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Picks of the Week: Aug. 21-27

This week was all about disruptive innovation. Fittingly, we’re taking a bit of a different approach with our picks of week. Bear with me please, it's a long one. But I hope it's worth it.

First we'll take a look at Google, the Internet giant that may stumble at times, but continues to innovate and change the way we live and work. On the flip side, we'll examine what — if anything — may force Google to fight to retain its position as the go-to place for information. We'll also look at disruption in the publishing industry in the wake of an announcement from Seth Godin. Lastly, we'll step inside the office where managers responsible for running successful businesses and overseeing employees need to think about how disruptive innovation affects day-to-day operations.

Google: Ruler of the Web

Several announcements from Google this week showed that although at times the company’s initiatives may not go as planned, its willingness to dare to fail continues to bring new innovation that rocks not only the search market, but web-based technology as a whole.

Alexia Tsotsis confirmed that Google is testing functionality that updates search results as you type, taking its predictive text one step further. The article includes a video showing the functionality, which depending upon your outlook is either quite efficient/nifty or a little creepy. Or both. Since Google is regularly testing “between 50-200 search experiments,” it’s hard to say if and when searchers will see this on their own screen, but it is certainly a testament to the speed and power of the search engine’s algorithm and server support.

Another innovation is Google Real-Time Search. This article by Kipp Bodnar shares details about this feature, and what it means for marketers looking to “get found” on the web. It also includes a video from a Google product manager and software engineer discussing both how to use real-time search, as well as some features, including the ability to upgrade Google alerts to real-time updates and view trend data on specific keywords over time.

Though the Google Real-time homepage mentioned in the video (Google.com/realtime) is not operating at time of publishing, you can test it out here.

And, as if that weren’t enough for one week, Google also rolled out Voice Calls from Gmail, a service that David Pogue is dubbing as one step closer to “the Internet-as-phone-company paradise that almost certainly awaits us.” With Voice Calls from Gmail, anyone with a Gmail account can download a plug-in that allows him or her to make free calls within the US and Canada from computer to phone (and for minimal per-minute fees if calling internationally).

Says David, “One day, the Internet, not the outrageous cellphone companies, will connect our calls… What if Google released an app like [the Voice Calls plug-in] for Android phones, or the iPhone?... It would completely change the game.”

Can Anyone Challenge Google?

According to Alex Rampell, “there are two things for Google to worry about: Vertical Search and Intent Generation.”

Because Google has already built a search engine that displays accurate results quickly, and has gained enough trust from users to secure more than 80% of the market share, it’s virtually impossible for others — yes, Even Bing — to win in this area. Therefore, to stay on top, Google must keep disruptive innovation from the outside in mind.

Vertical search, says Alex, is one place where this is already beginning to happen with sites such as Etsy (for handmade goods), OpenTable (for restaurants) and Amazon (for ecommerce transactions).

The other area for Google to keep an eye on is, according to Alex, “perhaps the more dangerous, because it is stealing purchases from Google’s clutches – bypassing any kind of search.” Dubbed intent generation, this looks at things like Groupon (which pushes out local offers before people look for them) and Facebook (along with its implications in social ads and recommendations).

A Peek at Publishing

Earlier this week, Seth Godin announced that his most recent book is the last he’ll publish “in a traditional way.”

Not surprisingly, the announcement spurred conversation that publishing is dead. Shiv Singh, for one, pondered what happens to an industry when one of its most successful abandons ship to go it alone. Because Seth has an established brand, understands his audience and can likely make just as much money (if not more) on his own, it’s likely he’ll succeed in the endeavor.

Digging deeper into the monetary aspect, Tim Ferriss examined just how much authors make in royalties on book sales, and found that Godin is likely poised to see greater ROI through self-publishing online. Whether or not an unknown author would have the same ability to make money through self-publishing is another debate. However, the fact of the matter is that just as musicians have tested album releases sans record companies, this trend is creeping into the book industry.

The Death of... Mangement?

While we're on the subject of the death of things: Alan Murray authored an excellent article for the Wall Street Journal this week, The End of Management.

Citing The Innovator’s Dilemma, this article examines how, according to Alan, “market-leading companies have missed game-changing transformations in industry after industry — computers (mainframes to PCs), telephony (landline to mobile), photography (film to digital), stock markets (floor to online) — not because of ‘bad’ management, but because they followed the dictates of ‘good’ management. They listened closely to their customers. They carefully studied market trends. They allocated capital to the innovations that promised the largest returns. And, in the process, they missed disruptive innovations that opened up new customers and markets for lower-margin, blockbuster products.”

So, how can today’s managers stay poised in the volatile conditions? Take some advice from Google — take chances and dare to fail. Alan posits that in order for a business to succeed long-term, it will “have to be more like the marketplace, and less like corporations of the past. It will need to be flexible, agile, able to quickly adjust to market developments, and ruthless in reallocating resources to new opportunities.”

One potentially dramatic shift that must occur in order for this to happen is that managers must instill in employees an entrepreneurial spirit of creativity and innovation.

But that’s not all. In addition to “loosening the leash,” managers have to prepare for a workforce with drastically different communication, and even cultural, norms. For example, Dan Frommer reported this week that according to Nielsen research, Americans under the age of 18 text message every 10 minutes when they’re awake.

Pair this with last week’s Mindset List from Beloit College, which as reported by Nick Bilton shows that “the class of 2014 has never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day” and rarely use email because it is too slow, and we can begin to realize that we are now only at the very beginning of a dramatic shift in how technology is changing the way we do business.

So, in the words of double rainbow guy, what does this mean? There is no business-as-usual anymore. If you find yourself getting comfortable, it’s time to start thinking about what comes next. Or, as our friend Dharmesh Shah tweeted not long ago, “Don't think it impossible for a competitor to do what you are doing. Think it inevitable and plan accordingly.”

How are you planning for disruptive innovation in your industry, or being the disruptive innovator yourself?

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