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Happy 8th Birthday Digital Tonto!

2017 August 13
by Greg Satell

The 2009 financial crash was a truly global crisis, but it hit few places as hard as Ukraine. Already weakened by infighting among the opposition forces that came to power in 2004, the crash was more than its fragile economy could take. Within a year, Viktor Yanukovych, a brutish and incompetent autocrat, rose to power.

It was a disaster, but it also was the beginning of change in a nation that had seemed impervious to it. The 2014 Euromaidan protests resulted in Yanukovych’s impeachment and the rise of a new western oriented government. The country in shambles and in heavy debt, reform was forced on it. Now, Ukraine is expected to return to economic growth this year.

It was also amid the turmoil of 2009 that I started Digital Tonto in my Kyiv apartment in August, eight years ago. To be honest, I didn’t expect much from it, but soon found that many people thought I had something to say and, this past year, I successfully launched my book, Mapping Innovation. So Happy Birthday Digital Tonto! Here are some of my favorite posts.


We Need To Switch Our Mental Models From Hierarchies To Networks

These days, ee tend to think of bureaucracy in negative terms, but in the early 20th century it was an important innovation. It replaced what were often despotic leaders with cadres of professional managers. Governance was no longer a matter of decree, but subject to a system of rules that determined hierarchy, authority and responsibility and made the efficient management of large enterprises possible.

Today, we are undergoing a similar transformation as hierarchies are giving way to networks. In a connected world, events simply happen too quickly for a traditional top-down structure to adapt. Perhaps most importantly, this is much more than a simple change in strategy and tactics, but requires a transformation of mindset.

Power no longer lies at the top of hierarchies, but at the center of networks.

Read it now


A New Era Of Innovation

We’ve come to think of innovation and digital technology as fairly synonymous. With Moore’s law doubling computing power about every 18 months, there was tremendous value to be unlocked by dreaming up the next “killer app.” Developing fundamentally new technology wasn’t even on most people’s radar.

Today, however, Moore’s law is slowing down and will soon stop altogether. At the same time, new paradigms, such as genomics and nanotechnology are just beginning to take off. Over the next few decades, we’ll be entering a new era of innovation which will look much more like the 50s and 60s than it will the 90s or the aughts.

Read it now


The Very Strange—And Fascinating— Ideas Behind Quantum Computing

With Moore’s Law coming to an end, we desperately need to find new ways to advance computing, one of the most important of which is quantum computers. While still not commercially viable, this area is really heating up, with Google, IBM, Microsoft, Intel and others all racing to come up with something that can compete in the marketplace.

I wanted to find out more about it, so I talked to Charlie Bennett, often called the “father of quantum information.” The story of how it all came about is both strange and fascinating. I hope you enjoy learning about it as much as I did.

Read it now


IBM Has Created A Revolutionary New Model For Computing—The Human Brain

Another approach to solving the Moore’s law problem is neuromorphic chips — computers whose design is based on the human brain. As it turns out, our brains are brilliantly designed to compute far more efficiently than current computer technology, but coming up with an architecture to replicate that process is no easy feat.

To understand the efforts underway, I spoke to Dharmendra Modha, who leads the team developing IBM’s True North chip. He told me the incredible story about how he took what seemed like a crazy idea and was able to transform it into a viable technology.

Unlike quantum computing, this technology has already been deployed for real-world applications, although it is still not widely commercially available, it should be within the next year or two.

Read it now


The Most Important Thing That Great Innovators Do Differently

Most of the talk about innovation is meant to dazzle you. You hear stories of incredible people, who come up with brilliant ideas and then are told that you can do the same if you are merely willing to change the way you think and act. In other words, you too can be a great innovator as long as you are willing to become someone else!

In researching my book, one of the things I wanted to do was to get beyond the myths and find out what successful innovators actually do differently. What I found was that, while the organizations I studied were of every conceivable size, shape and culture, the one thing they had in common was a disciplined and systematic process for identifying new problems.

So if you want to innovate, it’s much more important to identify a meaningful problem than it is to come up with a great idea. Find a good problem and the ideas will come.

Read it now


Generosity Can Be A Competitive Advantage

Another thing I found while talking to great innovators is that many of them were some of the nicest, most generous people I had ever met. That really surprised me, because I had expected people of such great accomplishment to be hard driving type “A” personalities. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I was so intrigued that I started researching the matter further and found that the connection was no accident. Generous, caring people tend to build up strong networks because people like it when share our ideas and listen to those of others. Those networks, in turn, are immensely valuable for identifying that one elusive piece of insight you need to solve a really tough problem.

Read it now


How To Create Transformational Change, According To The World’s Most Successful Social Movements

We all want to create change, but figuring out how to go about it is an incredible challenge. Some movements, like Occupy and Black Lives Matter, go viral and garner massive attention, but never seem to achieve anything of consequence. They make a point, but not a difference. Others, like the LGBT movement, work in the shadows for decades before seemingly erupting all at once and driving change forward.

Much like Tolstoy said about families, successful movements for change tend to look very much alike, while unsuccessful ones each fail in their own way. So if you want to create transformational change, it makes sense to follow the successful pattern and avoid the pitfalls of those who failed.

Read it now


These 3 Technological Forces That Are Changing The Nature Of Work

Paul Getty once said he had three rules for success: “Wake up early. Work Hard. Strike oil.” It’s funny both because it’s self deprecating and because it is a play on the old notion that there are time honored rules for success that last throughout the ages. Work, for the most part has always been stable. You chose a career and stuck with it for a lifetime.

Today, however, there are very few jobs that last a decade, much less a lifetime and it has been predicted that nearly half the jobs today will not exist in 20 years. This article explains the three forces behind this phenomenon: acceleration, democratization and convergence.

Read it now


How To Compete And Win In An Automated Age

One of the most profound questions being discussed today is whether the robots will take our jobs or not. With the rapid acceleration of artificial intelligence, these are far from being abstract concerns and we can already see machines doing jobs that were once considered uniquely human.

Still, the early data suggests that the fears are mostly unfounded. What seems to be happening — and it’s still early, so any conclusions should be taken with a grain of salt — is that once a task becomes automated, it also gets commoditized and value creation shifts somewhere else. So human works isn’t being replaced as much as it’s being transformed.

Read it now


Platforms Are Eating The World

When Henry Ford completed his River Rouge plant in the 1920s, it was a marvel of vertical integration. Encompassing everything you needed to build a car — it even had its own steel foundry — you could basically just send raw materials in one end and fully finished product would come out the other.

Today, that idea seems quaint because no one can compete on their own anymore. Throughout the 20th century, firms built up sophisticated value chains, but now even those are no longer sufficient. Increasingly, we need to use platforms to access to ecosystems of technology, talent and information.

Read it now


The Lean Startup Is Doing More Than Transforming Business, It’s Changing The World

“A startup is a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model,” says Steve Blank, who originated the “lean startup movement.” His core premise, that “no business plan survives first contact with the customer,” has helped countless entrepreneurs turn their ideas into profitable businesses.

Yet what most people overlook is that the principles of a lean startup apply to any organization of any size that wants to launch a new product or service. In this article, I explain how large corporations, nonprofits and even the federal government are using principles that Steve and others developed.

Read it now


Can America Win The New Century?

At the beginning of the 20th century, America was a technological and industrial backwater. Yet by the 1950s, we became a dominant military, economic and scientific superpower. That didn’t happen by accident, but was the result of wise policies and general support for them in the body politic.

This new century represents unprecedented challenges, with Asia rising and entrepreneurship in the US at historic lows, our leadership in the world is eroding. If we are to continue to prosper we need to rediscover the values that made us exceptional in the first place.

Read it now



6 Responses leave one →
  1. August 13, 2017

    Happy birthday indeed!
    DT is one of the few blogs I read automatically, every word, every post. Love it, for the breadth of research, stores, and insights it brings.
    Greg, I am in awe of the focus and intellect you bring to the posts, and just hope you keep it going. Have not read your book yet, but it is on the pile I have and am working through.
    happy birthday.

  2. August 14, 2017

    Thanks so much Allen. That’s very kind of you.

    – Greg

  3. Neno permalink
    August 15, 2017

    happy birthday!!!

    your blog is thoroughly needed dose of common sense and fact-based approach in times of false, overhyped “I’ve-got-a-crystal-ball” charlatanism. I examine & study you links, your reading lists, cherish your personal opinion and devour your real-life experience. despite not agreeing with you on some of the topics I find your blog as one of the most intellectually challenging. keep pushing the boundaries!

    all the best!

  4. August 19, 2017

    Thanks so much, Neno!

  5. Alejandro Segura Millan permalink
    August 20, 2017

    Happy birthday!!! Thanks for a great inspiring Blog . Always with something interesting and relevant . Congrats Greg and keep it coming. Saludos, Alejandro

  6. August 21, 2017

    Thanks Alejandro!

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