Marvin Minsky Image via Wikipedia
On Friday I attended the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the MIT Media Lab. Many interesting ideas on innovation, technology and the culture to foster breakthrough ideas. My observations:
- Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the Media Lab, who perhaps launched the digital age said that the digital age is over. The fundamental science and technology in digital has all been discovered. Therefore, the Media Lab should focus on emerging technologies such as nano technology and neuro-science. Interesting that almost all the young faculty at the Lab are doing research outside digital.
- Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, was a featured speaker and he talked about how Google launches new products. There is no ROI analysis of new business ideas and no market/customer analysis. They just launch an idea and the customer analytics determine whether an idea succeeeds. About 1 in 90 ideas succeed. This is about the same success rate for new projects as at the Media Lab. (Note: a lack of capital constraints and high capital efficiency is required to successfully operate with these success rates.)
- Marvin Minsky, a legendary thought leader at MIT and professor to many of the early Internet pioneers, had a very interesting observation. He said that when you see a great idea do not bore down to better understand the idea. It is much more important to ask the person how they came up with the idea. Understanding how original thinkers think about problems is the especially valuable part because a similar approach could be used to solve other big problems. Minsky also mentioned the concept that great ideas frequently come where several disciplines intersect. (I always find it fascinating when a great thinker is interested in how other great thinkers come up with their ideas. Obviously a lesson for all entrepreneurs.)
- Alot of examples of embedding computing power in objects, such as lights that automatically adjust for changes in ambient light and building materials that adjust for atmospheric conditions. One example was the idea that within 20 years the porosity of glass will adjust to let in air (no more opening windows).
- Many examples of using the cell phone not as a phone or data device. One example focused on using the camera and the high resolution screen for vision tests. Another example turned the cell phone into a musical instrument similar to a marimba. Given the ubiquity of cell phones, many new non-traditional business ideas using cell phones will emerge based on the features in the phone, especially in the developing world.
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