Electric vehicles will face stiff competition from eco-friendly gasoline-powered cars

Popular notions that electric cars will suddenly replace conventional gasoline-powered cars don’t acknowledge the possibility that there could be eco-friendly advances in conventional car technology. A study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) finds that “internal combustion engines are improving their ability to cut CO2 emissions at a lower cost than expected, and, as a result, carmakers should be able to meet 2020 emissions targets mainly through improvements to conventional technologies.”

A key word there is should. It would take a concerted effort by automakers in several technical areas. Continue reading “Electric vehicles will face stiff competition from eco-friendly gasoline-powered cars”

Four emerging risks for corporations

The Corporate Executive Board’s “Risk Integration Strategy Council (RISC)” has released the January 2011 “Emerging Risks Update,” (pdf) noting the following risks on the horizon for enterprise risk managers:

Leaks of sensitive corporate information like strategic planning documents or embarrassing memos (think Wikileaks, which is on its way to becoming a verb, like Google). Strategy: Bolster information security, especially as “new technologies and platforms like cloud computing, SaaS, and social networking gain prominence.”

Shortage of rare earth minerals, an essential component of clean energy technology, computers and electronics (e.g., mobile phones). China controls 97%. Strategy: Other countries (including the U.S.) with deposits of rare earth minerals can open or re-open their mines, “but it can take up to [10] years for a new mine to begin operations.” Meanwhile, “world leaders” must discourage China from unfairly exploiting its position. Continue reading “Four emerging risks for corporations”

17 questions to ask about that gee-whiz tech development

Science-fiction author David Brin explains his method of examining the future:

“The top method is simply to stay keenly attuned to trends in the laboratories and research centres around the world, taking note of even things that seem impractical or useless,” says Brin. “You then ask yourself: ‘What if they found a way to do that thing ten thousand times as quickly/powerfully/well? What if someone weaponised it? Monopolised it? Or commercialised it, enabling millions of people to do this new thing, routinely? What would society look like, if everybody took this new thing for granted?'”

Those are good questions, as far as they go. My methodology for examining new developments (especially technologies) is to ask additional questions, some with a decidedly negative slant:

  • What if it runs into legal or political problems?
  • What if it can be used by criminals?
  • What if it raises ethical or religious objections?
  • What if people prefer doing it the “old way”?
  • What if a cheaper alternative overtakes it?
  • What if it’s too expensive to make or distribute (in volume)?
  • What if it lacks the necessary ecosystem or support infrastructure?
  • What if it runs smack into a counter-trend?
  • What if entrenched interests squelch it?
  • What if it has unintended consequences?
  • What if the roll-out is botched, glitchy, underfunded, embarrassing?

And, when will it emerge from the Hype Cycle‘s “peak of inflated expectations” and “trough of disillusionment”?

Five political surprises for 2011

The Washington Post asked several political pundits: “What will be the biggest political surprise of 2011?” Here are some of the wild cards of U.S. politics this year:

  • Public-sector labor strikes and demonstrations as state/local governments cut budgets. “The same kind of protests that have rocked Paris, London and Rome could erupt in California, New York and Illinois.”
  • Efforts to repeal the big health care reform legislation will have the unintended effect of educating the public about the good things in it.
  • The consensus that marked the lame-duck congressional session will continue in the new year (e.g., the DREAM immigration act could be passed).
  • The emergence of a potentially serious third-party candidate for president in 2012.
  • President Obama will definitely end the war in Afghanistan, while Republicans will have the unpopular position of supporting open-ended commitment.

The future of marketing: customer-centric

Too many firms still operate as if they were stuck in the 1960s, “an era of mass markets, mass media and impersonal transactions,” says a recent article, “Rethinking Marketing,”  in the Harvard Business Review. To compete in today’s “aggressively interactive” environments, companies will have to reorganize to make products and brands subservient to customer relationships, the article says. Put more bluntly: Restructure to cultivate customers rather than market products. It will require reinventing the marketing department altogether. The culture must put customer relationships — not products or brands — first.

The re-imagined “customer department” (vs. marketing department) has the following characteristics: Continue reading “The future of marketing: customer-centric”