If you will it, it is no dream…

Arthur Weiss Case Studies, Other, Politics 0 Comments

This is the first blog post I’ve written on the subject of the Israel-Palestine conflict. I’m writing it in response to a number of twitter conversations I’ve had over the last week with Palestinian supporters. This has relevance to business research as it shows how people who are obviously intelligent and reasoning can be so influenced by prejudice and false assumptions that they fail to see this as a blind spot. They are blind to what is mostly false propaganda and so continue to believe lies. The Israel-Palestine conflict is highly emotive but can serve as an example and metaphor for any area where people have firmly entrenched opinions. Such dogmatism leads to bad decisions that are based on fallacies – irrespective of whether it relates to the Middle-East or business.

Those who know me know that, although I support Israel, I also believe in the rights of the Palestinian people to fulfil their dreams and have their own Nation State. However this should not be at the expense of the Jewish people’s dream. The land now governed by the State of Israel was originally designated for two peoples, and the Palestinians have rights to govern themselves as much as Israelis have.

What has disturbed me has been the unquestioning faith of the anti-Israel proponents to their cause and the lies they use to justify this faith. Worse, they believe that these lies are totally true.

I stand by everything I wrote. I am not a liar and everything I said is verifiable.

was one comment. Yet this same person said that anti-Semitism also relates to Arabs, ignoring the proper definition of the word. He suggested that I check the “Miriam Webster” (sic) dictionary. Well here’s the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition:

Hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.

No mention of Arabs here. The concise encyclopaedia entry after the dictionary definition does continue:

Hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious group or “race.” Although the term anti-Semitism has wide currency, it is regarded by some as a misnomer, implying discrimination against all Semites, including Arabs and other peoples who are not the targets of anti-Semitism as it is usually understood….

This is quite clear – some people think that the term could apply to Arabs too, as Semitic peoples, and so the term is a misnomer (i.e. a wrong name or designation) and that Arabs are not the target of anti-Semitism.

This simple example demonstrates that even checking a dictionary entry can lead to a misinterpretation by somebody who has a prejudice.

Bible Stories & Ancient Languages

The other twitter conversation started innocently enough:

Abraham was from #Iraq ,Moses from #Egypt , Jesus from #Palestine, Golda Meier from #Russia and Herzl from #Hungry ,so who was “#Israeli”?

I responded, slightly flippantly:

#Palestine was the Roman name. Abe became #Israeli. Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Solomon… Jesus: All #Israeli

to which came back:

Abe was a guest in the land of the Canaanite, Salomon has had a Phoenician mother and Jesus did not even speak Hebrew.

I pointed out that Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba,  was not Phenician but was from King David’s own tribe i.e. was an Israelite, and that Aramaic was a Jewish language.

Although we do not know whether or not Jesus spoke Hebrew he would have spoken Aramaic – the language spoken in Israel/Palestine at the time. His last words, as recorded in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34, are Aramaic. The language is used for a number of Jewish prayers (including the Kaddish prayer said by mourners) and the majority of the Talmud.  It is feasible that Jesus also knew Hebrew based on some of the New Testament stories such as Luke 2:46-47 which relates that Jesus was in the Temple listening to the Rabbis’ teachings. This was the time when the Mishnah was being written – and the Mishnah is in Hebrew, implying that Jesus understood these teachings.

Despite the above, prejudices and inaccuracies started to come out – for example:

Aramaic is the old-Arabic-language. While today´s Israelis have re-invented the Hebrew-language in 1920

This is false on two counts. First, Aramaic is in a different branch of the Semitic language group to Arabic (the South Semitic group) – but in the same group as Hebrew (North West Semitic). Second, Hebrew was never re-invented – and certainly not in 1920. Eliezer Ben Yehuda who revived the Hebrew Language revived the language as a spoken, everyday language, in the 1880s – 1890s. Cecil Roth summed up Ben-Yehuda’s contribution to the Hebrew language: “Before Ben‑Yehuda, Jews could speak Hebrew; after him, they did.”

Even when I pointed this out, I got back the response:

Nevertheless Ben Yehuda invented it……

This suggests that Hebrew is a language like Esperanto  –  showing a prejudice that refuses to accept what should be common knowledge i.e. that Hebrew is the language of the Bible and most Jewish prayer and Rabbinic writings through the ages. It gives a flavour of the problems – and the ignorance.

The Ottoman Empire’s dissolution

Here are more tweets from the conversation:

In 1948 the UK left PALESTINE after being there 25 years as a mandate power….there was no “Israel” !!

To which I responded:

Independence Years: #Iraq 1932 #Lebanon 1943 #Jordan & #Syria 1946; #Israel 1948 #Palestine ?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_national_independence_days …

and

Prior to 1917 no Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, either. All part of Ottoman empire. No real difference but years!

My point here is that although Israel was founded in 1948, the other nations were also new, formed out of the carved up Ottoman Empire, with Britain and France granted mandates by the League of Nations following the First World War. Each of the nations gained independence from the colonial powers in the years stated. None had existed as sovereign nations before – except, like Israel, in pre-History. All were thus the result of a European mind-set, that took maps and drew borders. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was granted to an ally of Britain – Abdullah – as was the kingdom of Iraq, initially ruled by Abdullah’s brother, King Faisal. Iraq was drawn up by Winston Churchill in 1921 by using a ruler and a pencil and does not reflect the ethnicities or geographies of the area. Syria and Lebanon were ruled as French Mandates and were handled in a similar way to the British mandated territories.

The only difference between Israel and these other countries, is the majority peoples in the other countries were Arab. Not Iraqi, Palestinian or Syrian – but Arab. The majority religion was Islam. In contrast, Israel was Jewish.

The conversation continued:

So was also half of Europe being part of the Hapsburg empire and yet we have Romania,Poland Italy Hungry etc,,,,,,

This is, of course, correct – but doesn’t refute my statement. I agreed:

Agree. Geopolitics from 1850-1950 resulted in lots of national self-determination movements including Israel!

Jewish beliefs & Zionism

There then came nonsense trying to define what Jews are and falsifying Jewish history. (Non-Jews telling Jews who they are, and what they should believe is a classic anti-Semitic trope).

No sir !! there was never a “Jewish-nation” since the year 0070 !! it was invented by Zionists in Basel.

Zionism is simply a colonial-adventure with a Jewish artificial-flavour !!!

This, of course, completely ignores traditional Jewish belief and prayer. It ignores the fact that after every meal, religious Jews ask for Jerusalem to be rebuilt, and in each daily prayer they ask for a return to Zion (i.e. Israel) and an ingathering of the Jewish people there. This is not just in the prayers of Jews from Europe, but all Jews – irrespective of where they lived following the exile in the year 70. This exile is remembered in the Jewish calendar – with fast days, and even on joyous occasions such as weddings, where the breaking of a glass as the final act is to symbolise that we still remember the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and our subsequent loss of sovereignty and exile in the Holy Land. (It’s not – as the joke says – the last time that the man will be allowed to put his foot down!)

Population Exchanges & the Refugee Problem

I tried to move from history to a contemporary solution – without assigning blame for the Palestine-Israel problem:

Peace also means recognition of ALL Middle East refugees resulting from ’48 & ’67 wars. Jewish & Palestinian.

Majority of Israelis are now descendants of refugees from Arab countries forced out from their homes.

Back came more ignorance and prejudice:

There are no “Jewish-refugees”, there are rather Jewish-colonialists who came in carrying guns…….

I tried to correct this:

False. Jews forced out of Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon… Pre-1948 Baghdad was 1/3 Jewish. Now no Jews in Iraq

But got back the statement:

Arab-Jews were NEVER forced out , but rather tricked-out by Zionist-bombings of their own synagogues .

to which I responded:

False. The Farhud in Iraq http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farhud  Pogroms in Yemen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1947_Aden_pogrom … 1840 Blood libel in Syria…

The fact that these were all before Israel’s establishment was ignored – perhaps the truth was too inconvenient, as the response was:

If there were no State of Israel those Jews would have remained in their own Arab-country !!

I pointed out that this was because the Jews from the Arab countries had no choice – as without Israel there was nowhere else for them to go easily. (Many did try to escape to France, the USA, Australia – but in the main there were quotas and restrictions, unlike for Israel).

Life for Jews in Arab lands was not as rosy as anti-Israel supporters would like us to believe. Non-Muslims (Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians)  were tolerated but viewed as Dhimmis (i.e. second-class citizens). Although sometimes there was peaceful coexistence, generally this was because non-Muslims accepted that they had minimal rights. Post-1948 the situation Arab Jews found themselves in became intolerable with regular pogroms and attacks in almost all Arab nations – resulting in over a million refugees i.e. at least the same number as Palestinian refugees fleeing their homes in the aftermath of the 1948 and 1967 wars. (More recently, the position of the Christian minorities in many Arab countries has deteriorated – with murderous attacks in Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere). Israel gave  Jews a chance to escape.

I didn’t mention in either conversation that the definition of a Palestinian refugee is unique. Usually refugees are long-standing residents of a country.  The Arab Jewish refugees had lived in their countries for generations – many pre-dating Islam. In contrast, Palestinian refugees only had to have been living in the area since 1946.  (UNRWA – the UN agency set up to help Palestinian refugees define Palestinian refugees as “people whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict.“).

The facts are that as Jews returned to what was then Palestine, they drained swamps (e.g. in the Hula Valley) and started farming the land in a way that had not been done for centuries. This increased the affluence of the area, and Arabs started moving in to take advantage of new work opportunities. Prior to the 1880s, the area was desolate – with subsistence farmers being the majority population, except for in a few towns. Jerusalem had a majority Jewish population, for example – ignored by anti-Israel advocates who even claim it is an Arab city. So, in reality, there was a population exchange – with Jews being forced from their ancestral homelands in Arab countries, and Arabs – many of whom (like Yasser Arafat) had not been born in Palestine – forced out of, or leaving, their homes too. Further, the Arab Jewish refugees and their descendants are now the majority of Israel’s population – and not the descendants of European Jews, as anti-Israel apologists try to claim.

The need for separation – Two States for Two Nations

Eventually of course, we got onto that canard of Israeli Apartheid. Whenever you point out that there is no Apartheid – and mention that there are Arab members of the Knesset, Arab judges, Arab military officers – in fact, Arabs in all aspects of Israeli public life the point is ignored.  Instead, the fact that the West Bank Palestinians are not Israeli citizens and don’t wish to be makes Israel an Apartheid State, according to this view.

The true situation is that prior to the second Intifada, West Bank Palestinians had freedom of movement and work within Israel – although as non-citizens they did not have a vote. The only reason they are separated today is because they chose to attack and kill Israelis. The separation is for security reasons – and if there was a genuine peace there would be no need for such separation. Contrast this with Jordan and Saudi Arabia which have a policy to ban Jews living there or pre-Civil War Syria, where Assad’s Alawites held all the power. These more match the actual definition of apartheid – where ethnic and racial groups are kept separate.

I tried to end the conversation peacefully by pointing out:

There SHOULD be both Palestine & Israel. Needs to be 2 States. Both sides need to talk peace.

The following response shows the mind-set of the anti-Israel apologist – refusing to accept a fair, just and logical solution to the problem:

“2 states” means half of Palestine stolen forever !! One State would be secular-inclusive-Palestine

I pointed out that there is no truly bi-national State anywhere in the world that is stable. My correspondent tried to refute this by pointing out that Switzerland has a number of different groups living there – French, German, Italian and Romanche. However Switzerland is built on a canton system where each is essentially self-governing. Further, the Swiss nation hasn’t experienced decades of hatred. Another example – Belgium – is actually poor as the French and Flemish groups dislike each other would split if they could. Yet there is more in common culturally between these two groups than between Palestinians and Israelis.

I believe that if Israel and Palestine became separate States then one day the two could feasibly federate on a Swiss model if both peoples wanted it. However today, because of the enshrined hatred between the two peoples, there would be war which would lead to massacres – potentially by both sides.

I try to look at both sides and take into account both national narratives. Unless the Palestinian and anti-Israel side does the same then there will not be a peaceful and fair resolution of the problem. Instead there will be a continuation of the status quo which is good for neither side – or something far worse.

Whenever there is a conflict – or disagreement – it is important to understand both sides of the argument, and avoid bias. It is essential to check facts – and also the source of any information, in case there is bias there. Unless this is done, poor decisions and continuing problems are inevitable. This is as true in business as it is in Middle-East politics.

The impact of disruptive innovation – on PCs and on Retail

Arthur Weiss Case Studies, Competitive Strategy, Management / Marketing / CI Theory, Marketing Principles 17 Comments

Two recent items highlight the impact of disruptive innovations on industries. The first is a presentation from the Business Insider called the The Death of PC. The second is an article looking at Amazon and mentioning its March 2012 purchase of Kiva Systems.

Since 2009, the PC market has hardly grown. In the same period, Smartphone & Tablet sales boomed. Many tasks that used to be done on PCs are now done on these newer devices: email, web-searching, social media, and more. This has had a massive impact on the traditional PC market and its suppliers such as Intel and Microsoft. Whereas Apple’s and Samsung’s share prices have grown substantially, Dell & HP have been static or fallen. The introduction of both Smartphones and Tablets illustrate how disruptive these technologies are to the traditional PC industry – although as the The Death of PC presentation shows, things are actually more complicated. This is typical for a disruptive innovation – especially in the earlier stages.

Disruptive innovations do not always kill the products and industries they replace. What they do is change them radically. Smartphones haven’t killed the camera industry. They have, however transformed it so that DSLR and higher-end / special function cameras are now the main products sold. The cheap mass-market snapshot camera has gone – who needs one, when a Smartphone does everything that they could do, and much more. Disruptive innovations also mean that companies that fail to adapt quickly enough disappear. Kodak’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy is an example of this. Kodak and photography were synonymous – but the company failed to anticipate how digital camera usage would change the way people process photographs.

In the case of the PC market, so far it’s only the home PC that’s dying. The PC in the workplace is doing fine – and that’s because the type of task it is used for is different. It’s hard to work on a spreadsheet, or a complex graphic or even a long report using a Tablet and almost impossible on a Smartphone. These aren’t tasks that the home computer was used for. So Tablets haven’t changed the work PC – only the home PC market. However expectations have changed – and this has led to newer devices and cloud computing which promises to be as disruptive for the traditional hard-disk based PC and so the PC as we knew it last century is gone or going. It’s not yet dead – just changed.

Amazon’s purchase of Kiva Systems in another example of a disruptive innovation. Amazon itself has shown how disruptive e-commerce is to traditional retailing. The high-street and even the out-of-town retail outlets struggle to compete with Amazon on price. However they can still compete on service: if you want something on the same day, then such outlets beat Amazon, even if the price is higher. Further, Amazon’s warehouse distribution system could be copied and many of the larger retailers now offer online options. Currently both use human labour to select and package products for delivery – and this represents a significant proportion of retail costs. The Kiva Systems purchase promises to change all this. Kiva Systems manufactures robots and the software used to control them. The robots are designed for use in warehouses for accessing goods. They remove the need for a human being to go to the relevant shelf and remove a product for sending to a customer – instead a machine does this. Eventually such systems are likely to completely automate the distribution process – meaning that Amazon’s labour costs will fall dramatically.

Any retailer that still depends on human labour in their warehouses or retailing is likely to find it even harder competing with Amazon’s prices. Such retailers should start thinking now on how they could compete. Options include looking at ways of improving service or focusing on narrow niches requiring in-person expertise. Waiting and hoping that some shining knight on a white charger will come and rescue them is not an option. There will be no shining knight because, however much retailers may wish it was, true life is not a fairy story.

[After writing this post, Michel Bernaiche, Program Development Director of AurowaWDC and current Chairman of the SCIP board, pointed out this news story to me – highlighting how robots are impacting not just retailing but many other business areas – from hospitals & surgery to legal research. CBS News Video on Impact of Robotics in Industry]

Why six-sigma, just-in-time and lean manufacturing are dangerous!

Arthur Weiss Case Studies, Competitive Strategy, Management / Marketing / CI Theory, Marketing Principles 0 Comments

Six sigma is a great idea: make sure that your product or service is as close to perfect as possible with almost zero (3.4 in a million) faults. So is just-in-time (JIT) and lean manufacturing. All involve tight control on business processes and require businesses to focus on efficiency. You can’t have a JIT manufacturing process without being highly efficient in controlling all aspects of your supply chain.

The problem is that when circumstances change it can be difficult to adapt the processes quickly enough. When the change is disruptive then it’s likely to lead to business failure. Casey Haksins and Peter Sims describe this in a Harvard Business Review blog post: The Most Efficient Die Early.

The authors correctly point out that business must also expect the unexpected and plan to absorb it and cope with it. The problem is that pursuing greater and greater efficiency goes against this need for flexibility to change. Instead there needs to be a balance. Look for efficiency but not at the cost of losing flexibility. Success requires both.

Entrpreneurs 2012 – Con-Trick or Conference: a review!

Arthur Weiss Other 5 Comments

Wow – what a line up. Bear Grylls, Caprice, Ruby Wax, Julie Meyer, Carol Vorderman…. Just look at what was promised:

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/53445727]

And look who was promised:

(Click for larger image)

(Click for larger image)

All these as keynote speakers. The conference blurb said that

Hundreds of the world’s most successful chief executives, from the likes of Google, Paypal, Acer and Bentley will gather to debate, share ideas, network and enjoy the last day of Entrepreneurs 2012.

It sounds like an event not to be missed, with tickets priced at £120 for seats at the back to £3000 for a front row seat. The promotional material said that I’d “have the opportunity to learn from the best with hundreds of like-minded people at our unique and exciting event” and that

YOU will network with entrepreneurs and high-achievers from Leading Global Brands.
YOU will meet some of the World’s most Successful Entrepreneurs.
YOU will Enjoy & have FUN with celebrity guests and your peers
YOU will take away a most memorable experience that will propel you and your business toward continued success for 2013!”

How could any serious entrepreneur turn down an opportunity such as this. Even better, the event was then advertised on Groupon – with tickets for only £17.00. So I jumped.

The first day started with “motivational” speaker, Andy Harrington – who describes himself as the “world’s leading public speaking expert”.  He failed to motivate me. After around an hour of hoping for something better, I walked out and got myself a coffee. I returned to see if he was still going on – and it looked as though he had stopped “motivating” and moved to some content. This was actually quite good – he talked about his “System” for being a better public speaker  – covering aspects such as the importance of standing up straight, maintaining eye-contact, using different vocal tones, and being in the right mindset. Unfortunately after covering this he went back to “motivating” again – with a sales pitch for his training programme costing £1000s. Amazingly this worked on enough people that I reckon that if all pay he’ll have made over £200,000 from this 3 hour or so talk. Not bad work – and definitely entrepreneurial on his part.

Next up (I think) was Daniel Priestley – the CEO of a company called Triumphant Events.  Priestley put over some interesting and relevant content but his talk ended with a sales pitch, as did Simon Coulsen‘s who followed – talking on selling via the Internet. Strangely Coulsen seemed more genuine although this was still a sales pitch and not a talk that fulfilled any of the event promises. Certainly no real networking opportunities (except to complain with the people sitting next to me – who were also hoping for some genuine content that wasn’t delivered by a snake-oil “follow-my-system and you’ll get rich quick” salesperson). So far no real hints on running a genuinely entrepreneurial business or case studies and life stories to learn from. Just hard-sell schemes at high-prices. These speakers certainly profited from their slots – making tens of thousands of pounds in just a few hours.

Day 1 was supposed to be about How to Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset. No – it was how to be conned into spending lots of money on training courses to turn you into a public speaker, or to systematize your entrepreneurial idea, or to sell self-help books on the Internet. I did learn a little – and got some ideas. For example, I do a lot of public speaking, leading executive workshops globally, so I got ideas on how I could earn more from this. However the entrepreneurial content was minimal.

Naively I hoped day 2 would be better – especially as the promised programme on the website for Entrepreneurs 2012 (now down) stated that the topic was Uncover New Technologies to Give your Start-up Business the Edge. This seemed right up my street so I was hopeful. I arrived in the afternoon having had to do some real work in the morning – and just missed Caprice who apparently gave a very good talk. So I was hopeful that day 1 was bad and things would look up. Unfortunately the promise was quickly dashed – as the speakers were, again, purveyors of “get rich quick” type snake-oil schemes. I’m not even sure who the speakers were as no schedule existed. (I asked. Not even the event staff – from a company called Blak Pearl – had any idea).

I haven’t a clue about day 3 – as I was unwilling to be subjected to more sales pitches – despite having paid and scheduling all 4 days in my diary. From what I was told by people I spoke with on day 4, it was more of the same, punctuated by shortish talks by Levi Roots of Reggae Reggae Sauce and Kate Hardcastle.

Day 4 however looked more promising with some panel debates on topics that looked interesting.

The published programme for day 4 of Entrepreneurs 2012 The day started well with Bruce Dickenson of Iron Maiden giving a genuinely interesting and motivational talk that didn’t include a hard sell. The panel debates followed – with several of the “keynote speakers” on the panel. (Point of information to the organisers: keynote speaker does NOT mean panel participant). We were also told to expect that the event star – Bill Clinton – would be speaking at 1.00pm, after the panel debates. At 12.30pm three of the “motivators” who had spoken on the earlier 3 days got up and were given 10 minute slots. At around 1.00pm some bozo called Marco was then given the stage.  Marco claims to be one of the top 3 platform speakers in the world. (He doesn’t say which world. Based on his performance in London, it can’t be this one). After 30 or so minutes, the twitter feed (hashtag #ents2012) looked like this.

A snapshot of a handful of the tweets sent during Marco Kozlowski’s talk at Entrpreneurs 2012

Unfortunately I had to leave at 2.00pm and so missed the remaining speakers, including ex-President Bill Clinton, who based on the twitter feed was amazing. C’est la vie. 

My feelings on the event were that:

  1. it was badly organized – with no time schedule or formal programme. Nobody seemed to know what was happening or when.
  2. there was far too little content. The event was aimed at entrepreneurs i.e. people who want to work for themselves or are already working for themselves. Yet most of the speakers were selling systems that were closer to pyramid and multi-level marketing schemes than genuine entrepreneurial support. They were supposed to be motivational and instructive. They were far from this – and some were positively de-motivational and destructive of any entrepreneurial mindset.
  3. there were almost zero networking opportunities – no break-out sessions or discussions or even real interaction with anybody. I spoke to a few people but this was because I made the effort. Most didn’t.
  4. promised speakers didn’t appear – no Ruby Wax; no Carol Vorderman, no Kevin Spacey (as named in the video) … and keynote speakers turned out not to be keynote speakers at all, but panel members.
  5. no evidence that any of the promised chief executives from Google, Paypal, etc. attended. (The one exception was Olaf Swantee from Everything Everywhere who was a panel member on day 4 – and who made several points that were worth noting).
  6. the few genuine speakers had something to say and didn’t name-drop. You could almost guarantee that a speaker that started name-dropping Richard Branson, Alan Sugar, Donald Trump or other genuine entrepreneur or leader would turn out to be another quack opportunist – especially when this was accompanied by a photograph of the entrepreneur looking extremely uncomfortable standing next to the speaker who exhibited a massive cheesy grin.

My views on this event were echoed by others – for example: CelebStorkey’s “10 reasons it went wrong”.

The lack of a programme meant that I gave the event more of a chance than I should. Was the event a con-trick to get people who want to work for themselves into pyramid schemes and similar? Possibly – certainly the management of the event seemed to encourage the speakers making “sign-up now” sales pitches. At the same time, buried among the 80% of useless hard-sell there was a small amount of material worth listening too and speakers like Brian Dickenson had something to say. Personally I will in future be vary wary about allocating so much time to any similar event without doing many more checks on the actual format.

The last day was billed as a “Leaders First Finale” where the “movers and shakers of our business world will be networking and rocking our boats” and where I’d “benefit from the incredible knowledge and experience” of these “great leaders and business champions” who we were told would “head-up the presentations and debates on the main stage”. Unfortunately this also turned out to be hyperbole. There was a buzz in the room after the panel debates, but this was quickly destroyed by Marco (described in lots of tweets as like Kermit the frog). Had I known he was going to drone on for so long I’d have left earlier and not had to suffer his spiel. As compensation for this additional waste of my time, I’ve sent Blak Pearl an invoice – with a request that the sum be paid to charity. They should pay the money – not just for me but all attendees – as it was insulting to subject so many real and budding entrepreneurs in the room to such nonsense. If they do pay, I’ll update this blog and give them the credit for the honesty and authenticity they lost in their event promotion.

Microsoft’s Surface and Disruptive Innovation!

Arthur Weiss Competitive Strategy, Marketing Principles 7 Comments

There is an old video with Bill Gates talking about Microsoft and Windows version 3, looking at multimedia, pen computing and an early tablet computer. Circa 1991! The technology shown in the video was forward thinking. Today we take it for granted. This was a time pre-web when only businesses had computers. Few people had computers at home and few knew about email or the Internet.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=eenDjMXfVBQ]

The idea of tablet computers is not new. Both Microsoft and Apple had looked at the idea years ago, but at the time the technology was not sufficiently fast, sophisticated or useful enough to grasp the majority of consumers’ interests. Techies loved such devices. (At about this time, ago, I had a boss who had a Psion Organiser.  He loved it. Everybody else wondered what he saw in it).

That’s the issue with disruptive innovations.  It’s not just the disruption that counts. It’s the timing. The Microsoft tablet was like the Psion organiser, and even the more tablet like Apple Newton device.

Apple Newton

The idea was a great idea but the timing was too early, and the product was not able to capture the consumer mind.

It’s not the first company that comes out with a disruptive innovation. It’s the first company that captures the consumer’s share of mind – their imagination.

As another technological example, the Apple iPod was not the first mp3 player. There were a few before  (e.g. the MDiamond Rio and the MPMan player) – but they didn’t have the panache of the iPod – and so were quickly overtaken when the iPod entered the scene.

At the same time, entering too late – or basing your product on competitors is also not the way – as Microsoft’s Zune product showed.

The jury is still out on Microsoft’s iPad type product – the Surface. This, at least, is not a copy but something different. To a large degree, it’s fate will depend on Windows 8 (RT). I think the Surface has a place – and I can see it destroying the netbook and low-value laptop market, and so it will be disruptive. I don’t believe that it will damage the iPad or most Android tablets (and also not the Kindle type e-book reader). People buy these for the apps – and there are too few Windows based apps. I don’t see this changing with Windows 8 either. (Why should an apps developer spend time and money building a Windows based app when the vast majority of tablet computers & smart phones are Android or Apple iOS?)

So who will buy the Surface. Techies – obviously! However businesses that currently equip sales people with netbooks or low-price laptops will also go for it as it is lighter, cheaper and trendier while offering the same or greater utility than the netbooks and laptops they had previously bought.

Of course time will tell. That’s what makes something truely disruptive – it’s often only after the new technology has taken over that you can say “but it’s obvious that it would succeed“. If this wasn’t the case – we’d all be flying across the Atlantic on another seemingly disruptive technology that failed to spread even though it provided utility, speed and worked. The supersonic Concorde aircraft never really took off, even though British Airways claimed it was profitable. Only British Airways and Air France flew Concordes. No other airline purchased the aircraft and the Concorde crash in Paris in 2000 effectively sealed its fate.