America has become so anti-innovation – it’s economic suicide


Innovation drives economic growth. It boosts productivity, making it possible to create more wealth with less labor. When economies don’t innovate, the result is stagnation, inequality, and the whole horizon of hopelessness that has come to define the lives of most working people today. Juicero isn’t just an entertaining bit of Silicon Valley stupidity. It’s the sign of a country committing economic suicide.

At the root of the problem is the story we tell ourselves about innovation. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a lone genius disappears into a garage, preferably in Palo Alto, and emerges with an invention that changes the world. The engine of technological progress is the entrepreneur – the fast-moving, risk-loving, rule-breaking visionary in the mold of Steve Jobs.

This story has been so widely repeated as to become a cliche. It’s also inaccurate. Contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurs typically make terrible innovators. Left to its own devices, the private sector is far more likely to impede technological progress than to advance it. That’s because real innovation is very expensive to produce: it involves pouring extravagant sums of money into research projects that may fail, or at the very least may never yield a commercially viable product. In other words, it requires a lot of risk – something that, myth-making aside, capitalist firms have little appetite for.

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Mossberg: Lousy ads are ruining the online experience


Last Saturday, as the New England Patriots were sloppily beating the Houston Texans 34–16 in a playoff game, I wanted to look at the highlight video of a play using the NFL app on my iPad. To watch that 14-second clip, I had to suffer through a 30-second ad for something so irrelevant to me that I can’t even recall what it was. The length and content of that video ad Saturday was, in my view, way out of proportion to the length and value of the clip itself. And that’s just one small example of why the advertising-supported model online is broken, and is threatening the whole online content experience with it.

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Medium lays off a third of its staff as it searches for a new business model


Williams soured on the ad market, he said, after coming to believe it leads directly to mindless clickbait, fake news, and other undesirable content. “It’s clear that the broken system is ad-driven media on the internet,” Williams wrote. “It simply doesn’t serve people. In fact, it’s not designed to.” (Disclosure: The Verge is ad-driven media on the internet.) What Williams didn’t say is that the online advertising market is hypercompetitive, and has been mostly sewn up by Facebook and Google. Which means Medium might not ever grow as big as its investors hoped for, no matter how many publishers it signed up.

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Everyone is born creative, but it is educated out of us at school


Whenever I hear the phrase “creative industries” I’m always surprised. I ask myself, are there any uncreative industries? If so, how do they survive? Why aren’t they in a museum, next to the dodo? The world is changing at such a blistering pace that businesses without creativity at their core are doomed. Innovate or die is not just a slogan, it’s a vital truth. Creativity is the most powerful competitive advantage a business can have. Companies need to fizz with new ideas and fresh thinking. But there’s a problem – there just aren’t enough fizzy people around

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China’s funeral revolutionaries

In March 2013, something clicked: Wang would have to inter his mother eventually, and he decided that he and Xu could do it better than the hucksters and faceless bureaucrats he’d dealt with in the autumn. Wang had found his business idea, although its contours were still hazy. He had studied the Silicon Valley mode of disruptive innovation, and envisioned a clear path to considerable wealth: identify a sclerotic, backward-looking industry, and harness the sleek, subversive power of the internet to trump its services at lower costs. The bigger the industry, he thought – and the deeper its problems – the greater his potential gains. Robin Li changed the way that people in China gathered information; Jack Ma changed the way they shopped; Wang and Xu would change the way they buried their loved ones. Xu was at first baffled by the idea, but he trusted his friend’s enthusiasm, and after a week of canvassing friends, agreed to do some research.

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