Saturday, October 18, 2008

Lessons from thesis - "proof of concept"

While listening to a talk on innovation, a phrase struck me as being especially meaningful.

"proof of concept"

As with any project, we do not begin work by investing a ton of money only to find out in the end that the concept or what you had in mind is not technically feasible. Instead, we begin by doing some research, and if initial findings look positive we proceed by investing a little amount to try to come up with a prototype. It will not be industrial strength, but at least it serves to prove that the idea can be translated to reality and it actually works given real-life constraints. This then gives confidence to invest more money to build a solution for actual use.

This kind of "gating" methodology (imagine "initial findings look positive" "it actually works" as gates before you can proceed to the next step) is applicable in many scenarios. Like my undergraduate thesis. In my mind, engineering undergraduate theses are to be proofs-of-concept, not industrial strength solutions. Some of my professors back then believe wholeheartedly that our theses should be industrial-strength. Given such a background, students can not be expected to innovate. The risk is too big to create something new AND be ready for the industry. The shift from (new) idea to machine is simply too difficult to manage. So at the end of the day, people reinvent the wheel.

The same is true for digital marketing. Given the fact that internet and mobile marketing is a relatively new form of marketing, funding doesn't come easy. It is through scoring successive small victories (and managing the failures - they're surely gonna be there!) that management will realize the potential this avenue holds for the business. (I covered some of the seeming pockets of experimentation done by companies like Fab, Mead Johnson, and the amazingly entertaining Nescafe viral-TV. Not sure though if they count as victories.)
blog comments powered by Disqus