April 2013
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Month April 2013

Innovation, and invention in the business context

Innovation is not invention. Innovation is the application of invention in ways that solve new needs. I’m always amazed at how misunderstood this term is…, even though the definition of each is easy to understand:

Innovate | verb |

• [ no obj. ] make changes in something established, esp. by introducing new methods, ideas, or products: the company’s failure to diversify and innovate competitively.

• [ with obj. ] introduce (something new, esp. a product): innovating new products, developing existing ones.

Innovation | noun | the action or process of innovating.

• a new method, idea, product, etc.: technological innovations designed to save energy.

Invent | verb | [ with obj. | create or design (something that has not existed before); be the originator of: he invented an improved form of the steam engine.

Invention | noun | the action of inventing something, typically a process or device: the invention of printing in the 15th century.

These words get interchanged a lot, and incorrectly too. In summary, “Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a better and, as a result, novel idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself.”

Mark Twain on granularity?

Mark Twain on Granularity?

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

It’s a nice quote, and it surely speaks to the use/meaning of “granularity” in the business parlance these days. Many say, “Mark Twain put it so simply and clearly.” It is, however, very hard to trace the origin of the quote back to Twain—is it an imaginary quote???


Def.: a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, esp. by a computer: a basic algorithm for division.

“Or, an algorithm is an effective method expressed as a finite list of well-defined instructions for calculating a function. Starting from an initial state and initial input (perhaps empty), the instructions describe a computation that, when executed, proceeds through a finite number of well-defined successive states, eventually producing ‘output’ and terminating at a final ending state.”

Today, most people think of algorithms as exclusively being in the context of computers and computer science. Yet, algorithms pervade much of our current thinking and problem solving. For example, the phrase “smallest manageable tasks” belongs to this kind of activity/thinking. And, the advice to break complex and overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one, fits too.

Economic forecasts

APRIL | 2013 — Kiplinger’s Latest Economic Outlooks

GDP — 1.75% growth in ’13, a bit softer than last year

Unemployment —  Heading to about 7.5% by the end of ’13

Interest rates — Little or no increase in short-term rates in ’13

Inflation — Slightly higher this year, 2.3%

Business spending — About a 4% gain in ’13, half of ’12’s pace

Energy — Oil trading at $95-$100/barrel through Memorial Day

Housing sales — Existing homes up 7.5% in ’13, new ones more than 35%

Retail sales — About 4% growth in ’13; consumer spending slowdown

Trade deficit — Widening by 2% in ’13, after a slight dip in ’12

Classical competitiveness

Strategic Planning

  1. Where have we been?
  2. Where are we now?
  3. Where are we going?
  4. How are we going to get there?
  5. What resources are required to get there?

These 5 simple questions, and this format (in general) have more than stood the test of time. Management teams should review and answer these items regularly…

Melville on method

Melville on Method

Herman Melville said: “There are some enterprises in which careful disorderliness is the only true method.” This contrasts sharply with Descartes who meant by method: “… certain and simple rules, such that, if man observes them accurately, he will never assume what is false as true.”

Good management requires both at different times—or so it seems….