Can you clone the Silicon Valley elsewhere?

Last Thursday, there was a seminar organized by the Ecole de Paris du Management, hosted by Daniel Rouach, who is a professor at the ESCP-EAP business school and at the Technion, Israël. Rouach is a specialist of industrial clusters and the co-author of Creating Regional Wealth in the Innovation Economy: Models, Perspectives and Best Practices, a book based on the extensive worldwide reseach he has done on the topic.

According to Rouach, there is no unique model to reproduce, but a series of success factors that ensure the success and the longevity of the cluster. Those factors are: a university, a leading company, availability of venture capital, effective governmental action, entrepreneurial spirit, as well as good competitive intelligence and networking among people, the quality of infrastructure, in particular for the transport, and the quality of the environment. If one looks at Bangalore, one of the most vibrant clusters nowadays, one can notice that the city has weaknesses one three of these factors, namely: the quality of the infrastructure and of the environment, and poor governmental action (see the excellent article about Bangalore in The Economist from April 23rd called The Bangalore Paradox). These weaknesses undermine the long term prospects of Bangalore, not so much as an IT center, but as an entrepreneurial cluster. The importance of networking is very high, and using the diaspora is something Indian and Israelis have done very well.

Posted by Philippe Silberzahn on May 16, 2005 at 08:00 AM in In the news | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The end of journalism as we know it

In a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Rupert Murdoch warned recently that newpapers as we know them would soon be a thing of the past. It's not the first time such a prediction is made (see our post on Dec. 5th at, but when you know Murdoch is one of the largest "traditional" media moguls, such a warning is stunning. It's a bit like the Pope declaring that the catholic Church has run its course.

So dinosaurs know they are in danger, at least one of them. Murdoch's reason for such a prediction is no surprise for many of us: the explosion of blogs, social changes that make it less likely for people to accept the moral reference that journalists could claim to be, the emergence of new players (Google of course), as well as collaborative projects inspired by the open source software development movement, the disruption is in full force.
The reaction of traditional media, who dismiss these new "providers" as a source for superficial, if not plain wrong information, is not surprising. How can you trust information that is not verified by professionnals? That can only be for fun; serious people will stay with us! This is certainly plain wrong. First because nobody will argue against the fact that traditional media often carries information that is biased, wrong, opinionated, when it's not plainly propaganda. Second, because Linux has proved that a decentralized approach could produce a very high quality result. If you can build something as complex as an operating system like this, you can definitely build a "newspaper" as well. Amazon showed long ago how efficient such a system can be in promoting or discarding non reliable contribution from the network. One can even argue that such a distributed approach, if well managed, is far more efficient and effective than the work of an editor in his office. Traditional media existed only because of the scarcity of the "raw material" and of the cost of processing that only a large and well financed organization could afford. That's now over when everybody can contribute.
The disruption is in progress, and the analysis of Prof. Clayton Christensen applies here once again: the world of information is being completely transformed following this disruption; incumbents are complacent and refuse to admit it, and as a result they are now gradually being displaced by aggressive new entrants.
It is less than certain that Murdoch's message will register with newspaper editors. It's anathema for them: they are the fourth Estate, after all. Well, they used to be: to the rest of the world, it's becoming obvious now.

If you want a taste of things to come, take a few minutes to visit the following site: EPIC

Posted by Philippe Silberzahn on May 9, 2005 at 08:00 AM in In the news | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jeff Raskin, father of the Mac, is dead

A minute of silence for Jeff Raskin, who invented the original concept of the Macintosh in 1979, and died last saturday. Raskin is an important guy, and not just for sentimental reasons linked to the Macintosh cult. Raskin is the typical lonely innovator fighting the bureaucracy and the politics that kill so many innovations, even in a young company like Apple in 1979. Raskin's original idea for the Mac was to build a $500 computer. A very easy to use computer, at a very low cost, using a graphical user interface, a revolutionary concept at the time; but Raskin was no stranger to revolution in technology. His 1967 thesis was about something called Quick Draw, a graphical view of computer screens, which would be the cornerstone of the Mac graphical user interface seventeen years later.

Raskin started the Macintosh project despite strong opposition from... Steve Jobs, who later on also opposed the laser writer project, but Raskin held on and managed to lead the effort in a semi-clandestine way for three years. He ended up leaving Apple, though, in 1982, totally disillusioned. A Silicon Valley legend has it that Jobs, when he visited the Xerox labs, "discovered" the graphical user interface. Xerox people were apparently impressed by Jobs' quick grasp of the new concepts that were presented to him. It is now known that Raskin had been promoting the same ideas within Apple for years at that time, so it was not difficult for Jobs to appear so smart on the subject. Back to his office, Jobs changed his mind on the Mac project, understanding its strategic value. So he fired Raskin and took over the project, abandoning the cheap computer concept to go for a high-end computer. This is a good illustration of the old saying that those who start revolutions usually are not the ones who finish them: they are killed before. This is also true somteimes for innovation.
If you want to know more about the creation of the Mac, you can read the fascinating story told by Raskin here: This is not exactly what you'll find on the official Apple history...

Posted by Philippe Silberzahn on March 4, 2005 at 08:00 AM in In the news | Permalink | Comments (0)

ESOMAR Congress on Innovation begins!

ESOMAR congress begins tomorrow! ESOMAR stands for European Society for Market Research (ESOMAR). Not that we are much into market research, but this year's congress is all about ... innovation. It is held in Paris (good for us, we're locals here) until March 1st. Innovation is usually the domain of strategists and technologists, but not usually of marketing people, which is a pity; so it will be an opportunity to talk about disruptive innovations with marketing people. Phillip Cartwright (Research International, and also Senior Research Fellow at Insead), Bernard and I will present a paper there, titled "Early warning systems and firm survival: the role of Market Research in the face of major market disruptions", so do come and meet with us!
More infos about Esomar Innovate!: 

Posted by Philippe Silberzahn on February 26, 2005 at 09:34 PM in In the news | Permalink | Comments (0)

CNAM, a leading French educational institution on Innovation

I thought I should mention a leading institution in France that plays an increasingly prominent role in innovation education: the CNAM. The Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers was created in...1794! and has since been for many years the leading institution in executive technical education. Generations of people who had left school with no degree have been able to earn their engineering degree later on with CNAM's evening classes, hence allowing them to go up the corporate ladder. More recently, the CNAM has added management to its course portfolio. The Chair of Innovation and the Center for Creation, innovation and Enterprise ( ) offers  classes in the area of innovation management, covering all aspects, from creativity to project management. In particular, "Innovation Tuedays", held every Tuesday and animated by Marc Giget, has become a key event with a specific topic every week. The next session, on February 15th, will feature Jean-Jacques Doyen, Director of Technology and Innovation with Suez Group. In the CNAM's tradition, conferences are free, but you need to sign-up beforehand.

- CNAM proposes another course called "the best practices in Innovation marketing" presented by Lionel Roure, featuring leading companies ( ) such as Apple, Baracoda, Valeo, Bic, Siemens, etc.

- Finally, let's mention an interesting experience called "Experience 2035" ( ). Experience 2035 is an exhibition travelling across France in a train, that tries to imagine how the world could be in 2035.

If you're interested in contacting CNAM, get in touch with Lionel (email: roure at

Posted by Philippe Silberzahn on February 11, 2005 at 08:00 AM in In the news | Permalink | Comments (0)

Open source = communism = innovation obstacle ?

Here we are: Bill Gates blew a fuse. In an interview with CNET, Bill was asked about intellectual property rights, of course in the light of recent developments in open source and music piracy. And here is what Bill said:

(...)There are fewer communists in the world today than there were. There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don't think that those incentives should exist.

So, open source software development is in fact a subversive attack by die-hard communists. Adam Smith showed years ago that the capitalist system is based on the pursuit of self interest, and this self interest serves a social purpose for the greater good. But self interest doesn't necessarily mean money only, and just because  there is no money to make doesn't mean there will be no innovation, for several reasons.

First, because all studies show that innovators and entrepreneurs are not primarly driven by money, even though, of course, the perspective of cashing out at some point is clearly in the picture. Innovators can be driven by ego, the search for glory and fame, the desire to change the world, to impress their peers, to wield power and influence, or simply by the lifestyle of freedom and adrenaline. Just visit SourceForge, the repository of Open Source software development to see the amazing diversity and quality of the programs developed by people who don't get a nickel for that. This proves that creativity and innovation are in no way hindered by the lack of revenue.
Second, because a significant amount of the world's stockof innovation is produced by people who don't get royalties from it: academics. Not that they do it for free (they get a salary at the end of the month) but some institution is paying them to produce knowledge and innovation and give it for free to the community. This works, and has been working for hundreds of years. Does Bill mean to say that academic institutions are rampant communist organizations?

The real reason why Bill is nervous is that, for the first time, Microsoft is under a disruptive attack, and Bill takes it very seriously, as he has always done. Open source is not just another competitor ready to be slaughtered by Redmond, but a radically new way to create software, based on a radically new business model. Denouncing the barbarians, by mixing open source with music piracy for instance, is a typical reaction of the incumbant firm caught sleeping by a disruptive attack, and at a loss as how to react.

While it is likely that incremental attacks against Microsoft, such as the FireFox browser, will fail, disruptive attacks such as Open Source will probably succeed. And THAT makes Bill nervous. Expect a fight.

The link to the interview : Bill Gates @ CNET

Posted by Philippe Silberzahn on January 17, 2005 at 08:00 AM in In the news | Permalink | Comments (0)

ESOMAR congress on Innovation

ESOMAR stands for European Society for Market Research (ESOMAR). Not that we are much into market research, but this year's congress is all about ... innovation. It will be held in Paris (good for us, we're locals here) in March. Innovation is usually the domain of strategists and technologists, but not usually of marketing people, which is a pity. Last, but not least, we have a paper accepted there, so do come and meet with us!
More infos about Esomar Innovate!:

Posted by Philippe Silberzahn on December 12, 2004 at 08:11 PM in In the news | Permalink | Comments (0)

Phil Agre : Outline of an Entrepreneurial Theory of Society

There was a very interesting conference by Phil Agre on October 4th (yes that was some time ago) in Paris. I couldn't attend, but was told about the content and I think the conference is worth mentioning. Agre promotes an entrepreneurial vision of personal development in society that I find very interesting.
Social and political theories tend to describe society as a static structure. In reality, each human being creates his/her own career through entrepreneurial processes: by creating relational networks and structures around emerging topics of interest. This creation is not limited to business, but is concerns all careers, be they professional, civic, artistic and scientific. Successful entrepreneurial paths require a particular type of cognition. According to Agre, the inegal distribution of this specific cognitive capacity lies at the source of many social problems.
This view is interesting in that it is a generalization of the concept of entrepreneurship way beyond the business area. In sum, we're all the entrepreneurs of our life, and this ability matters more than institutions we might work with. Sartre would have said that in this view, existence precedes essence, and that we're actually very much in control of the existence.
I exchanged emails with Phil, but he told me he hasn't put his thougths about the topic into a paper yet. You can still visit his home page:

Posted by Philippe Silberzahn on December 12, 2004 at 08:05 PM in In the news | Permalink | Comments (0)