An extremely simple and effective, though controversial tool, to help maintain standards at the high school level, in several developed countries like the United Kingdom and the United States, is the school league table (or its equivalent). It is a simple form of information liberalization, which puts data about academic standards of schools directly into the hands of parents, to help them make more informed decisions about which school to admit their wards. This feedback loop also compels schools to motivate their teachers to improve teaching and assessment standards.

While an official aggregation or tabulation is generally unavailable for Indian schools, here is the tabulation for over 16000 schools in India affiliated to the CBSE, CISCE and  the Rajasthan State Board. Among other things, an analysis of this data points to an extremely unreliable assessment system, with little repeat-ability or reliability, and a blatant misreporting and inflation of scores.

In 1979, before a single IBM PC was ever sold, or the first cell phone network was created, or the digital HDTV standard was even conceived, Harvard sociologist Daniel Bell had no trouble foreseeing the convergence of computers, TV, and telephones into a single system that would allow the transmission of data and the interaction of people and computers in real time. In an HBR article that year entitled “Communications Technology—for Better or for Worse,” he easily envisioned a world in which people would buy cars online, or share them to commute rather than own their own; read the news, get the weather, check the classifieds, peruse catalogs, and access financial information on their TV screens; and work together from remote locations over digital connections.

A visionary thinker, Bell had already coined the term “the post-industrial society” a half-dozen years before in a famously influential book, which correctly predicted that such a convergence would shift the economies of developed nations from manufacturing to services and create new technical elites working for new science-based industries.

That wasn’t as magical as it might seem, he argued in the 1979 piece, since the required technologies already existed in some form or other. The question was not whether they’d be combined but in what order, at what rate, and at what scale.

via What We Know, Now, About the Internet’s Disruptive Power – HBR.

Before you fling your minimal viable product out into the world to see what happens, at the very least make sure you have done the following:

Identify offerings comparable to what you envision that have struggled commercially and find out why. Perhaps you’re about to make the same mistake.

Consider why it is that the large companies that could have gone into the space you’re contemplating haven’t. Is it possible they know something you don’t?

Talk to someone who knows more than you do about the key part of your business, such as your target customer, distribution channel, or business model. Are there hidden risks?

Document, with a degree of detail, a single transaction. Who is your first customer? How will he hear about your idea? How will she obtain it? How will you support him if he’s not happy?

Devour publicly available financial statements for companies competing in markets related to yours. How do people make money? What big investments are typically required? Are you missing an important ingredient that is necessary to compete? Are you underestimating what it will take to get to market?

Create a hypothesis for how you will make money, and describe it to a savvy friend. Ask that friend to poke holes in it.

via When It Comes to Digital Innovation, Less Action, More Thought – HBR.

The billion-dollar tech startup was supposed to be the stuff of myth. Now they seem to be … everywhere.

Stewart Butterfield had one objective when he set out to raise money for his startup last fall: a billion dollars or nothing. If he couldn’t reach a $1 billion valuation for Slack, his San Francisco business software company, he wouldn’t bother. Slack was hardly starving for cash. It was a rocket ship, with thousands of people signing up for its workplace collaboration tools each week. What Slack needed, Butterfield believed, was the cachet of the billion-dollar mark.

“Yes, it’s arbitrary because it’s a big round number,” says Butterfield, 41. “It does make a difference psychologically. One billion is better than $800 million because it’s the psychological threshold for potential customers, employees, and the press.”

via The Age of Unicorns – Fortune.

Microsoft has just revealed its next great innovation: Windows Holographic. It’s an augmented reality experience that employs a headset, much like all the VR goggles that are currently rising in popularity, but Microsoft’s solution adds holograms to the world around you. The HoloLens headset is described as “the most advanced holographic computer the world has ever seen.” It’s a self-contained computer, including a CPU, a GPU, and a dedicated holographic processor. The dark visor up front contains a see-through display, there’s spatial sound so you can “hear” holograms behind you, and HoloLens also integrates a set of motion and environmental sensors.

via Microsoft announces Windows Holographic with HoloLens headset | The Verge.

Ian Hathaway and Robert Litan

Startups are a good thing, whether they are small businesses that help people move up the opportunity ladder or the sort intended to become the next Airbnb or Uber or Google.  The latter, high-impact startups, are especially important for making the US economy as productive and innovative as possible. But the US would seem to have a startup problem. As researchers Ian Hathaway and Robert Litan  write in their 2014 paper,  “Declining Business Dynamism in the United States“: “… the firm entry rate—or firms less than one year old as a share of all firms—fell by nearly half in the thirty-plus years between 1978 and 2011.”

via Is America’s entrepreneurial engine roaring or sputtering? – AEI.

GM today unveiled an all-electric concept car, called the Bolt, which it says will have a 200-mile range. That’s comparable to the range of Tesla’s electric luxury cars, but the Bolt will cost around $30,000 (while a Tesla will sell for between $70,000 and $94,000).

The Bolt, a compact hatchback, will be launched in 2017, GM says, making it a competitor to a mid-priced, mass market car that Tesla is working on. Electric cars could be a lot more attractive to consumers if they could travel as far as gasoline vehicles can travel between refueling.

GM would not discuss anything about the battery design or chemistry that would allow the Bolt to reach a 200-mile range. Success will mean either developing an entirely new battery technology, or—more likely—greatly lowering the cost of lithium-ion batteries. LG Chem, which supplies lithium-ion batteries for GM’s existing electric-gas hybrid car, the Volt, has previously announced that it plans to supply batteries for cars with a 200-mile range.

via After the Volt, How Will GM Deliver a 200-Mile Bolt? | MIT Technology Review.