Innovation

Dr. Strange, Thanos and Disruptive Innovation

During a meeting with a partner earlier, I felt like Dr. Strange when he had no choice but to give up the time stone to Thanos. When the news was dropped, it felt like the air is being sucked out of me and chain smoking a pack of cigarettes was the only way to survive. Signed a non-disclosure agreement so I can’t speak any of it, but all I can say is that a critical “time stone” that gave us advantage over our behemoth of a competitor – Thanos – has been shared to them. It was originally exclusive to us.

On my way home, I was trying to think of a way to manoeuvre our product and outsmart our competitor. “Thanos” has more money, bigger team, has been ahead of us for 3 years, and has built enough traction to claim billions in their portfolio. A normal hero would easily back down, but not Dr. Strange. After eight seconds of meditation to foresee the million ways of how this battle will end, with only one scenario of us rising as the winner (kidding), I realized that we were exactly built for moments like this. This is where my MSc in Innovation and Business will come in handy. Had to put on another face of a superhero. Dr. Strange is out, and Captain Marvel is in.

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I remembered some lessons that we had from our Disruptive Innovation class by Prof Toby Canto. He gave us a reading from Harvard Business Review where Clayton Christensen, the original guy who coined disruptive innovation, explained why it is important to define what kind of innovation you are pursuing, where you are now and how to combat incumbent behemoths like “Thanos.”

“Disruption” describes a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses. Specifically, as incumbents focus on improving their products and services for their most demanding (and usually most profitable) customers, they exceed the needs of some segments and ignore the needs of others. Entrants that prove disruptive begin by successfully targeting those overlooked segments, gaining a foothold by delivering more-suitable functionality—frequently at a lower price. Incumbents, chasing higher profitability in more-demanding segments, tend not to respond vigorously. Entrants then move upmarket, delivering the performance that incumbents’ mainstream customers require, while preserving the advantages that drove their early success. When mainstream customers start adopting the entrants’ offerings in volume, disruption has occurred. [Click here for the full article at HBR]

When you hear disruptive innovation, you may think of Airbnb, Spotify or Netflix, but innovation does not always involve the technologies that we are familiar today. You can also include community colleges, retail medical clinics and discount retailers as entrants that disrupted the education, hospital and department store industries.

Right now, we are that small entrant to a market dominated by “Thanos”. Disruption is inevitable, like the rise of Captain Marvel in Avengers 4. I guess for the weekend, I need to get back to the drawing board and restrategize to find a way to knock the gloves out of Thanos. I only wish we had more superheroes in the team. That meeting lit the fire under my ass and work just got more exciting.

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Innovation

Easier to Apologize Than Ask For Permission

One of the first things that we learned in grad school was that it is easier to apologize than ask for permission. Before you raise your eyebrows, you have to understand the context.  This idea was shared to us during our design thinking class, sparked by a video from Ideo – a design and innovation company.

Are Ideo employees allowed to bring bicycles inside the office and hang it at the ceiling? There were no rules against it so someone just did it, and the rest started following. Were we allowed to drink alcohol inside class? Well, one professor didn’t mind cause it gets our creative juice flowing. Just do it.

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Our class has always been encourage to think of wild ideas, and that sometimes entails going outside of the usual conventions to create something novel. Having stringent rules will just stifle innovation.

I remembered this idea because during my talk for Shirtly, someone asked if we are allowed to make designs inspired by foreign series or movies like Infinity War. Half of the crowd were graphic designers, so this is a sensitive topic for them. I have my own store where the designs are inspired by Stranger Things, and I didn’t ask any permission from anyone. I gave the usual answer in business school – it depends.

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It depends on the risk that you are willing to take. And yes, it is easier to apologize than ask for permission. If Stranger Things asks us to shut our store down, then I would gladly do it. I remember one Shirtly store that was threatened with a law suit by a university because they violated copyright laws. The owner shut down his store, and no one was brought to court. At the end of the day, that guy earned because he took a risk.

Then someone asked if we’re allowed to use the lyrics of local bands in our shirts? Now I think that will be more risky since it is easier for them to sue you, but on the other hand, you might doing the band a favor by promoting their song. Maybe they can get a cut from every shirt sold? It depends.

Last week, I started wearing shorts in the office because it is summer and the weather can be unbearable. I asked permission from our CEO and he’s cool with it, but I’m not so sure if my outfit will pass the stringent building policy. Well, I am on the edge of getting a heat stroke so you just have to do it and apologize if needed.

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Innovation

Hard Lessons from Not Prototyping

Despite several exercises and reminders in grad school about the need to prototype, I somehow went ahead with a project and allowed our engineers to develop it without validating the workflow to our institutional clients.

The development team worked on the website for months. I was confident to go ahead with it because the concept was received warmly by our clients during initial meetings.  I thought to myself that prototyping might be a waste of type because they want our product. I was dead wrong. When we showed the full website, there were a lot of issues that they want to be rectified if they want to sign up as a partner.

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We could have saved a lot of time, effort and money if we first created a prototype that clearly shows how the website will flow. From that prototype, we receive feedbacks, iterate, show it again, iterate, until it fits the needs of the market. Then you develop.

I was blindsided because of the excitement that we got from the clients when we pitched the idea. They were lining up to use the website, until they saw how it flowed. Clearly, words are not enough to convey an idea.

So earlier, I worked from home to finish our prototype via the Marvel App. It’s very easy to use. My classmates used this often for our projects, so I was somehow familiar with it. You just need to layout the pages, for me I did ours in Photoshop, then through the app, you create the links.

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If you’re not good with rendering the layout on your computer, you can use the app Prototyping on Paper. Draw out how the pages will look like, take pictures of it, then create the links with the pictures you took.

Aside from validating the product with your customers, you can also use the prototype as a guide for the engineers and QA when they are developing the site. The communication process will certainly be faster because your team gets to experience the instructions.

I take full responsibility of delay. We have another upcoming project related to what we’re building, and a mobile app for both projects are also somewhere in the roadmap. I’m definitely making a Marvel version first before we go head with the development to save tremendous amount of time and effort. It’s a good learning experience though.

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Personal

When to Pull the Plug

Every family hopes that whenever a relative gets admitted to the hospital, that relative will be released in a matter of days or weeks feeling healthier than before. You hope that despite the high cost of healthcare in this country, it will be worth it, because no amount of money can replace a human life.

But there will be those moments when hope is bleak, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. There are moments when you question, up to what extent should you “save” a life? What if the patient has been in the intensive care unit for two months with stage 4 kidney and lung cancer, and is already 71 years old? What if your family has spent an equivalent amount that can send two kids to Harvard Business School, and it seems like there is no hope for improvement? But what if that elderly patient wants to cling to life, and her sole daughter is still in college?

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I wasn’t able to sleep well last night because of those thoughts. The head of our family, my 74 year old uncle, is the one who decides on these things and he’s the one paying for most of the hospital fees for his brother, but I still feel responsible. You have to contribute what you can. I’m amazed that he’s willing to spend his lifetime savings to extend the life of his brother for only a matter of weeks or months. I hope it could be years, but we had to face the facts.

Sunday family lunches have been tense because of the situation. I can feel that as much as possible, everyone is trying to avoid talking about it. As an economist, I would like to ask if spending a hundred thousand pesos a day justifiable to extend the life of a person who is dependent on machines to eat, breath and perform all basic functions of a living being. In these situations, when do you pull the plug and admit defeat?

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Personal

Birthday in Tokyo

I learned that I had only 5 days to prepare for a flight to Tokyo, and the 3 days that I was there coincided with my birthday and the full bloom of the cherry blossoms that season! My head was screaming of excitement!

I try to go to Japan once a year, but last year, I wasn’t expecting a trip there cause of grad school. I guess my fairy godmothers were listening and decided to grant my wish! It was only when I was already inside the train from Narita to Ueno, when I started seeing the uniform gray houses and the bursts of pink from the cherry blossoms, that it finally dawned on me that I’m in legit Tokyo.

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I usually go during the low season because I’m not fond of crowded tourist areas, but when I got to Ueno park where there is a high concentration of cherry blossoms, I realized that even the locals feel like tourists themselves. It turns out that these pink ornaments are present only for 2 weeks per year.

How can something so beautiful be so fleeting? Maybe it was made that way for us to value it more.

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The real reason why I’m in Tokyo is because I had to deliver a one day training on social entrepreneurship as part of the OFW program of the Ateneo School of Government. The program has existed for more than a decade and I was happy to have found the right partner last year to launch it in Japan.

I did my best to make it really fun and practical. I know the feeling of beings stuck in a lecture from morning ’til evening so I had to make it really engaging.

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During lunch time, they surprised me with a birthday cake! What made it more special was that after 4 hours of meeting them for the first time, they were already cheering me a happy birthday! I was really touched by their gesture.

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The next day, I was already set to leave. My train will be from Ueno to Narita and I still had time to spare so I walked around Ueno park again to look at the cherry blossoms. From afar, I can hear the strumming of a classical guitar but amplified all over the park. I finally saw where the sound was coming from.

Under the drizzling sky and the falling petals of a cherry tree, I saw the this artist strumming and tapping his guitar with so much soul that I was in awe for the next 20 minutes while he was playing. I think I even got teary eyed.

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I celebrated my birthday before by watching the sun rise from the ancient temples of Angkor – a metaphor for our desire to build lasting legacies. Cherry blossoms are the opposite of that. They teach us to savour every moment that we have cause something as beautiful as this life is fleeting, ephemeral.

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Personal

Museum of Islamic Art

Before our first dinner meet up with the other startup founders in Four Seasons that night, we had a spare time so my boss and I decided to go to the Museum of Islamic Art. The building is an art itself! It looks regal and modern at the same time because of the clean lines.

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As you go in, you are welcomed by this ornate masterpiece suspended at the ceiling and strategically placed below the rooftop and in front of the window which opens you to Qatar’s skyline.

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It felt very fresh, a feeling you wouldn’t normally associate with a museum. Would have wanted to get a cup of coffee but we were pressed for time so we had to rush.

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This was my first time be in an Islamic museum so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I learned the Islamic religion does not allow the use of animals and people in art so that’s why they has to use geometric shapes for decorations. No wonder Algebra originated from this part of the world.

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There were the usual paintings and pottery, but I especially enjoyed the jewellery and weapons exhibit. I was wondering if the weapons were hunted because of the many lives it must have taken.

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This museum has got to be one of the most beautiful that I have seen. Especially when the sun is about to set, you can really see the glow of the desert reflected by the walls of the museum.

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Museum Opening Times

Sunday 9:00am to 7:00pm
Monday 9:00am to 7:00pm
Tuesday 9:00am to 7:00pm
Wednesday 9:00am to 7:00pm
Thursday 9:00am to 7:00pm
Friday 1:30pm to 7:00pm
Saturday 9:00am to 7:00pm

Last admission 30 minutes before closing. Galleries, Gift Shop and Café close 15 minutes before closing.

 

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Uncategorized

Road to Being a Unicorn

I would always say that I’m year of the unicorn when asked about my Chinese zodiac. I’m a horse, but I just don’t want to be similar with those of my age. I guess that answer has brought out a consciousness in me of an animal that symbolizes a billion dollar valuation in the startup industry. It’s every startup’s dram to hit that unicorn status, and I was really happy to be part of a group that share the same aspirations for the last few days.

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The conversations with them were filed with passions and aspirations. You can see the spark in their eyes and excitement in their voices whenever they talk about the problem close to their heart and how they’re addressing it. It reminded me of a time when we had untempered idealism and we think we could really change the world. Back at that time, we didn’t know how, but we just know we will in one way or another.

I think joining a fintech company might actually make that possible. To be a unicorn, they say you need traction and a sexy market. We’ll be expanding to VIP – Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines – home of half a billion people, to address a need where 70% – 80% of the population so that might just do the trick.

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Everyone was very supportive of each other. As we were saying our goodbyes, we wished each other the best of luck and hope to meet in another event like this in another part of the world. I hope we would meet again and by that time, we would be unicorns in the startup scene.

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