Personalization & The Future Of Production

Personalization is expected to be the top category for tech investment this year 2021.

According to a Mckinsey report, personalization at scale has the potential to create $1.7 trillion to $3 trillion in overall new value (value captured in different ways – actual value of product/services, consumer surplus, revenue growth etc).

The innovation that happens on the product line as a result of this consumer expectation would be interesting to watch over the coming years. There will be a shift from the typical assembly line model to “personalized production”. As the article in the link below describes, meeting personalization demand is leading companies to increasingly automate their production processes and even make parts of it autonomous.

This article describes this shift nicely

I am particularly interested in this because it is a departure from the often shiny digital innovation that catches the attention of the media. At this same time it could be very game-changing.

Mobile money in Africa

Wave just raised $200M, at a $1.7B valuation.

I’ve always been fascinated by how the mobile money emergence in Sub-Saharan Africa has played out. Mainly because it is an interesting case of the Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen’s theory of how disruption happens within industries.

Today, mobile money is by far the most popular way for people to move money and access basic financial services across SSA. (As of 2020, there were 300+ live mobile money services worldwide. Out of these, 55.2% were in Africa).

But even more interesting is the next sequence of innovation that we are beginning to see. Wave, an alternative to the telco-operated mobile money solutions, is not only positioning itself as a viable alternative, but also the back-bone of Fintech innovation across the continent. This will unlock innovation at an unprecedented scale.

What does an innovation ecosystem really mean?

I remember throwing this word out carelessly in the early days of my career in innovation strategy. It was great jargon, whether it confused my listeners (or readers as the case may be), or it gave them a better understanding of what the heck I was talking about, I really didn’t care. It was like the word “awesome”, or “platform”, or … the list went on — words that had found their way into our everyday vocabulary so much so that we hardly ever asked what it meant in every context we used it in.

I once heard someone say something to the effect that the attention we pay to words is a measure of our intellectual diligence. While you may not agree to that claim, there is definitely something worth exploring when it comes to semantic norms in the tech/innovation space. Paying attention to what we mean when we say certain words can help us clarify meaning, intent and goals. But more importantly, especially for words that speak of contribution of some sort — like “ecosystem” — attention becomes more of a duty, or an obligation that may rally together the collective effort of many.

After a while, I actually did ask myself that question- what is an innovation ecosystem?

It was at a point when I was saddled with the task of designing a new program. The outcomes were meant to be tangible, the consequences of failure were grave and the chances of misinterpretation was high.

So i gave it a lot of thinking, and this is what i came up with:

An innovation ecosystem is an incentive-driven engine through which problem(s) are identified, talent is mobilized to solve the problems, and solutions are created at a scale that tackles the problem(s) effectively.

Ok, I get that you are not into definitions and stuff like that .. so let’s break it down.

An ecosystem consists of three main components:

1. Problem — Solution Mix

2. Talent

3. Risk Capital

It is important to note that different contributors can/will play a role in each of these components, and there may be more than one contributor to a given component.

Continue reading “What does an innovation ecosystem really mean?”

The Case For Systems Thinking

The objective of this post is to point out the fact that within the economics of platforms, there is a need to complement human-centered design principles with systems thinking principles. Why? Because this practice will give us a more holistic model for thinking through business strategy. Basically, systems thinking is a way of viewing systems from a broader perspective than usual. It involves analyzing more than one event at a time to understand the full dynamics inherent to a particular system.

With the rise of platform-based businesses — businesses that connect people through technology and create an ecosystem that allows value to be created and exchanged — and their apparent success and failures, one is forced to think about platforms, their impact, and their holistic architecture in the complex world of digital-era supply and demand. We need to go beyond the usual approach and address the overall strategy of the business.Given the economics of platforms and the socio-economic shifts that will occur from the platformification of different services, this is a worthwhile topic to explore, especially with the growth of AI-powered digital platforms.

Technology startups are trying to tackle it, investors are making big bets on it, and innovation commentators have well-formed opinions about which trends matter and which don’t. In the midst of this, value creators (founders and product developers) are being asked to follow a lean startup humancentered design process with regards to everything — even when creating platforms with all their multi-sided network effects.

But is there a need for a complementary mindset? I think so.

Continue reading “The Case For Systems Thinking”

A New Innovation Paradigm for Corporates (1)

A careful look at how and why disruption happens will reveal many patterns of behaviour in the market as well as in the management styles of incumbent companies. But some of the most dangerous characteristics of companies that get disrupted are sometimes subtle and easily negligible. One of such can be found in the way and manner corporate organisations view new entrants in their industries.

The usual management reaction to a new industry entrant will be one of either negligence or pure competition – where the management sees a new entrant as a competitor to polarise by deploying more efficiency and best practice activities. Continue reading “A New Innovation Paradigm for Corporates (1)”

Innovation in Africa – Linking Needs to Innovation

Innovation, though could be seen as doing something differently to add and capture value, should also be within the context of the prevailing needs. In this Ted Video by Ravi Chhatpar, we see how one woman has successfully created value to the people who need it most in small villages in Rwanda.

Continue reading “Innovation in Africa – Linking Needs to Innovation”

Innovation in Digital & Financial Inclusion – Some Factors to Consider

A recent MMU (Mobile Money for the Unbanked) report stated that 2.5 billion people in developing countries still lack access to formal financial services. These include payments, transfers, insurance, credit and savings. From, this and many other statistics on financial inclusion, it is clear that there is definitely a market opportunity for mobile money solutions and a corresponding potential in their disruptive tendencies.

Continue reading “Innovation in Digital & Financial Inclusion – Some Factors to Consider”

customer-centered innovation – the rising opportunity

While many will take this as a no-brainer when it comes to developing innovations, I  will like to pay particular interest to the role that this somewhat usual process may take in developing products/services in the African continent. I would be wrong to say that the entire continent suffer from the same problems – in a continent of 54 countries, the number of pain points and needs are as diverse as the culture and behaviour of the typical customer in the continent.

How then does this play out in innovation?

Continue reading “customer-centered innovation – the rising opportunity”

Why Nigeria May Become Home to the Next Disruptive Innovations – Part 3


In the book “The Innovator’s Solution”, the author pointed out the following interesting principle in the success of disruption:

When disruptive products enable the channel to disrupt its competitors, the innovators harness the energies of the channel in building the disruption.

While this may seem totally obvious, it is important to point it out as a contributing factor to the disruptive tendencies of Nigerian-nututred innovations. But what does this mean? Continue reading “Why Nigeria May Become Home to the Next Disruptive Innovations – Part 3”