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The New Polymath: Profiles in Compound-Technology Innovations


Praise for The New Polymath

"Bravo! In a work that's fresh and inviting, Mirchandani shares with us his case studies in innovation and creativity. It's no small irony that the 'IT revolution' has created a technology industry that all too easily falls back on bromides and received wisdom. Mirchandani inspires us to return to IT's roots, with the transformative power that comes from putting technology innovation in service to business and society."
Benjamin Fried, CIO, Google, ...

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Praise for The New Polymath

"Bravo! In a work that's fresh and inviting, Mirchandani shares with us his case studies in innovation and creativity. It's no small irony that the 'IT revolution' has created a technology industry that all too easily falls back on bromides and received wisdom. Mirchandani inspires us to return to IT's roots, with the transformative power that comes from putting technology innovation in service to business and society."
Benjamin Fried, CIO, Google, Inc.

"At DeVry Education, we are focused on the next generation workforce that will build the Polymath enterprises of tomorrow. So, it's good to see the book touch on such a wide range of technologies—from cloud computing to emerging medicine—that are shaping our curriculum. We are always looking for innovation, including online classes and instructional labs, and this book has got us thinking in new directions."
Daniel Hamburger, President and CEO, DeVry Inc.

"In this fascinating book, Mirchandani, himself an example of the new breed of Polymaths that he defines, brings into a sharp focus exactly what has been achieved by those who have the remarkable ability to combine and mix technology elements. An excellent read on multiple levels: to learn from; to be entertained by; and most of all, to leave you wondering what you could personally achieve."
Andy Mulholland, Global Chief Technology Officer, Capgemini

"A brilliant read. In order for individuals and companies to fully maximize new century opportunities—and stay abreast of a constantly morphing technological frontier—Mirchandani not only gives examples of the Polymath framework, but concrete evidence for successful leveraging. Thanks to technology, we can all be Polymaths if we open our minds to the possibilities. Consider this book your guide—I think da Vinci would be proud."
Linda Avey, cofounder, 23andMe

"Mirchandani is one of the few technology analysts to realize that technology doesn't come in neat bundles anymore, if it ever did. His stories and lessons cut across infotech, biotech, greentech, and mathtech. If you want to be a Polymath innovator, this is your bible!"
Thomas H. Davenport, President's Distinguished Professor of IT and Management, Babson College; coauthor of Analytics at Work: Smarter Decisions, Better Results

"In today's world, innovation distinguishes great companies from good ones. Mirchandani highlights the importance of technology in such innovation and, specific to IT, counsels about being a full partner of the business and being open to the best ideas from other industries and geographies. The book is full of examples on how to accomplish this and should be required reading for all IT professionals and students."
Caroline Watteeuw, Global CTO and SVP, Business Information Solutions, PepsiCo, Inc.

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  • Vinnie Mirchandani
    Vinnie Mirchandani  

Product Details

Meet the Author

Vinnie Mirchandani, who goes by the moniker of "Deal Architect," coaches enterprises on how to exploit disruptive technology trends. His firm has been recognized in The Black Book of Outsourcing as a top advisory boutique. He is also a prolific blogger, writing about technology-enabled innovation on his "New Florence, New Renaissance" blog and about waste in technology on his "Deal Architect" blog. Earlier in his career, he was a respected analyst at Gartner, the technology research firm, and handled numerous international assignments at PwC Consulting. He has keynoted at many business and technology conferences and has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, The Financial Times, CIO Magazine, and other executive and technology publications.

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Table of Contents



Invoking the Spirit of the Renaissance.

Flow of the Book.

What Got Left Out?


Prologue: The Field of Polymath Dreams.


CHAPTER 1 The New Polymath: In an Age of "Wicked Problems" and Technology Abundance.

The Modern-Day Technology Polymath.

Our "Grand Challenges".

An Extinct Species in Our Complex World?

Leonardo 2.0.

Don’t Forget Michelangelo, Raphael, and . . .

"Spray Painters" in the New Renaissance.

Less Visible Signs of Our New Renaissance.


CHAPTER 2 Modern-Day Dark Ages: So Much Stagnation.

"Empty Calories" in Infotech.

Lack of Agreement around Cleantech.

Inconsistent Coverage in Healthtech.

Turning the Tide.


CHAPTER 3 Polymath Profile #1: General Electric.

GE Global Research.

Corporate IT.

R&D at a Business Unit.

Business Unit IT.



CHAPTER 4 Residence: Better Technologically Equipped Than the Office.

Southwest Airlines and Consumerization.

Apple and Consumerization.

Rise of the Tech-Savvy Consumer.

Consumerization Impact—Not Just on the High-Tech Industry.

Wait until You See the Next-Generation Consumer.

Technology, Finally, Can Be about Revenue Generation.

Technology as a Competitive Advantage or Disadvantage.

Consumer Sourcing.

Consumer Technology Economics Are Not Just for Consumers.

If You Embed Technology into Your Products, Think Like a Technology Company.

Your Employees Are Tech-Savvy Consumers at Home.

Tech-Savvy Consumer = Smartass Consumer?


CHAPTER 5 Exotics: Innovation from Left Field.

Women in Technology.

Turn Your Internal Technology into an Asset.

Innovation from Back-Office Processes Like Human Resources.

Innovation from "Game Scores".

Innovation from "Unconsolidating" Vendor Bases.

Business Model Innovation: Demarketing Your Core Product.

Business Model Innovation: "Make It Up in Years".

Business Model Innovation: Beyond "Freemium".

The Silicon Valley Model: Move West, Young Man.

"Trickle-Up" Innovation.

Don’t Forget Your Backyard.

Beyond BRICK.


CHAPTER 6 Polymath Profile #2: Cognizant.

The Early Years.

The Structure for Growth.

The Future "Future of Work".


CHAPTER 7 Networks: Bluetooth to Broadband.

Alexander Bell Is Looking Down in Awe.

Bell Is Also Looking Down in Consternation.

Reinventing the Traditional Telco.

Who Is Willing to Wait for Telcos to Morph Themselves?

Global Telecom Race.

Innovating the Telecom Supply Chain.


CHAPTER 8 Polymath Profile #3: Plantronics.

Five Decades of Telecommunications.

Consumerization Effect.

Pushing Form/Function Boundaries.


CHAPTER 9 Arsonists: And Other Disruptors.

Myth of Moore’s Law.

Learning from the Automobile Service Model MAXroam: Disrupting the International Mobile Roaming Market.

Zoho: Disrupting the Microsoft Office Market.

Cartridge World: Disrupting the Printer Ink Market.

Rimini Street: Disrupting Enterprise Software Maintenance Markets.

ZDNet Blogs: Disrupting the Technology "Influencer" Market.

Agresso: Easing Disruptions at Its Customers.

HP and Cisco: Disrupting Each Other’s Markets.

When Disruptors Get Disrupted: The Pharmaceuticals Example.

SAP: Trying to Disrupt the Database Market.

Verizon: Disrupting Cable and Other Telcos.


CHAPTER 10 Polymath Profile #4: W. R. Hambrecht.

United Football League.

The Hambrecht OpenIPO Process.


CHAPTER 11 Interfaces: For All Our Senses.

The BMW iDrive.

Microsoft Surface Computer.

The Sonos Controller.

The Tablet PC.

Adobe Flash.

Scanners and Bar Codes.

Digitized Information at Source.

Wearable Computers.

The CNN "Magic Wall".


Voice Recognition.

Digital Smelling and Tasting.

The Brain–Machine Interface.

Unicode and Exotic Scripts.


CHAPTER 12 Sustainability: Delivering to Both the Green and Gold Agendas.

Sustainability and Innovation in Public Policy.

Sustainability and Energy Frugality.

Sustainability and Innovation in Supply Chains.

Sustainability and Innovation in Keeping Score.

Sustainability and Innovation in Education.


CHAPTER 13 Polymath Profile #5: Kleiner Perkins Cleantech.

The Cleantech Market Opportunity.

Portfolio Company: Luca Technologies.

Portfolio Company: Silver Spring Networks.

Portfolio Company: Bloom Energy.

The Shifting Sands.


CHAPTER 14 Singularity: Human–Machine Convergence.

State of Medical Technology.

Internet of Humans and Things.

Medical Cities and High-Tech Villages.

Heartwarming Robots and Heartbreaking Autism.

Personalized Medicine and Personalized Doses.

The Tiny and the Giant: Nanotech and Sensory Databases.


CHAPTER 15 Analytics: Spreadsheets, Search, and Semantics.

The Black Swan Is Not That Rare.

It’s the Age of "Big Data".

Deemphasize Slice and Dice, Reemphasize Decisions.

We Still Have Plenty of Small Data.

Don’t Ignore Unstructured Data.

And Then There Is Web and Social Data.

This Much Data Equals Better Visualization Tools.

This Much Data Equals Massive Storage Requirements.

This Much Data Equals Predictive Powers.


CHAPTER 16 Polymath Profile #6: National Hurricane Center.

Data Sources and Models.

Data Products.

Continuous Improvement.


CHAPTER 17 Networks Again: Communities, Crowds, Contracts, and Collaboration.

Aren’t Communities a Relic from Communism?

Enter Social Customer Relationship Management.

"Ding-Dong, It’s the Avon Lady".

Starbucks’ Pledge 5.

First Generation of "True Customer Interaction" Applications.

You Call This a Light Application?

Nobody Ever Accused SAP of Being a Light Application.

"Genomes" of Communities and Crowds.

We Are Supposed to Rely on Love and Glory in Our Talent?

Then There Are Contracted Crowds, Better Known as Outsourcing.

It’s a Plane, It’s a Bird . . . It’s an Outsourcer?

What’s Accenture Doing with Lego?

Employees Are Still a Major Talent Category.

How Do All These Talent Pools Collaborate?

But . . . Collaboration Is Mostly Unstructured!


CHAPTER 18 Clouds: Technology-as-a-Service.

Microsoft’s Cloud Infrastructure.

DeVry in the Cloud.

NetSuite’s Macro View from the Clouds.

Bessemer’s Investments in the Cloud.

Appirio: Clouds for Clients and for Itself.

PaaS, as in Leapfrog.

Schumacher Group and the Network Effect.

Private versus Public Clouds.

Altimeter Group: Born in the Cloud.


CHAPTER 19 Polymath Profile #7:

Democracy in Action.

Transparency as Market Advantage.

Religious Wars.


CHAPTER 20 Ethics: In an Age of Cyberwar and Cloning.

Discussion 1: Florida and Biofuels.

Herman Tavani: Ethical Computing.

Discussion 2: GPS and Routing Traffic through Family Neighborhoods.

Gregory Call: The Law and Technology Spawned Ethical Issues.

Discussion 3: Neelie Kroes, Former EU Commissioner for Competition.

Governments and Our "Wicked Problems".

Discussion 4: Google’s Ethics.

Professor Batya Friedman: Value Sensitive Design.

Discussion 5: Environmental Trade-offs.

Erik Keller: Technology Can Learn from Horticulture.

Discussion 6: Isaac Asimov and Rules for Robots.

Troy Angrignon: Learning from Hari Seldon.

Discussion 7: Genetic Markers and Prophylactic Treatments.

Technology and Work/Life Balance.

Discussion 8: The "Patently Absurd" Patent System.

Brian Sommer: Where Are the 10 Commandments of Technology?



CHAPTER 21 Polymath Profile #8: BP CTO.

CTO "Toolkit".

CTO Philosophy.

CTO Team.

The "Ecosystem".


CHAPTER 22 Moon Shots for Budding Polymaths.

Michelangelo: Stretch the Stretch Goals.

Leonardo: Live by the Ethos of "And" Not "Or".

Plato: Think Big, Act Small.

Hypatia: Explore Exotic.

Shen Kuo: Exploit the Power of N.

Thomas Jefferson: Hone Your Serendipity "Sensors".

Benjamin Franklin: Benchmark Often and Wide.

Isaac Newton: Leapfrog—Build on Baselines.

Nasir al-Din al-Tusi: Stay Humble.

Aristotle: Embed Ethics in Innovation Plans.

And the Sidebar Conversations.

Epilogue: The Beginner’s Mind.


About the Author.


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