Alan Turing, aged 16

Long before I realize that I was queer, Alan Turing was my hero. Turing is known today as a larger-than-life figure who fought Nazis with his brain.

He was instrumental in breaking the “unbreakable” cypher of the German Enigma Machine for the British and thus played a decisive role in Allied victory in World War II. He was also one of the founding figures of computer science; He, along with Alonzo Church provided the theoretical foundation for computation that underlies every digital computer that exists today.

The story I didn’t learn until later was that Alan Turing was gay, and…

The Boxers, 1818, by Théodore Gericault, Metropolitan Museum of Art

High team performance is often described in terms of harmony — everyone pulling together. But in the workplace, this kind of harmony isn’t always healthy, and can be a sign of deeper problems. On innovation teams, high performance is defined not by harmony, but by its opposite: conflict; more specifically, high-performance in creative teams is defined by positive, healthy conflict.

By understanding how to foster and derive value from positive conflict, team leaders and members can create the foundation needed to solve hard problems, define their values, and create a sense of collective identity.

a true story of positive conflict, delayed

“We can’t let this fly. We…

Circus performers executing their art, circa 1890, Library of Congress

When I ask what innovation is, I often hear the term “invention.” Sometimes I hear “design.” Almost never do I hear “execution.” And yet, without execution there is no product, no service, no impact. Overvaluing invention and undervaluing execution leads to poor resource allocation and underperformance in most innovation-focused organizations.

innovation is not driven by invention

The primacy of invention to successful innovation is a myth, as I’ve explored elsewhere in my writing. That is not because invention is unimportant — it is a critical step. But actual invention precedes high-impact innovation by years or decades, if not centuries. Rarely are the inventor and the successful…

Almost a decade ago, a mentor at Apple drew this chart on a whiteboard: A time axis at the bottom, and two crossing curves. The blue exponentially decaying curve is the influence of decisions in product development. The green exponentially rising curve is the cost of the project, and also the proportional cost of any intervention or fix.

a chart showing two crossing curves vs time: exponentially decaying influence over outcomes, exponentially rising costs
a chart showing two crossing curves vs time: exponentially decaying influence over outcomes, exponentially rising costs
why you need to fix your sh*% now

It’s so simple, right? Things start out cheap, then quickly get more expensive. You have maximum ability to affect the outcome at the beginning, which declines quickly as you make decisions and close down optionality.

Trying to fix a product two days…

When doing innovation, don’t stack moonshots. It’s hard enough to get a single-stage rocket off the ground.

SpaceX Jason 3, CC license, SpaceX Photos

Time and again, I’ve worked with brilliant people who have lots of great, innovative ideas. Great ideas that are synergistic, that could work beautifully together. And they want to stack them all in one project, like the stages of a rocket. This is bad.

Like when the pioneers of Google Glass weren’t content to create a radical new consumer electronics product category and reinvent human-machine interaction in the mobile space. They also wanted to reinvent manufacturing and product retail at the same time…

a proposal for the creation of a locally-issued, UBI-supporting currency to build a more robust and humane economy

Local currencies from the past and the symbol of the Local UBI Dollar
Local currencies from the past and the symbol of the Local UBI Dollar


So, I’m here to talk about money. Specifically, I’m here to tell you about a new kind of money, a locally issued UBI currency I call the LUD, and the ways in which this new kind of money could make for a stronger, better, more humane economy. Along the way, I’ll also talk about universal basic income and some ideas from modern monetary theory, but this is not the best place to learn about those concepts — see the references section at the end to learn more.

By the end of this article, I hope to convince you that while…

A video deepfake substituting the face of Nicolas Cage on the face of Amy Adams (image: wikimedia)

I was there, in the building, when the modern machine learning revolution got started at Google in 2011; It was called Project Brain, and it started at Google [X]. I’d like to tell you that I immediately knew that it would change everything, but that took several months. …

This essay is part of the “Managing Innovation” essay series that starts with “Innovation isn’t what you think it is.”

For years, my Alphabet business card said “Director of Rapid Evaluation and Mad Science.” With my name on over 70 issued US patents and titles like Engineering Director and CTO under my belt, you might expect that I would center my “bubbling test tube and sparking Jacob’s ladder” inventive contributions to the innovation process. I don’t. In fact, I credit my skills as a designer — communications design, product design, solutions design — as among my greatest strengths as an…

This essay is part of the “Managing Innovation” essay series that starts with “Innovation isn’t what you think it is.” A previous version of this essay was published with the title “The Seven Perils of Innovation.”


I’m no stranger to success and failure. I’ve turned a crazy idea and a scrappy team into billions of dollars in enterprise value at Google [X]. As a startup CEO I had to look my friends in the eye as I laid them off because I couldn’t close the financing. I’ve had titles that include CEO, CTO, and Engineering Director. I know what its…

Second in the “Managing Innovation” essay series

This essay is the second in a series of essays inspired by two decades of experience as an innovation professional, spanning domains from academic to corporate, technical subject areas ranging from consumer electronics to high altitude ballooning, and organizational structures from small teams and startups to fortune 100 companies. I’ve had successes and failures, launched and killed projects and companies. I’ve had the privilege of working with amazing teams, colleagues, and mentors. As a consequence of all of this I’ve learned a lot. In this essay series I explore innovation leadership and innovation culture from the perspective of in-the-trenches lived…

Richard W. DeVaul

Founder, mad scientist, moonshot launcher. Writes on innovation, entrepreneurship, and social/queer issues. ex-CTO of Google X. @rdevaul on twitter

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