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Discovering a Blue Ocean Idea (capitalandgrowth.org)
104 points by jkuria 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 33 comments

There's a weird comformity effect where one tends to think in the same terms as those around you, so you see the same issues, consider the same alternatives along the same dimensions. This can happen without you noticing it, your direct perception sublimating like a dream on waking.

There is gold, just one or two steps off the beaten track, but we can't see it, because we are on rails, only thinking in terms the track affords.

But it's not so easy to go off the rails: you can easily get disoriented and overwhelmed, and once you have found something, it's difficult to verify... and even harder to convince anyone else.

Note, too, that there’s more garbage than gold off the rails. Simply going off the rails isn’t enough. Thoughtful exploration, on the other hand, can be tremendously rewarding.

Note, three, that all garbage is gold under the light of a sufficiently child-like mind devoid of expectations, ideals, creeds, beliefs, biases, and stigmas.

The insane man is only insane when in a world of sane men.

Ehh. Some things are just not as useful as other things. This follows directly from the laws of nature.

All elements lighter than iron _release_ energy when they fuse together, while iron and anything heavier must _consume_ energy to fuse together.

Carbon is one of the most important elements for life due to its unique chemical properties and immense number of useful molecular arrangements.

The molecule we call water is essential to life as well, as it is incredibly effective, compared to the alternatives, at transporting materials to and from different parts of an organism (among other things [1]).

And so on...

[1] http://www.ivyroses.com/Biology/Why-is-water-important-to-li...

I think since we are talking within the context of entrepreneurship, we can assign an objective definition as gold=financial/societal value, garbage=no financial value. So in for example, MySpace=garbage, Kickstarter=gold. I think it would be hard to argue otherwise.

That whole phenomenon strikes me as a fundamental dimension of reality and perception (sorry for the bombast).

We basically see the world as a texture of possibilities, and there are different poles in the way that works.

Some people are rigidly conforming or conservative, and they perceive the "possibility vectors" as mostly low in magnitude and pointing in the normal way.

Some people are "lateral thinkers" compared to the status quo and see weird opportunities all around them. If they play the piano they'll always be looking to jazz it up in more and more crazy ways.

Some people would have a lateral perception but a conservative morality; like, they would have some deep gut level understanding of queerness but react in conservative ways out of fear or repulsion.

I suppose that real innovation probably isn't that much due to lateral imaginative personality, but more due to having immersive knowledge enough that you just see way ahead, plus confidence and close-knit support from conspirators.

Steve Jobs still has the best quote on this that I know.

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really DO it, they just SAW something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they've had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

Unfortunately, that's too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven't had very diverse experiences. So they don't have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one's understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.

Also, the longer the rails have existed, the more likely that many other smart people have tried and failed.

It doesn't mean it can't be done, just that it is likely very difficult, or some other tangential breakthrough must happen first.

Fortunately, some rails are far less well-defined than others, and there are often nuggets of gold found in the foggy ambiguity surrounding such rails.

Take a look what Chinese do, and their logic:

Making manufacturing business is HARD, harder, or many times harder than a yet another online service.

Growing and scaling such business is also hard, and it does not scale much downward as such (you have to fire workers, and they riot on you, storm your apartment and beat you and your familiy.)

The business is noticeably seasonal and have sharp highs and lows when it comes to consumer goods.

"The next big thing" opportunity like phones and tablets are come and go, they last a maximum of 2 "feast" years.

There are "cash crop" type products like battery banks, chargers, usb flash sticks. It makes profit all the time, but it's not that high.

In between big contracts, or when the factory is busy making products for itself in a feast year, factory owner do not shed capacity, but switch most of if to cash crop product

Then he puts together most talented engineers and gives them task to invent random stuff, and do trial run manufacturing.

Instead of setting up a brand around these new products, they are unceremoniously dumped to trade agents.

If agents will be placing a lot of repeating orders, then, more consideration will be given to such product.

That is "the complicated Chinese strategy" in 9 sentences.

Be careful of blue ocean ideas though. Most of the time, the market might not exist yet. The ocean is blue because there's nothing to feed on there.

I find this to be empty & impractical. If this methodology were beneficial, blue ocean businesses would be propping up like mushrooms.

I challenge anyone who's read this to propose a single blue ocean idea here

The blue ocean idea for Pavlok[1] (a wearable device habit/behavior trainer) wearable we developed came from a similar thought process. We wrote it up here: https://old.pavlok.com/forgotten


> The blue ocean idea for Pavlok (a wearable device habit/behavior trainer)…

A digital rubber band is not a "blue ocean idea".


Did you read the forgotten link I posted? The whole point is that we used already discovered concepts, with modern technology, to solve any bad habit. The market was and is wide open.

It's connecting multiple different technologies to attack a wide open market space. Think: smoking, drinking, gambling, oversleeping, getting over your ex, overspending, unhealthy eating, etc.

If that isn't blue ocean strategy then I don't know what is.

Maneesh, looks like the forgotten link is broken and I can't find anything on archive.org. Do you have an updated link?

This link works: http://old.pavlok.com/forgotten/ (no https)

I disagree, there is good (well-known) tools for business strategy thinking there. But I agree with you on point that one rarely just comes up with great Blue Ocean Ideas by rigorously applying thinking tools, but they can help one to shape and evaluate ideas that you come with observing and intuition.

Think for yourself.

(Edit because of downvotes: I was serious, this is a blue ocean idea. For example, imagine children with their own ontology of language and experience (not culturally acquired). That's about as blue ocean as you can get. Neural networks are pretty close. Neural news at nine.)

There are whole fields of anthropology, psychology, etc. debating how much of language and experience is learned versus innate.

As for neural networks, generative models, genetic algorithms, etc., they can help us optimize on known search spaces but that's about all they can do. It's a big leap from designing simulation-optimized bicycle parts to generating truly new ideas.

No, the field has moved a lot further than that.

Did you read the recent Software 2.0 rant by the Tesla AI guy? https://medium.com/@karpathy/software-2-0-a64152b37c35

Other good sources are The Master Algorithm (ML) or The Brain That Changes Itself (neuroscience), the former surveying general capabilities and limitations of various approaches and the later surveying findings from medicine on just how plastic our sensory inputs and interpretive capacities are through recent research.

First of all, Karpathy is a heck of a lot more than the "Tesla AI guy".

Second, he's describing a pretty radical implementation of what amounts to a new form of fuzzy constraint programming using exactly the technique I described: brute-force optimization on a very sophisticated objective function. It's fundamentally statistical, and it's still fundamentally an optimization problem. Neural networks happen to be modular compared to other optimization techniques, and they happen to do a miraculous job at capturing latent higher-order structure in these optimization problems.

The real innovation he's describing is that we now have powerful enough optimizers that it's cheaper, easier, faster, and sometimes more reliable to just fuzzy-optimize problems instead of coding bespoke solutions for them. That's pretty amazing, but suggests absolutely nothing.

Now, a self-modifying neural network might be interesting, that can monitor its own performance and decide when to retrain part of itself, mutate its own architecture, or request new training data. But we definitely are not there yet.

With all that said, there's a much more down-to-earth version of your idea that neural networks can have their own ontology and experiences: that's just an anthropomorphization the latent structure that they capture. This isn't unique to NNs -- it's something researchers have been exploiting for decades. It's only a small stretch to argue that that's what fitting a decision tree or a principal components model is. This is reflected directly in the jargon that these models "learn" a representation of the data. You can extract new representations of reality right now by running HDBSCAN on a data set of your choice. Neural networks just let us scale that up to richer, higher-dimensional problems.

Maybe that's all "experience" really is, consuming data from the world and encoding various representations of that data. But when it comes to generating truly novel ideas, instead of incremental improvements on existing ideas, I'm bearish on how far our current neural network technology can go. Maybe AlphaGo, which apparently invented new Go strategies that no human player had ever thought of, is a counterexample. Or it's the exception that proves the rule. I guess we'll see as computation power continues to improve.

anthropomorphization the latent structure that they capture ... maybe that's all "experience" really is

Precisely my point.

The hard part isn't ideas. The hard part is finding actual problems that can be solved in a better way. As ycombinator put it: You have to "find customers with their hair on fire". Finding that kind of problem, along with a better way to solve that problem, is the key.

Exactly, execution is everything. Ideas are, at best, a head start. People tend to focus too much on the idea and not the value proposition. Remember, people will always buy a "better" life, you just have to make sure you can give it to them.

He's not even talking about execution. He's referring to understanding customers needs.

Metaphors are easier to come by than good ideas.

Chinese factories and OEMs are great at this soft of things, and they do it in a very simple way. That simple way is rather hard to adopt for companies in the West that are invested in their "core product" even if they have full realization that it is about to die.

Remember things like selfie sticks, electronic cigars, the bloody wifi lightbulbs and kettles, hoverboards, child trackers, consumer grade drones, and tons of other stuff that most people buy without giving any thought to who and how made the original product.

Why fight over chewed-up turf? If you're able, focus on a greenfield hard tech idea well ahead of anyone else.

Because the turf is actually there. Focusing on something well ahead of everybody else will very often lead you nowhere.

There are numerous examples of ideas/business that were based on that ideas that came ahead of their time and lost big.

Only a few people, for example Musk, might be able to bet on some idea and (maybe) win. He might want to fly now to Mars, but this way ahead, we are nowhere of this capability.

Ahead of your time isn't just a problem of tech. Consumers won't buy into a product that they are "not ready for yet". A good example of this is CAS file systems al-la IPFS. The tech has been around for at least 35 years. plan9 had a fully functional CAS file system. But now, IPFS is finally getting traction, mostly because users are comfortable enough now with cloud-like services that they are capable of mentaly dealing with the abstraction.

So focus on something fundamental, that everyone needs, using an approach that's far ahead.

Because you might be able to do a better job (think Google vs Hotbot, Facebook vs MySpace)

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