ways, the year these lessons became very clear. The book tries to do three things: describe generational differences in attitudes and approaches towards work and careers, explain them, and examine one aspect of how to manage them: social computing technology. The results, respectively, are very competent, exceeds expectations and competent. Or B+, A+ and B- if you prefer letter grades. But the one A+ is well worth the cost of the book, and it is relatively straightforward to manage around the weaknesses on the other two fronts. It would have been a brilliant book if it had just focused on the explain bit.

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Inventoritis and the Grabowski Ratio

“Overcoming Inventoritis” by Peter Paul Roosen and Tatsuya Nakagawa is a little rough diamond of a book. Though it is very amateurishly produced and designed, and reads like a set of long, disorganized, conversational email notes, it is packed densely with interesting practitioner insights, strung together loosely to argue that “Inventoritis” (never explicitly defined, but roughly, ‘falling in love with your idea’) is an extraordinarily dumb thing to do. The centerpiece of the book is an unusual take on the Edison-vs-Tesla argument. Going against the modern practice of making the former out to be a villain and the latter the hero, the authors argue that evaluated right, Edison was the better inventor. A revealing and startling point that anchors the whole argument is that nearly all of Edison’s 1000+ patents were commercialized, while Tesla’s failed at around an 80% rate, especially in his later phase as an inventor.

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