The Second Machine Age and Business Evolution


I just finished reading a new book titled The Second Machine Age written by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson – both from MIT. The book is a must read for leaders everywhere. Its journey offers a view into the potential societal, economic, and business impact of technological advancement in the digital age. Although I am fascinated by each of these, my interest in summarizing this book is to connect their perspective to the future of business. Consistent with my recent disruption theme, the question is: how does the world that the authors envision impact the future of business?

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Large Companies and Innovation


“The pace of innovation is about to surge – and more powerfully than ever before”

That sentiment comes straight from a new book titled: The New Killer Apps: How Large Companies Can Out-Innovate Start-Ups. As obvious as that statement seems, many leaders still act as if nothing is really changing – or any impact to their business is too far into the future to worry. This well written book focuses on the problem with this kind of thinking. Anyone that has worked in a corporate setting will resonate with the challenges identified in this book. Behavior at every level of an organization is the biggest obstacle to innovation and the identification of what the authors call “Doomsday Scenarios”. Most of us are familiar with traditional company politics and turf-driven behaviors. The authors conclude as I have, that most bias in an organization goes toward keeping the status quo.

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Cognitive Computing and the Internet of Things


2014 has started with a bang! If this is indicative of things to come – it will be an interesting and exciting year. Two major events usher in our New Year: IBM announcing the formation of the IBM Watson Group and Google acquiring Nest. We’ve heard a lot about the Internet of Things and the growing adoption of Smart Home components. Perhaps not as widely discussed is the emergence of cognitive computing – a space that IBM just made a huge bet on.

In my transformation series last year, I discussed the automation of knowledge work as both an emerging enterprise disruptor, and future enterprise enabler. Cognitive Computing promises to be a major driver of both sides of this equation.  In its simplest form, cognitive computing is technology that allows us to ask natural language-based questions and get answers that support action, smarter decision making, and optimal outcomes. Gartner is weighing in and focused their recent 2013 Hype Cycle on the relationship between humans and machines. The focus – driven by the increased hype around smart machines, cognitive computing and the Internet of Things – is rooted in the belief that the divide between humans and machines is narrowing. Gartner encourages enterprises to look beyond the narrow perspective that only sees a future in which machines and computers replace humans. They see three main scenarios: 1) Augmenting humans with technology 2) Machines replacing humans 3) humans and machines working alongside each other. This is a very reasonable perspective on the likely path. The future enterprise as described through this Blog will use a combination of these scenarios to drive outcomes and transform stakeholder experiences (i.e., customer, employee, citizen, partner, etc.)

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