As Naked Innovation is not an overtly technical book, it doesn’t address specific packages or chip sets. Instead, the purpose of chapter 5–understanding Technology–is to prepare non-technologists to take part in making critical technology decisions. As we continue to embed intelligence, personalization and interactivity into every product and service we build, it’s truer than ever that your customer experience is either enabled or limited by technology.

We recognize this chapter is probably the roughest of all 13 chapters in the book. The reality is we are far more prepared to write it today in 2013 than we were in 2007. We’re really looking forward to getting feedback on what makes most sense to include in helping non-technologists prepared to make technology decisions.

What seems to be working

  • As Larry says in the opening quote, “Platforms rule!” They do indeed.
  • Understanding the difference between modular and integrated architectures is important for so many reasons. We know this is valuable.

Areas that need more work or input

  • While platforms do rule, our definition of them in this chapter doesn’t. We have thoughts on how to make the topic more clear, but what definitions or references to platforms stand out in your mind?
  • Era Maps are great, but we need to introduce more tools to help frame technology decisions. Two we’re considering are the Decision Stack–Objectives drive Requirements which drive Technology Decisions–and Capability Diagrams. We are open to any suggestions you might have on the topic.
  • Is it even possible for non-technologists to make good technology decisions?
After you’ve read the chapter, please post your thoughts, constructive critique, and suggestions below. Thank you!
  • Knowl Baek

    Platforms could bring immense value to a company but has many challenges as well. The book says “platforms only become relevant when they move past a certain tipping point of adoption..[it] can be quite expensive to build.. [and that] platforms will affect your firm’s products for a long time in the future.” Have you invested in creating a platform? How did/would you overcome these challenges?

  • Bruno

    This chapter is sitting in between two chairs. It is not the purpose of this book to be too explicit about technology, but the content is too generic and can not be converted into action.

    A few of angles to move forward:
    - What defines a platform?
    - How to identify when a platform is better answer?
    - Time component in innovating vs. platform (e.g.: releasing the first product as an integrated solution and modularize if commercial success)

    Very often, people approach to platform is linked to existing platforms already available in their market, but they are missing out on the biggest innovation: identify the opportunity for new platform approaches:
    - either leveraging platforms outside their market
    - or integrating existing and new (innovation) pieces into a platform that did not exist before.
    In the later case, there is a strong advantage in being able to identify that platform is the innovation/answer and being the first one to make the move.

    • Zachary Jean Paradis

      Bruno – you’re a hammer today! Thank you so much! Give us 24 hours to digest and respond to these great comments. VERY helpful.

      • Bruno

        No worries, take your time. I was long overdue in reading chapters and posting my comments and did most of it all at once

    • Knowl Baek

      Hi Bruno,
      Thanks so much for your thoughtful questions and feedback!
      I find your comments very relevant as I am trying to find a clear definition of effective platforms for innovation myself.
      There has been lots of discussion around value of platforms and how to develop platforms at our school (IIT Institute of Design,) but it seems easier to identify them in hindsight than to foresee when it is the right move to create one that doesn’t exist yet.
      Also, developing a completely new platform does take a lot of risk and resources so I would love to learn more about how to make those strategic analysis and decisions.

      • Bruno

        Maybe instead of creating a new platform from scratch the innovation is to identify that the best (or better) solution to the problem is a platform approach. The innovation is the platform thinking where there is none yet. The company in this case could only be part of the platform eco-system with a new product or a new product feature

    • davidmcgaw

      You make a fair point–as technology becomes exponentially more complex, a short chapter is going to have a hard time doing justice. So your recommendation to provide some practical thinking about platforms is apt. I can imagine providing some ways of identifying contexts where there are platform-creation opportunities (e.g., fragmented ecosystem and/or user experience, lack of standards, new technical solutions as-yet unlinked to more than a few of the Ten Types of Innovation).

      I also wonder if we could reframe to include the larger question of feasibility, which is another way of defining that part of the Balanced Breakthroughs model. The tech economy drives a lot innovation today–and captures a lot of the attention in popular and business media–but there are other kinds of feasibility issues beyond apps, wifi, cloud, etc.–such as, how we think about capabilities, which domains need new functions/features to be created (vs creating experiences around them), and what kinds of predictions can be made about solutions that might come to fruition next. Again, many of these big questions are beyond the scope of an innovation primer–but following your model of how we address platform thinking, maybe there are ways to frame out the broad issues to be aware of, and rubrics by which we identify which ones to go after. That, coupled with a set of resources for further reading, might help people at least know where to get started.

      Appreciate your thoughtful critique!

      • Bruno


        Yes, platform is one of the most underestimated and miss understood concept. Rarely used properly.
        This is going to be a tough nut to crack

  • nacht

    I think one of the best starting points for this is to provide a frame of reference for what constitutes a platform – specifically a technology platform.

    If we consider for a moment – that strategy provides an operating context that connects otherwise unconnected activities – we can extend this to a technology platform where a technology platform provides a technical a single operating context that connects otherwise unconnected technology estates.

    A personal challenge of mine is people who sell a platform. When someone says that ‘(you/we) need a platform’ I know I’m in for a nasty debate.

    One can’t just ‘prescribe’ a platform as a solution. More often people are confusing an end state technical vision with that of a platform.

    IMO –

    iTunes-iPhone-AppStore is a consumer platform.

    Deutsche Bank Autobahn is a vertical specific platform.

    Innovation, technical or otherwise, rarely takes starts with a desire for a platform, rather a platform is often where (technical) innovation lives.

    I see this chapter as a fantastic opportunity for recasting the term ‘platform’ through a more academic lense in the same sense that strategy outside of the advertising world extends well beyond the narrow definitions of brand planning or brand strategy (sic).

  • nacht

    RE: Era Maps

    One of the challenges in my operating context is that techies are not naturally equipped to play nice in a true cross-functional teams.

    In facing some of these challenges head-on I’ve been playing with a number of different tools and toys to break the executional thinking of maps.

    In a ‘nudge’ manner of behavioural change I’ve started mapping current state features of an existing landscape. This seeks to apply a design lense in a manner that moves the technologist away from solving a problem using a tech-how-do-i lense to a more customer-centric propositional design lense.

    I’d go as far as to question whether technologists should be defining product visions. In this instance I use the technologist as an executional delivery developer.

    • Zachary Jean Paradis

      Oooh! It’s great how you mapped journey to function or capability. That’s what I was sort of rambling about in my last response up above.

      I like how you extended this to road-mapping a future state. The one challenge with this is with the diagram in play, it’s hard to show progression over time outside of one step. The most beneficial view would likely show how multiple technologies evolve together, with milestones/critical dependencies and other parts of the business. Need to think about this more.

  • nacht

    Random thought –

    something that i’ve been saying of late, and probably more relevant to back-office type programmes is that technology innovation in enterprise should be mirrored by an equal change in culture and/or business processes.

    If the output of a programme is a technology product/deliverable – it stands to reason that the business would need to re-engineer its culture and/or processes to maximise the impact of said deliverable.

    Otherwise one is merely reskinning a proposition.

    • Zachary Jean Paradis

      Interesting point. I would say it depends on the scale or ambition of innovation we’re talking about. What about maybe something which introduced tying organizational capability to innovation, which then would force an organization (culture, process, people) to change at the same scale? I introduced the Business Context Diagram to some of my students and they seemed to find it useful. Good provocation. Let me think more about this.