Innovation from the Thought Leaders – Ox vs Horse

Successful entrepreneurs and industrialist (an old term that is seldom used nowadays) thought leaders like to say some extreme things to trigger the thinking and to shock people into actions. Here is one example from Taiwan shared by a friend. The Chinese post is at

My dynamic translation (by meaning rather than word for word – hence may have biases due to me the translator) is as follows:

Main Point of Ox vs Horse of Barry Lam:
1. The software is important than Hardware.
2. Cloud computing changes and replaces current practices in design and other things. This is the big opportunities and innovative talents are required.
3. Doing subcontracting work make our talented staff like the farming ox – all about the same and not creative. The creative work is done by the outsourcer.
4. University Degrees are not important. Your out-of-the-box thinking is more important.
5. The future is a race. Winner takes all. Must be a race horse rather than plowing ox.
6. Need to pay for such talents highly differentiated remunerations – 10x, 20x, 100x!
7. Adapt to the new world – don’t go back to ask people to watch the old top-tv shows. Ask them to watch the current top TV shows.

Do you agree with him?
Most people will.
But being a good consultant and a trainer, I have to disagree some what and give a more balanced view. Here are my comments and recommendations for the potential innovators and entrepreneurs:

The Balanced View:
Actually, he is 50% right and 50% wrong. Here are the reasons:

1. Hardware and software are both equally important.
The key is the integration and best fit. Ask Steve Jobs and Google Brin and Page who recently bought Motorola Mobile for its hardware capability to augment its Androids and Chrome.

2. Cloud and Endpoint Devices are Opportunities.
The powerful resources and the brains of the clouds are at the center and need intelligent devices to link up so that its power can be used and enhances by the millions who connect to it. There are businesses for the center cloud and the end-point access devices such as iPhones, iPad. iTunes App and iCloud are the centers. Imaging Dropbox without iPhones/iPad/android!.

3. Subcontracting/OEM work requires talents and innovation as well.
They need innovation in their processes and other parts of business models. Subcontractors, unfortunately, does not enjoy the branding of the consumer devices and offering, nevertheless, they need innovations for productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency. Someone said that there is no such thing as hi tech or low-tech businesses only hi-tech or low-tech management.

4. University degrees train our thinking and provide in-depth knowledge that we need for innovations. 
But may be can be like Steve Jobs, pick your subjects and master them well e.g. Calligraphy. Or an old entrepreneur friend who left Stanford to start his own successful business. Asked him why he did not complete his course. He said he already picked up the knowledge he needed to do his business. Ask Bill Gates and he too would give you the same answer.

5. Speed is only ONE factor of Success. There are More.
“The future is a race. Winner takes all. Must be a race horse rather than plowing ox” may be right some times but definitely not all the time.
The first mover may have advantages but it all depends on the particular situation. (When the entry barrier is low, then the first mover actually may have the advantage for a short time only. The first mover may be on the bleeding edge and educating the market for the followers!). Microsoft is seldom first but is a good follower and replacer e.g. MS Office replaces Lotus-1-2-3, Wordperfect and IE replace Netscape etc. There are people who think MS can yet do it one more time with Window 8 for the smart-phone business. Read also the new Hare and Turtle Story.

See also … – Success is a combination of multiple factors of speed, timing, strength, creativity, thinking skills, technical skills etc.Google works with the 70-20-10 rule : 70% of budget on core business, 20% related to core business, and 10% on blue-sky not related to current business.

So a typical company need may be 7 oxen, 2 horses, 1 dreamer. But that is percentage talking. In reality, everyone in a company should be encouraged to innovate in his own area, extended area and even wider.

6. Need to pay for such talents highly differentiated remunerations – 10x, 20x, 100x ? May not be. It is a team work too beside talents.
As the business get complex, the success is the result of great team work of great engaged talented people. Then, it is not about paying a few guys top salaries but about getting fair salaries and share in the extra-ordinary profits from the success of the business. It is about outcome based renumerations where there is no ceiling to your renumerations – it is decided by your customers who willingly pay you for your great offering.

7. Adapt to the new world – don’t go back to ask people to watch the old top-tv shows. Ask them to watch the current top TV shows.
Adapt to the new world is a must. Even better is to create the New World. 
Nevertheless, never ignore the old successes. There are much lessons for us to use.
Consider the re-vitalised VM Bugs, Mini-Coopers etc. The old principles, the core strengths, just need a new context.

The Critical Thinking – Never be one sided in your thinking. 
At least be bipolar yin-yang if not more. It always depends on the situations. Everything has value. You just need to find the situation and the people that may need it.

Lim Liat (C) 17 Dec 2011

2 thoughts on “Innovation from the Thought Leaders – Ox vs Horse

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