The resiliency and determination of America’s sense of justice was thrust into a spirit of rejoicing on Sunday evening May 1, 2011, when President Barack Obama addressed the world, confirming Osama bin Laden’s demise in Pakistan. While watching the breaking TV news coverage, I began to share that sense of accomplishment and joy, less for the act of neutralizing the thought leader and chief architect of 9/11 and other atrocities against Americans, and more for the fortitude and resolve demonstrated by the U.S. commander-in-chief, our military forces, and intelligence agencies. I found myself thinking of what this type of public resolve implies for the future state of our Manufacturing economy in the U.S., whose resurgence is essential to the country’s defenses, global leadership, and the health and prosperity of our citizens, along with those of other democratic nations.
President Obama’s determination coming into office in January 2009 to recommit U.S. resources to bring justice to bin Laden, and the U.S. intelligence and military’s subsequent success bodes well as I consider his commitment to U.S. manufacturing competitiveness, infrastructure build-out and job creation articulated during the President’s January 2011 State of the Union address. During the last several quarters, I have had the privilege to present on behalf of Cisco to the Office of the President as part of the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC), a broad cross section of manufacturers, technology suppliers, manufacturing consortia, government laboratories and research universities across industry segments pulling together to recommend programs to revitalize U.S. manufacturing.
I was reminiscing with a friend recently about NRF shows past, and the graveyard of consumer-facing retail technology ideas.
Yikes. Lots of ghosts. Even a few zombie ideas that refuse to die (cart tablets, anyone?). The big question is why – with the exception of self-service – have so few new “breakthrough” ideas found acceptance?
Here’s a hypothesis: Caught in an ever-fast cycle of innovation, the sales and engineering departments – understandably – always seek more. More headroom. More functionality. More interoperability.
We dream of the possible. We dream of platforms, of vendor lock-in, of recurring streams of high-margin revenue, of bosses pinning ribbons to our medaled chests. Ignore the cost implications for a moment. (As grave as they may be, given the expense of rolling something out to all stores.)
Here’s what we too often forget: Shoppers dream of ease and simplicity.
A 2009 McKinsey study on consumers’ use of electronics devices sheds some light on the matter. Less than one-third of all consumers use the advanced features of any CE device – and less than one-halfeven know that the features exist.
Allow those factoids to simmer for a moment. Think of the hours of brilliant engineering innovation that most consumers simply ignore -- that for most is too complicated, too complex. Brilliant engineering innovation that brings joy to the engineer, but immediate dismissive frustration from the consumer who simply wants to watch a movie.
Simplicity is the byword of the McKinsey paper. Simplicity in functionality. Simplicity in usability. A quick glance, and you know how to use it and what to do. A quick glance, and you know why it matters. The learning curve: a straight line north.
But it’s not just simplicity. Just as important is the usability – perhaps defined for retail as simplicity in context. Who’ll use it? When? Why? To what benefit? Consider the mother-of-two-in-a-hurry at the modern mega-grocery/mass retailer. Consider, for a moment, the value of a cart tablet to her. See wailing children pounding on the screen. Weep.
The very smart and always wise Bob Anderson, former CTO at Best Buy, points us to the “popcorn” button on the microwave as a perfect guide for consumer-facing technology. No questions. Immediate understanding of value. One push and sixty seconds equals hot buttery-salted goodness.
Food for thought.
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The ultimate cultural vision of video streaming was laid out in an iconic Qwest TV commercial from 1999. In it, a man wanders into a dusty, remote motel asking about room amenities. It’s not promising. The bored young lady behind the desk recites in an apathetic tone that the beds are all king-size, and the only breakfast offered is donuts and coffee.
But when the man asks about entertainment, that’s a little different. In the same monotone, the girl answers, “All rooms have every movie ever made in every language any time day or night.” It’s taken a while — probably longer than the technoptomists among us expected — but we’re getting closer to that vision.
For one thing, according to a survey recently conducted by Goldman Sachs and reported by HedgeFundLive, 27 percent of Americans now stream TV shows and movies, up from 16 percent in 2010.
Wow -- I’m impressed. We have the best folks in Cisco. I’m sure of it. The best in the industry. And I don’t just mean me (he jests)!
No, really, Cisco’s innovation is ‘on fire’ as John Chambers puts it. I’m not just saying that because I work at Cisco. I’m saying it because I meet up with folks every day at Cisco who simply impress me with their down-and-out inventiveness. It might be products, processes or business architectures. Whatever it is, I’m often left thinking we have to tell our customers about that.
Innovators -- here are just a couple I found at Cisco - more where they came from! Actually Neil Dieder, Tech Leader, and Walt Shaw, Sr. Prod. Line Mgr, both from WNBU, the Cisco Wireless Networking Business Unit.
I speak to many customers at Executive Briefings (EBCs) and they echo my sentiment. When I talk about what we’re doing in the manufacturing industry, many of them say ‘Wow, I didn’t know Cisco did that!’ Well, I guess that’s the purpose of the EBC. Bring the customer to Cisco to tell them stuff they don’t know. Add that to what they do know and, well, they’re going to make a more informed decision.
It’s hard to choose one innovation since there are so many, but since my blogs are about manufacturing, I decided to talk about something that, on the surface is not all that exciting. Wireless Networking. Been around for years right? Right. Easy-peasy, right? Wrong! Read More »
The public Internet is pervasive. It’s an essential ingredient to the way many of us choose to live, work, play and learn. When this amazing resource is viewed through the perspective of mainstream users, the path that led us here may seem unimaginable.
It’s an example of open innovation and creative collaboration, with a common cause that was shared by determined pioneers. The Internet Society has published a brief history that starts with the following story introduction:
“The Internet has revolutionized the computer and communications world like nothing before. The invention of the telegraph, telephone, radio, and computer set the stage for this unprecedented integration of capabilities. The Internet is at once a world-wide broadcasting capability, a mechanism for information dissemination, and a medium for collaboration and interaction between individuals and their computers without regard for geographic location.”