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On November 15, 2018, Kai commented on Under Armour and Additive Manufacturing :

I find your perspective that 3D printing as a potential powerful game-changer in the footwear industry very interesting, as I do have difficulty reconciling how much of a disruptive force it could be. On one hand, I can see that the innovative part could change the entire industry landscape, especially the point on the concept of “walking into an Under Armour store and having a machine virtually scan a 3D replica of your foot, not only identifying your foot size, but also your pressure points, stride, and stability”. And I do share the same doubt on how feasible this could be from a price-value standpoint (i.e. will that incremental benefit of customization cover the cost, or will technology improve to the point where commercialization is possible). On the other hand, I do think that 3D printing only covers and improve the functional element of a sneaker. When it comes to footwear, there seems to be a lot more emotional aspects in play in the brand, as we saw in the Nike case study where many of the consumers are buying it more for aspiration resonance than the functional aspect. Function ultimately could just be a baseline, and 3D printing could hardly replace the emotional human element of a sneaker design. Much like a vintage watch, even with digitization of the watch industry, many consumers still hanker for the heritage that is tied to the watches. Hence, I’m in two minds about this and would be keen to see how the industry develops.

Interesting read and definitely opened up a conversation that has big implications to the society. I find it interesting that the foundation is looking for a ‘moonshot’ solution and is doing it through open innovation. I am curious about what is the main driver of failure in the delivery of the winning concepts. Is it the desirability (i.e. users just do not find the solution appealing), the viability (i.e. the concept is highly desired but does not make business sense and cannot be scaled), or the feasibility (i.e. the concept was good but not technologically/ practical to produce)? When it comes to ideas, I am always reminded of the book ‘0 to 100’ by Peter Thiel where he mentioned that the product will need to be not just incremental in its benefit for there to be a reason for consumers to be convinced of the need to change. Given the baseline is defecating in public, it would be really shocking to me if the driver is an issue of desirability. And as you have indicated, this is likely a viability/feasibility issue. This brings me to your question on whether it is necessary to engage for-profit organization for commercialization. My take is that this should make very little difference and I would rather the team coming up with the idea/ judging the idea give considerations on all 3 lenses to ensure the winning concept can be performed. Without considerations on the various aspects, even with a for-profit organization, I highly doubt the concept can be incubated with higher likelihood of success than the founders themselves.

On November 15, 2018, Kai commented on Open Innovation at Tesla – Time for a Change? :

Thanks for sharing this thought-provoking piece. I am definitely curious to see how Telsa will play out in the next few years. On the issue with open innovation, I do feel that they have taken the right move when the market has not yet mature. It must have been a calculated risk to have an Open Innovation Policy, as they were trying to build momentum to shift an entire market of gasoline-fueled car industry into electric car industry. The magnitude of conversion must have been so large, that Tesla believed that net-net, it would be more beneficial to increase the pie of the electric car market through having more players. Additionally, they managed to establish a market-leading position through their leadership in this and many other initiatives. That said, I do share similar concern on whether this would be sustainable, especially as incumbent players in traditional industry with deep pockets start entering the industry more and more aggressively. My take would be that they should selectively patent some technology that they believe gives them an edge in the market. This is premised on the assumption that they have already created sufficient competition and momentum in the consumer space, and protected patents would go a long way in ensuring they can defend their position in the gradually maturing market.

On November 15, 2018, Kaizen commented on The London bus is dead. Long live the London bus. :

Fascinating article that reminded me of a similar initiative in Singapore (https://www.beeline.sg/). Demand-centric service definitely can benefit a lot with sufficient scale, as the company gradually collect datapoints on where the most demanded routes are at different peak/non-peak hours. For one, I could imagine intuitively that there would be more services heading towards the central business districts in the morning and departing from there in the evening during the workdays. That said, you brought up an interesting point in how critical regulator plays a role in this business, as the bus operator would need to still maintain a minimal level of service. I cannot agree more that there would be a lot to gain if both companies work together, and might even go as far to suggest that the demand-centric company eventually fold in with the bus operator, so that there is less duplication of routes and a ‘masterplan’ on which route should have ‘traditional’ bus services versus ‘demand-centric’ services.

On November 15, 2018, Kaizen commented on H&M Bets Big on Machine-Learning to Survive :

Thanks for the great read. My first thought is on the kind of data that H&M is already capturing, especially given the heavy reliance that they will have when moving into machine learning. For a fashion company to use ML to predict and respond to trends quickly, I would imagine H&M could potentially tap into open source data instead of proprietary data, assuming they are going for macrotrends in the industry. In addition, while you mentioned that the culture needs to be addressed with fresh talent, I wonder if you are referring to a shift in talent from design skillset to more data-science skill-set, as I could imagine that the recommendation to move towards ML might render many roles obsolete to the company. This would be a major shift and one that definitely needs to be carefully managed.

On November 14, 2018, Kaizen commented on Lots of Chocolate for Me to Eat :

Absolute delight reading this article and it definitely provided a view of how additive manufacturing is permeating many industries, including F&B and the world of chocolate! I thought it was interesting that you mentioned how this could be a real advantage for Hershey, and explored how they could build on this trend. While the question poised was whether 3D printing could benefit them through sale of niche or mass product, I wonder if this disruption could go as far as to take market share from them, ultimately leading to a net-negative impact. In my mind, there could be two scenarios, one where technology mature and allow for mass production, and the other where technology remains nascent within F&B and would be biased towards niche product. If the former happens, it would be hard for Hershey to leverage it for massive upside since production would be limited. Whereas if the latter happens, many new entrants might come in to produce chocolate and saturate the market. I can even imagine vertical integration happening, and Hershey loses the competitive advantage that they had. This dichotomy might seem a little extreme, but I thought it would be interesting to push this hypothesis as an additional food for thought.

On November 14, 2018, Kaizen commented on The Internet of Things: How will Samsung bring their A-game? :

First off, great piece that provided a perspective of (i) how Samsung leveraged open innovation to get feedback on their products and (ii) how they managed to channel the feedback to the HQ for product iteration and innovation. You also highlighted the imperative for Samsung to move towards software, offering potential solutions that could help that in that aspect. I found the recommendation on allowing ‘company employees a certain amount of freedom to contribute to projects outside of assigned ones’ very practical. While ‘Annonymous HBS Student’ questioned how this could be implemented if the culture doesn’t exist, I feel that it is precisely the top-down direction that would drive a change in culture, which is very necessary for Samsung. In fact, I have known that some organizations, such as J&J, do employ such models to encourage their engineers to innovate beyond their core work. That said, I would love to hear your thoughts on how to ‘train managers to identify good ideas and avoid biases when reviewing those ideas’. Having worked in innovation field, I see two common issues that would need to be balanced carefully: (i) employee’s attachment to an idea and emotional implications when ideas are rejected, (ii) finding the right threshold/criteria for elimination to pre-mature elimination of good ideas. I believe this will be a long process, and it could be more practical to start with a pilot team that is trained on these aspects.