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Innovation in the Enterprise

Innovation Labs in the Enterprise – Start with Design Thinking

Corporate innovation is critical to stay current and compete in today’s fast moving technical environment.  AT GDS we work with many large corporate innovation labs. These labs are fundamental if large companies do not want to be disrupted by well financed start-ups. 

The Labs all try and have a creative space that allows people to think outside the box, hard to be very creative in a row of cubicles.

Just as important as the workspace is an attitude of experimentation.  The goal is to try many little experiences and to fail early and often with them til one gains traction.  GDS brings this rapid prototyping skillset to the table. An important part that we foster in our Innovation workshops is to “Start with Why”.  Understanding the intent of your users and customers is fundamental and then having them achieve those goals with the minimum amount of digital friction. Design thinking is at the heart of achieving this and really the heart of every successful Innovation Lab.

The world of computer software had gotten much better due to User Interface and User Experience focus.  At GDS we spend a lot of time on scenario modeling (use cases) and optimizing workflow (minimizing digital friction) . The power to get adaption and user buy-in is the trick that marks a successful product.  Let’s go back and review some of the major innovations in Human Computer interaction and see how they have created some of the best applications.

Optimizing for Phone Screen Size

When we look at User interface breakthroughs we have to start with the Iphone. The Iphone led the way with touch screens.Your finger was the new mouse.  This was an innovation that changed the way people interacted with an application.

The pop up keyboard where you could use your finger to type allowed for even complicated interactions. . Smart software allowed this to work for even people with fat fingers.


This innovation made it easy for the User to do the most Common thing.  Tinder had an amazing simplification to express interest in someone, swiping there entire picture one way or the other.

Tinder’s amazing User experience innovation

Swipe right

Representing Physical  Worlds Virtually

Stub Hub

The visualization of the stadium and the tickets was key for the user to understand what he was buying,



When you can create a link between real world and virtual world you are onto something.

Merging Virtual and Real Worlds
The overlaying of the car  on the map was a great innovation and let the user feel in control of what is happening with the process.




Voice May be the Greatest UI

Voice may well be the interaction mode that becomes the most common.  We are already seeing Amazon Echo and Google assistant make amazing inroads.  But other devices have started to grow ears. Samsung has Bixby with its line of smart appliances, Bosche has a voice activated system as well.  It may get confusing with so many different devices trying to make sense of what the user wants from them.

Human interaction and User experience is a key part to product adoption and use.  The enterprise is continuing to learn from prominent consumer applications to keep the user engaged and move them forward with a minimal amount of digital friction.  We would love to have a workshop with you and your company to find innovative ways to deploy design thinking and make your application rollout powerful while reducing support costs.



The Smartest People in the World Don’t Work for you

This quote made famous by Bill Joy in the late 90’s is as true as it ever was. By way of introduction, I have spent the last twenty plus years of my professional career building large mission critical software and building the multi-disciplinary teams needed to design, develop and deploy it. This includes many large successful projects and some unfortunately unsuccessful ones, all for Fortune 500 clients. When I started to notice the large and growing trend of highly skilled developers becoming Freelancers I knew that it was an unalterable trend. The Uberization of computer programmers.

The promise of hiring experts to build software for your business has always been highly marketed. Now based on advances in Artificial Intelligence and machine learning along with curated networks of experts in design and engineering along with re-useable software components it has become more of a sure thing. In fact, we have a perfect storm. Let’s look at each of these factors.

Engineering as a Service

Creating a culture that is embraced by top developers is hard. They are eccentric and many times need a lot of special treatment. Grand Design Systems (GDS) has created a network of certified high caliber software engineers. This is the first part of the puzzle. Expert networks are sprouting up everywhere and there is no better place for them than in software engineering. It is widely noted that the difference between an average developer and a great one (sometimes called 10x engineers because they can be an order of magnitude more productive than the average) is alarmingly big. Just like communities in open source the network is “self” certified with members policing the quality and skill of the other engineers.

Re-useable Components

The large (and growing) amount of open source libraries and functionality that can be drawn upon to the build the next project is astounding. Building a marketplace ? The backbone technology to do that in a mobile world is already developed. Need a dashboard for analytics or a visualization interface ? The building blocks to do so have already been created. Our clients benefit with faster delivery and lower cost by using a treasure chest of re-useable and certified modules.

The missing ingredient to tie this together for the client are Product Managers. They coordinate the functionality, workflow, and schedules of delivery. This is the crucial part of getting complex software development projects right.

AI and Automation Tools

Lastly we have built automation tools to manage these parts of the platform. We can become better at software development and the data can lead us there. By tracking all the events associated with a successful project including communications, commits, emails, chats we can programmatically tell in real time the digital footprint of a successful project versus one for a broken one. Analogously, we can rank and grade the best professionals for a given project and we can determine which modules can be re-used successfully.

These tools help us give Fixed Price proposals which derisks Software Development for our clients. Our goal at GDS is to create happy clients by delivering impactful cutting edge applications. We have executed on hundreds of projects and the more projects we do, our automation tools get better and smarter.

There are many examples of how our clients are using our service. A common ask is to help them track and use the behaviorial data from their clients and to build machine learning into their apps to alter their business model. Another is to create a chatbots using the latest NLP technologies for customer support and customer acquisition. Check ous out at Grand Design Systems.

Leadership: Bochy’s Homerun; Johnson’s Strikeout

I have lived in the bay area for the past 15+ years, and in San Francisco, we are going through a sports renaissance: the Giants have won two of the last three World Series, and the 49ers have made it deep into the playoffs two years running (I’m looking for a championship next year!). Both teams have something in common and it has led to something amazing. Bruce Bochy for the Giants and Jim Harbaugh for the 49ers are amazing leaders and brilliant strategists at their sports. Coupling strong leadership and a deep understanding of their sports and their athletes is a formidable combination.

India’s Election : I’ll take the self made man …

I happen to be in India during an amazing time ! The largest democratic election on the planet (and in history) is going on. India has over 800 million people eligible to vote and the elections are happening over a 5 week time period. There are almost a million polling stations set up around the country ! May 16th will be the day the winner is announced.

If You’re Not Cheating, You’re Not Trying Hard Enough

Lance Armstrong. Bernie Madoff. Barry Bonds. Raj Rajaratnam. Ray Nagin. Whether it is sports, business, or politics, it seems in every walk of life, people are playing fast and loose with the law, with ethics, and with morality. Even in the software business we have some shady practices and some shady business models.

Free is too Expensive

Working at the Internet Systems Consortium, I feel I have a somewhat privileged look into the open source business model, which I’d like to address. We face the unique challenge of developing and maintaining BIND, the most-installed nameserver software on the planet, which some estimates place on 80% of all DNS servers. We’re proud of our open source heritage–one that began with the first iteration

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