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

introduction

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.”

introduction

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…


First in the “Managing Innovation” essay series

This essay is one 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 experience…


Wildfire in Montanna, image by John McColgan

Introduction

I’ve been a California resident since January of 2010. In that relatively short time I’ve seen first-hand the effects of a changing climate on life in the San Francisco Bay Area. When I arrived in 2010, winters were still the foggy season, the Sierras regularly had a snow pack through the spring and early summer, and wildfire was limited to a summer-autumn season. Now, droughts are the norm and the fire-season doesn’t really end in California.

There are many things we need to do collectively in response to the changing climate, including improved forest management and reconsidering the relationship between…


In this post I want to do three things: First, I want to come out as a recovering racist and misogynist. Second, I want to put that in the context of my world growing up. Third, I want you to consider the ways in which you may have internalized the privileges and biases of your upbringing. Why is that important? Because I spent my entire life thinking of myself as a progressive, voted for our first black president, and until very recently didn’t reflect on just how much my world view was shaped by the society of my childhood, including…

Richard W. DeVaul

Founder of @hypersolve, co-founder of Project Loon. Formerly leader of early-stage innovation activities at X, the Moonshot Factory.

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