7 Things I Learned from Listening to The Culture of Innovation Talk

I really enjoyed watching  “The Culture of Innovation” from MIT Technology Review.

The talk covers several interesting topics worth exploring.

  1. Permission less innovation and Innovation at the edges
  2. A culture of practice over theory
  3. The concept of Social Investing
  4. Connectivity in Communities
  5. Peripheral vision and Pattern Recognition and how they are the total opposite of focus and execution
  6. Attachment bias
  7. Cultures and sub-cultures

My favorite quote from the talk:

We so cherish focus, execution and they are the opposites of peripheral vision, pattern recognition
Peripheral vision and pattern recognition lead to discovering new ways of doing things.
Here is a link to the video interview with Joi Ito.

ReadLog: When Leaders Think Aloud…

When leaders think aloud, it is a fascinating to listen. Satya talks about innovation, handling failures, AI, advances in cloud computing, using silicon to speed machine learning and a variety of other topics including bits of history (of Microsoft) and philosophy.

satya may 2 2017-1

Microsoft had been there, too early.  And they were too far behind on the Internet and managed to catch up.

On handling failures – instead of saying “I have an idea”, what if you said, “I have a new hypothesis”?

satya May 2 2017

Satya Nadella goes on to talk about some of their innovations (accelerating AI using FPGA), on investing in the future and the future of innovation. This article is a good read.

Q&A with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: On artificial intelligence, work culture, and what’s next

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Promoting Self Organized Learning

XPrize is offering $15 million to build tablet apps that help kids teach themselves.

The goal is to help the 250 million school-age children in the world who can’t read or write. Contestants will build apps that kids can use on their own — because many of these kids don’t have access to the “unscalable” resources of teachers and schools.

The prize all ties into a philosophy known as self-organized learning — where kids learn autonomously by figuring out technology for themselves — that’s popular with the TED crowd. And of course, the other big idea is that contests are a peculiarly effective way of motivating people.

Keller said he anticipated that the winning app would use an artificial intelligence approach to figure out what an individual kid knows and does not know.

A few thoughts:

  1. The kids (targeted by this effort) cannot read or write. So you need to starting points may be different (speech, images).
  2. Kids should use these apps on their own. This means the apps need to be engaging and evoke curiosity constantly (the game community can contribute a lot).
  3. Since there will be no teachers involved, this would encourage peer based learning (and students playing the role as teachers)
  4. You cannot make any assumptions about what they know or what language they speak.
  5. The app is supposed to use AI approach. So you need to use AI to mimic a teacher or a self learner or a combination of both.
  6. To come up with a reasonable solution, you need to understand how kids learn.  That, in itself, is a fascinating area of exploration.
  7. Kids don’t have access to “unscalable” resources (like teachers and schools). That points to tablets with long battery life, solar chargeable or something that requires hand cranked power. This is not actually the app quality but the need of the underlying platform. This also means, schools cannot the platform for distribution of apps or devices. Hopefully that will be a different challenge.

Rural India and countries in Asia and Africa will certainly benefit from the outcomes. No matter which app wins, we will get a lot of great ideas for self-organized learning. That is bound to change education as we know it.

If You Like Database Technologies… You Will Enjoy This

Dr. Michael Stonebraker is a legend in the database world. He was the architect of Ingres, Postgres, Vertica, Illustra, Cohera, Streambase, H-Store and VoltDB. In this interview, he dives deep into database technologies. He talks about evolution of databases and certainly provokes you to think about the technology, the industry and how application needs are driving development in database technologies. A few nuggets from the interview.

  • The traditional (row oriented) database technology is becoming obsolete
  • The database market is at a tipping point
  • DB market can be viewed as three segments – data warehouse market, OLTP market (both new and old) and a potpourri of other stuff
  • The potpourri consists of various types of NOSQL, Graph databases, Column Stores, In Memory databases
  • Databases currently spend 90% on overheads and only 10% on   value producing work (big Gasp!)
  • The overhead consists of – feeding buffer pool, mapping buffer pools to disk, lock management, logging, multi-threading
  • There are ways to reduce these overheads using shared data structures, removing the record level locking, implementing multi-version concurrency, logging commands instead of data changes, using replication, getting rid of buffer pools, getting rid of expensive multi-threading, optimistic concurrency control etc.
  • He talks about Distributed concurrency vs eventual consistency
  • Most database books cover traditional database architectures. He advocates teaching  – column stores, in memory databases, array databases and graph database architectures.
  • He talks about embarrassingly parallel databases
  • VoltDB evoloved from HStore prototype from MIT
  • Applications are multiplayer games, high speed OLTP
  • Some  examples of NewSQL databases – Hana from SAP, Hekaton from Microsoft, SQLFire by VMWare, NeuroDB, NetSQL
  • Most of the db systems written in the past year are open source

He takes a lot of digs at the closed source sales models.  Deep dive into databases is an intoxicating topic and this was a great interview. Thanks to IEEE Software Engineering Radio folks for their indepth, high quality interview questions.

Here is a link to Dr Michael Stonebraker on Current Developments in Databases


  • I was lucky to spend a lot of time in late 80s and early 90s reading Michael Stonebraker’s papers.
  • I met him twice (once when I attended an RDB seminar at Palo Alto and once when we walked into Illustra offices (we built the ODBC driver for Illustra in my previous startup)
  • I have been following him when I was working on complex event processing and looking at Telegraph (built on top of Postgres) and Streambase
  • I lost touch even though I kept hearing about Vertica and other developments
  • Michael Stonebraker inspires me and lots of other data geeks like me




How Do We Spot Genuine Talent?

How do we spot genuine talent?

The Little Book of Talent gives us some ideas.

For most of us , the problem revolves around one word : “how.” How do we recognize talents in ourselves and in those near us? How do we nurture talent in its early stages? How do we gain the most progress in the least time? How do we choose between different strategies, teachers, and methods?

In the book Dan talks about Talent Hotbeds and the methods they use.  First:

The talent hotbeds are not built on identifying talent, but on constructing it, day by day.

This is a kind of relief. So people can be trained to develop talent. You (the teacher, the institution, the parent) needs to figure out how.  There seems to be some general approaches that apply across multiple disciplines.

No matter what skill you set out to learn, the pattern is always the same: See the whole thing. Break it down to its simplest elements. Put it back together. Repeat.

You can take some comfort in the fact that

You are born with the machinery to transform beginners’ clumsiness into fast, fluent action. That machinery is not controlled by genes, it’s controlled by you.Even the most creative skills— especially the most creative skills— require long periods of clumsiness.

This book provides a few tips.  It is worth running a few experiments and observing the results.

PodLog: Disruptive Innovation Can Happen Anywhere

From Disruptive Innovation Can Happen Anywhere podcast Hank looks for businesses who are:

  1. Trying to solve a big problem
  2. Working on a unique solution
  3. Have a great team

When asked what characteristics he looks for in an entrepreneur, David’s answer was pretty simple:

  1. Enormous Optimism and
  2. A high tolerance for pain


A great podcast to listen to. Ecorner brings in some of the most eminent speakers and industry luminaries. A weekly podcast, worth following.

Idea: Tech Jobs FAQ Group on LinkedIn

I think there should be one easy to use resource page on LinkedIn about Jobs. For example a Tech Jobs page for a particular region can contain:

  1. Job Resources
  2. Emerging technology trends and their impact on Jobs
  3. Jobs and Salaries in different regions and different domains
  4. Tech Jobs in Demand in both Tech and non-tech companies
  5. Tech Job Hotspots in a particular country/region
  6. Hiring Patterns (who hires whom)
  7. Skill Gaps (and opportunities to train and deploy)
  8. Skill Development Opportunities (for both self learners and training institutions)
  9. On Demand Skill Builders (a new generation of consultants who can ramp your teams pretty fast)
  10. Product Sprints as a way to build skills with focus on usable, useful products

Stories of Programming Language Use: Caml

Over time, the company has used Caml to build not only its core trading system, but also a concurrency library, a sophisticated publish-and-subscribe system, and a collection of system automation tools.

Overall, the company has “a huge number of systems maintained by a small team,” Minsky said.

Over 3 million lines of code, is no small matter.

From You won’t believe what programming language this Wall Street firm uses | ITworld