A great overview of how digital manufacturing technology is amplifying and reviving the Maker movement, with tinkerers and extreme users making custom...moreA great overview of how digital manufacturing technology is amplifying and reviving the Maker movement, with tinkerers and extreme users making customized, small batch, or experimental products. Much of this includes a second-wave open source movement, with people using the digital infrastructure to share and collaborate on designs and ideas to rapidly improve them. The author did a great job of looking at various examples and ways this is happening, but sometimes went off the rails in Friedman-esque "World is Flat" rhetoric and hype. He did try to provide a balanced view, that traditional manufacturing methods still rule on scale, and probably will for quite some time, but at times it read like an IPO press release for a web company just before the dot.com bust. Taken with a grain of salt though, this provides a wealth of practical information about where to access the tools, designs and communities he is talking about. I would love to get an abbreviated version of this into the hands of every high school kid and many people I know to get them to test some of their ideas.
I also thought Eric von Hippel's material on Lead User Innovation (documented in "Sources of Innovation" and "Democratizing Innovation") were very relevant to this, but von Hippel only got mentioned once. With Lead User Innovation, extreme users are not satisfied with mass market products and experiment on their own. Manufacturers lack tacit knowledge about their needs, and must compromise to make products with mass-market appeal to achieve economies of scale. This is one of the foundational premises behind this book.(less)
I really loved many of the examples included in this collection, particularly aerial artillery observers, the development of the bazooka, the Rhino ta...moreI really loved many of the examples included in this collection, particularly aerial artillery observers, the development of the bazooka, the Rhino tank attachment for busting the bocage in Normany France and several others. However, I think there are technology strategy principles and concepts on innovation that explain some of the successes and failures better than the theories available to some of the authors, such as lead-user innovation (Eric Von Hippel, MIT) or disruptive innovation theory (Clayton Christensen, Harvard). That said, the authors did a great job exploring the concepts and events that influenced the success or failure of each of the studies. Ultimately, however, the editor denied any cohesive theories that tied them all together in the conclusion. I disagree, but find many of his other conclusions satisfying and interesting. I'd love to write a follow-up to this with technology and innovation theories to tie these together, and see a followup study on more recent innovations and an honest assessment of their development process (MRAPs, the Rhino counter-IED device, the M-9 ACE, the M1 tank, robots, Future Combat System, etc.) including the organizational innovations embodied in Army Sustainment Command and the Rapid Equipping Force.
Simply amazing. Williamson Murray differentiates military adaptation (what you do in war) from military innovation (which is done in peacetime to prep...moreSimply amazing. Williamson Murray differentiates military adaptation (what you do in war) from military innovation (which is done in peacetime to prepare for war) and uses several case studies to examine why some organizations succeed or fail at this. Moreover, the book shows that some organizations were very effective at one time or in certain conditions, but utterly failed under others. For example, the German Army was extremely good at critical, frank examination of the current operational environment and their performance within it to facilitate tactical adaptation. However, they failed to adapt at the operational or strategic level and failed to maintain their ability to adapt as the war progressed. He also demonstrated the interactive nature of war by revealing what appeared to be a stalemate was actually a result of both sides adapting to each other’s changes. The book also contrasted the relationship between the British government’s partnership with its scientists, with the Nazi regime’s use of its scientists. Like the Soviet Union, the Nazis discouraged research into radio or information technologies for fear of malcontents stirring up the population. Murray also does a great job of untangling the interdependency of doctrine, tactics, and technology, and how these fit within the operational, economic and strategic context. He emphasizes the role of technology within the larger system to achieve strategic ends. My only complaint is that Murray sometimes reduces failures to lack of imagination or incompetence, rather than to systemic patterns of activity inherent in organizations. Organizations tend to optimize their performance against known conditions, even if they do so tacitly, and can become dysfunctional when conditions change. I’d love to see a mod of this using technology strategy or organizational theory in addition to the analysis he’s done here. (less)
Fantastic look at how the US Navy anticipated the continued submarine threat in conjunction with the advent of nuclear weapons at the end of World Wa...more
Fantastic look at how the US Navy anticipated the continued submarine threat in conjunction with the advent of nuclear weapons at the end of World War II. It shows how they set their submarine advancements up against their anti-submarine warfare efforts to provide reinforcing cycles of innovation that pushed the state of the art far in advance of Soviet developments. The book also discussed the various ways powers used submarines as part of their maritime strategies and how those strategies worked within the overall strategic framework. The book included fascinating discussions of technological and doctrinal developments generated for subs and ASW, including how the US Navy adapted to unexpected developments from the Soviets or others, and provides a way ahead for the upcoming era.(less)
This book examines different ways innovation can occur, expanding upon the foundation provided by “Sources of Innovation” and the concept of Lead User...moreThis book examines different ways innovation can occur, expanding upon the foundation provided by “Sources of Innovation” and the concept of Lead User Innovation. The first few chapters define characteristics of lead user innovation and venues where it is most likely to occur. This is also known as customer co-creation, where a manufacturer works with particular customers to develop new products. In this case, certain fields (or analogous fields) have extreme users who are not satisfied with the compromises made in designs to meet the average users in mass produced products. These users modify existing products or create their own, and freely share their ideas and help diffuse the technology with their community of interest. They do this in part to have others help debug or add on to the idea to make it better. Spreading a problem out across a diverse group of individuals means that every problem will be shallow problem to someone in the community who has the expertise to tackle it. An innovator sometimes freely reveals their knowledge to develop a de facto standard, or to shape an innovation in a way that is favorable to them or their complimentary products. Manufacturers have their specialized knowledge of production and can use economies of scale once a feasible, broadly acceptable solution forms, but are motivated to homogenize and make design compromises to facilitate economy of scale or fit the solution to their expertise. Lead user innovation results in wholly new product lines & strategic directions with more growth potential than traditional development methods, which more often extend & improve existing products. Hippel tries to reconcile lead user innovation with disruptive innovation in later chapters & has interesting speculations, but I'm not wholly convinced by his argument this is a great source for disruptive ideas This book highlights the need for a technologically literate population with the capacity to freely exchange ideas to innovate. Centralized design committees lack the local knowledge and suffer from the transaction costs of picking it up, in addition to the quandaries of the principle-agent problem. He cited the diffusion of information technology in fueling user innovation by facilitating sophisticated sharing and connection of fragmented communities of interest. Increased access to sophisticated tools, such as 3D printers will make this process even more prominent as users can develop ever more sophisticated physical goods in a way that they have done with software and other products over the past few decades.(less)
This is amazingly prescient, especially given when it was written. This breaks out various types of information warfare and examines relationships am...more
This is amazingly prescient, especially given when it was written. This breaks out various types of information warfare and examines relationships among them, what they are really about, and what plausible role they can have in conflicts. (less)
I disagreed with many ways the author applied the disruptive innovation model, especially his idea of the need to disguise the disruptive innovation a...moreI disagreed with many ways the author applied the disruptive innovation model, especially his idea of the need to disguise the disruptive innovation as a sustaining one. That leads to the organization snapping back to what they know and the old way of doing it, rather than giving the new doctrine, technology, etc. an objective look. He also downplayed the role civilians play in driving military innovation...so Congress's role in funding has nothing to do with it?! "The Innovator's Dilemma" states that organizations refine their resources, processes and values to optimize against their current mission, which makes it difficult for a well run organization to divert missions, especially while the current one is valued by its stakeholders, and particularly when the new mission lacks data and metrics to validate. So perhaps he meant that both sides of the argument would have allies in Congress and moot the influence of an outside civilian champion. Either way, threats to the organization's resources and clear proof of superior performance in combat were key in every example.
Although I use the disruptive innovation model a lot myself, most of the time events are driven by the confluence of many models simultaneously, not just one. There were several cases the author claimed were disruptive, but I'm not convinced they meet all the criteria, nor do I think that disruptive innovation theory alone explains some of the events he describes.
All of my kvetching aside, this book really provoked me into thinking more clearly about how disruptive innovation theory and other innovation theories work in a military context. Agree with the author's conclusions in every case or not, it was very interesting and gave me a lot to consider. If nothing else, it covered some very important chapters in the struggles of US Navy and Marine Corps (with an example from the Imperial Japanese Navy) to adapt and prepare for the next conflict.(less)
This book keeps sticking with me. I had trouble relating to or liking the characters, but perhaps that was part of the point of the book. The characte...moreThis book keeps sticking with me. I had trouble relating to or liking the characters, but perhaps that was part of the point of the book. The characters were all misfits with unique qualities. It will take me quite a while to parse through all the imagery and events in the story because it was all pretty complex. The author had a disorienting tendency to drop you into the middle of a scene with cryptic descriptions that often left me trying to figure out what was going on. Neil Stephenson did the same thing, but eventually used enough description that I could reorient to the new environment and figure it out. Given the circumstances of the narrator though, it kind of makes sense in retrospect. The story line was packed with perceptions that later came into question as later events unfolded. The story also introduced a lot of interesting questions about how we think and the purpose of different cognitive processes. The author questions the superiority or need for consciousness (as distinct from intelligence) for example. I happen to think he was wrong, but he brings up a lot of interesting points.
One thing I could've done without was some of the implied cynical, dystopian cliche about greedy corporations and shady governments, but otherwise this book gave me a lot to think about and keeps sticking with me like a cognitive virus. I can't stop thinking about it and will probably read it again.(less)