Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Meshing innovation, product development and production, marketing and sales as a virtuous cycle 15

Posted in book recommendations, business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 26, 2018

This is my 15th installment to a series in which I reconsider cosmetic and innovative change as they impact upon and even fundamentally shape the product design and development, manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sales cycle, and from both the producer and consumer perspectives (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 342 and loosely following for Parts 1-14.)

In Part 14 I focused on the finances-driven risk and benefits management of business process innovation, and on whether it would be best to retain a new such innovation in-house or in some way market and distribute it outside of the developing organization. And I concluded that phase of this overall series narrative by raising the issues of a wider and even global context and both for business-to-business competition and for when addressing the markets that all of these enterprises seek to serve too.

More specifically, I concluded Part 14 by stating that I would continue its narrative here by:

• At least briefly and selectively discussing the issues raised in Part 14 and other recent installments, in the dynamic and at times less than clear-cut context of global flattening as it is taking place in this 21st century, as accompanied by the reactive (if nothing else) global wrinkling and push back that accompanies that.

I then went on to note that businesses compete and collaborate in larger regional and global contexts, and that innovations and of all types arise and play out in those larger contexts. I will at least briefly consider how the complex of emergent factors that arise in that more complex arena would impact upon business process improvement and innovation, and its retention or transfer as I have been addressing that here in this series.

I begin this line of discussion by stressing the two defining terms that together make this an area of consideration that has to be included here: “flattening” and “wrinkling.” Separately, they can perhaps best be thought of as distinct trends, even if complexly structured ones that would be expected to display speed-ups and slow-downs and regional differences and understandings as to how they proceed. Neither can or should be expected to be able to occur either uniformly, and at some form of quantifiably fixed rate, or everywhere the same way and even if there were no countervailing forces that might oppose them (such as each other) and create complexities within them from that. Together they define an ongoing global collision and one where uniformity and consistency are the last features for either of them that should be expected, and anywhere. In that, ripple effect influences can and do arise for each from the mere existence of the other, and even when one of these historic force shaping trends seems to strongly dominate locally. Put baldly, the global forces and momentums of global flattening in effect form and define the terms of wrinkling in trade and economy, when pushback to perceived homogenization from it arises as a locally, nationally or even regionally defining imperative. And the emergence of pushback to globalization and its global flattening in turn shape efforts to promote and create a more open playing field, globally flattened trade and commerce setting. And the collective consequence of that is experience based evolution as to what globalization is and can be as a practical goal that can be developed towards.

Together, they can be seen as defining one of the great sources of economic friction, and more locally of business systems friction that we face in this 21st century and certainly as we go through its first third and probably more. I in fact expect that future historians will be able to trace the impact of this dynamic through much if not most of this century – and even knowing how unreliable longer-term predictions can prove to be, and how quaint they can turn out to have been in retrospect.

• As long as there are global opportunities and also local perspectives and needs, and both large scale and global economies and explicitly local economies that they can arise and play out in, this dynamic will play an at least strongly influencing role.

And together they bring turbulence and unpredictability, and in forms that play out at larger national, regional and global levels and for entire industries and entire economies. But they also play out and critically importantly so, for individual businesses too. And they play out just as significantly for business-to-business collaboration systems such as supply chains too. And this essentially by definition leads to increased economic friction on the more macro scale, and business systems friction as I use that term on the more micro scale. This is crucially important to this narrative and to what will follow from here in it.

Let’s consider flattening and wrinkling in their here and now, but from a somewhat longer timeframe unit perspective than single-year to single-year so as to “smooth out” the influence of immediately current increases or decreases in their relative immediate impact, and non-trending fluctuations in general. As of this writing, for example we have all seen wrinkling in this take on new levels of influence and globally (e.g. that even include self-inflicted trade war). But the overall trend that arises between them will probably lead to overall global flattening prevailing – long term at least. So let’s at least start out here by setting aside both this immediately here-and-now view with its particular trend-defined interpretations, and the longer-term prediction (hope?) that I have also just expressed here. And let’s begin addressing that mid-range, “statistically smoothed out” vision of these processes and their dynamics as if we have used an analog to moving averages on all of some set of most-pertinent metrics, in order to more clearly focus on longer than immediate trends and on the trend lines themselves.

And let’s begin that with a baseline discussion of the pre-globalization competitive context and the pre-globalization economy – which in its truest form has been a fiction from before the dawn of history, and certainly if that would mean local and small local region only.

• In all of recorded history, there have never been just local-only economies, or just local-only trade and commerce systems in place, and certainly not as a uniformly universally adhered-to realized standard.

Early Paleolithic excavations show evidence of trade goods that had to have been sourced from distant and even amazingly distant initial origin sites, and certainly given the communications and transport capabilities that were then available. I cite by way of example, the recurring discovery of items such as seashells in locations sited hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean beach. This might have been, and probably was very limited trade, and from the surviving evidence most if not all of it might have involved trade exchange of items of primarily totemic value. But even that is not entirely certain; some types of trade and barter goods might very well have been transferred long distance and on a more ongoing basis and over extended periods of time.

As far back as ten thousand years ago, judging from the older such finds, there has been at least low level but still significant trade over what was then great distances and almost certainly across tribal and cultural divides. Consider these references as a small sampling of a much larger and wider ranging literature on this complex topic:

Barter in Prehistoric Times.
Trade and Exchange in Prehistory. A Theoretical Evaluation. (a downloadable PDF file version of a paper written by I. Banu Dogan.)
Ancient Figures Reveal Trading Routes of Prehistoric African Civilization.

And if this trade and barter constitutes early flattening, it is all but certain that it was met with at least a measure of early wrinkling too and resistance to outside ideas and influence. Though a failure to participate in this system of exchange would not be expected to leave a durable artifactual record.

So while this has not always been a fully global phenomenon per se, the principles and dynamics of our more recent fully global trade flow and global flattening that have more recently and perhaps most forcefully been brought to our global attention by people like Thomas Friedman, have deep roots and distantly origined antecedents. For a key Friedman work on this topic and certainly for its modern iteration, see:

• Friedman, T.L. (2007 edition) The World Is Flat. Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York. (The first edition of this initially came out in 2005 but I cite here its revised and updated edition.)

This type of work primarily just serves to highlight and analyze a newer and more expansively far reaching and pervasive overall phenomenon, that has existed in at least limited if still significant form for what has probably been as long as there has been a humanity and certainly one that has moved beyond simple nomadism as its only viable ecological niche. Even that assumption is suspect as when people move, and certainly across wider territorial ranges, they meet others as both groups proceed. And when they meet, and certainly if they do not enter into more immediate conflict from that and from how they do, experience gained from study of the world’s remaining hunter gatherer peoples show that they tend to seek to form bonds and avoid conflict – and often at least in part through item exchange and through simple barter if nothing else. So I reframe my initial premise here from one of focusing on pre-globalization (or rather on pre-global trans-cultural and trans-tribal reach) and its wrinkled discontents, to one of non-global and even parochially localized-only reach.

I will continue this narrative from there with a goal of comparing our current more globally impactful realities to this more cartoonishly abstracted alternative that I have proposed here for comparative purposes. And in anticipation of that discussion to come, I will make use of my moving averages approach to tracking globalization and its challenges as briefly noted above for more cleanly depicting that. And I will take two approaches to understanding the non-global and even non-regional model that I have been building up to here as an alternative older depiction of the underlying forces that shape and define it. In that, I will consider the possibilities of how very limited totemic and related exchanges that do not rise to the level of trade per se and that primarily include information and insight exchange would shape that second model and its approaches, and I will go from there to consider a more completely isolated possibility as well, and its perhaps more predictably expected marketplace and related dynamics.

I am going to at least begin to explore and analyze these two alternative overall world views: currently emerging global and its older antecedent, and their trend-defining consequences in my next series installment. And then, to bring this foundation element oriented digression back into focus I will apply that line of discussion and points of understanding that arise from it, to the basic questions at hand here in this series, and to an at least selective analysis of some of the features of the global context that we live in now, for businesses that arise and function as they seek to be and remain innovatively competitive. And I will at least initially focus on business process innovations in that.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. And see also Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 and Page 3 continuations.

Note: I offer the following as an addendum to Part 14, in response to a question that was posed to me as to the durability of a business process per se as a marketable item. Patent protection is a possibility, of course but I would suggest a second possibility here that might be particularly relevant for this blog context given it dual business and technology focus. And I raise it by posing a question that a business’ innovators might be advised to at least consider here:

• Can a given business process innovation be parsed into critically important pieces, some of which could be embedded in custom business productivity software apps or larger programs, that would arrive in executable code form, that could not readily and cost-effectively be bypassed or done without and that could not, for most users be readily and cost-effectively reverse engineered back into algorithm-revealing source code form?

So hands-on users would know and use the portions of this type of overall package that they would need to be able to carry out themselves by hand, as for example when integrating the functioning of this purchased or licensed resource into the rest of their there-relevant business process context (assuming this new innovation was not added entirely into more automated areas of acquiring businesses operational systems.) But simply adding new hands-on process steps to their routine would not suffice to bring this innovation in-house. My point here is that there are ways to safeguard an innovation providing business’ intellectual property and its ongoing value for them and even long-term, and even when it is shipped out of their doors through purchase or licensing or other mechanisms. And as this case in point example of how that might be achieved suggests, this might not even require third party provided and supported protections, such as patent protection.

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