Embrace Entrepreneurial Thinking


I recently visited NASA’s Cape Canaveral Kennedy Space Center. It was a fun and educational trip, especially for my daughter.  We spent a lot of time looking at the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit. It also brought back memories. During the launch of Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 in 2003, I was with a bunch of friends driving from Atlanta to Washington DC to attend another friend’s wedding. When we stopped for gas, we saw a video of the shuttle as it caught fire on re-entry killing the entire crew. It was an astonishing moment, truly unfathomable. While we had so much technology, so many safety options, so many fail-safe mechanisms at our disposal, the disaster still occurred.

The space shuttle program worked to build crafts that could be used again and again, so the re-usability was a key point to the program.  According to estimates, it cost one billion dollars each time the shuttle was launched. It made me wonder how much it would cost to build a new shuttle each time. I also thought a lot about how much money has been spent on programs like this. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) had big research budgets and seemed to pay little attention to economic viability of space missions and programs.

I couldn’t stop comparing the shuttle with the Falcon rockets made by Elon Musk’s company SpaceX. The shuttle was made mainly for re-usability, so it could be flown back and forth between earth and space again and again. The Falcon don’t fall into the ocean, instead they land in a controlled fashion, so they can be re-used for subsequent launches.

Image courtesy: SpaceX

When I explained this to my daughter, she asked a clever question: Why was reentry such a big deal for the space shuttle, but Musk’s rockets get back without being burned up? How does he handle reentry? I didn’t have a convincing answer to give her.

It got me thinking, though, about innovation. Some great ideas start when someone decides to take an idea that already exists and add a slight modification or extra capability to it. Often, the end result is hugely beneficial. Perhaps, at times, big corporate thinking creates the overarching idea. However, entrepreneurial thinking brings it to greatness.

Let me share a different analogy: core functionality versus customization. When, in the past, I’ve customized warehouse management software (WMS) for our clients, we tried never to touch the core functionality of the product. Touching the core of the software adds more risk to the implementation and also requires a lot more testing to ensure that you haven’t introduced issues.  We always leverage what was already there and add custom capabilities at the right place, to make changes quickly.

NASA built space shuttles with an idea of re-usability (corporate thinking) but Elon Musk took them to another level (entrepreneurial thinking). Big corporations tend to have big budget to make things happen. They may not focus as much on saving money or getting the most out of the money spent. Sometimes, even after spending a lot of money, they might walk away from a project.  (When I worked at HP, for example, the company launched the Touch-pad after a lot of work but scrapped it and pulled the product out of the market and completely abandoned it.)

Entrepreneurs, though, tend to need to use what’s around. They have to hit at least two or three birds with a single stone. By working on multiple things, if one fails, you still have something left. It’s an entirely different mindset, one that I would argue have a potentially huge impact on the supply chain and technology sectors.

So what type of thinking do you foster in your company? Entrepreneurial or big corporation mindset? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Originally published at Smartgladiator.com on Aug 6, 2018.

Puga Sankara is the co-founder of Smart Gladiator LLC. Smart Gladiator designs, builds, and delivers market-leading mobile technology for retailers, distributors, and 3PL service providers. SG LoadProof is a patent pending Centralized Enterprise Photo/Video Document System on Cloud for Supply Chain. SG LP is built on the fact that photos & videos are vital docs as important as POs/SOs/Legal Contracts/Fulfillment Orders that reside in ERP/WMS/TMS systems, that serve as compelling, conclusive, unequivocal proof of crucial, critical, vital operations executed in Supply Chain within/across orgs when fulfilling customer orders as well as meeting contractual obligations between orgs as merchandise is transferred between different parties that partake in Supply Chain functions & operations. And these photos/videos data should not be stored in someone’s Smartphone or Email Inbox or in their personal/work Computer, but should be stored in a Centralized Enterprise system, where such data can be pushed into super-fast, stored securely, accessible to all stake holders (CFO/Sales Reps/Customer Support/AR/AP) in an org, as well as facilitates super-fast retrieval/sharing. LP is an Enterprise System of record for Photo/Video docs & is as important as an ERP which is an enterprise system of record for POs, SOs, Legal Contracts between parties etc. that have huge legal ramifications, also as important as a WMS (Warehouse Management System) that hold indispensable shipment & fulfillment data on orders. Like how Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat etc. have evolved into social media platforms/systems that enable individuals to showcase their beauty/pretty clothes/lovely cosmetics/hep coolness etc., LoadProof is an Enterprise system that holds similar photos/videos, but for a different reason, not for show off, but to serve as compelling, conclusive, unequivocal & indisputable system of record and proof that can be presented even in the court of law, when there is a dispute between parties while they execute many facets of the Supply Chain functions & operations. Puga is a supply chain technology professional with more than 25 years of experience in deploying capabilities in the logistics and supply chain domain. His prior roles involved managing complicated mission-critical programs driving revenue numbers, rolling out a multitude of capabilities involving more than a dozen systems, and managing a team of 30 to 50 personnel across multiple disciplines and departments in large corporations such as Hewlett Packard. He has deployed WMS for more than 30 distribution centers in his role as a senior manager with Manhattan Associates. He has also performed process analysis walk-throughs for more than 50 distribution centers for WMS process design and performance analysis review, optimizing processes for better productivity and visibility through the supply chain. Size of these DCs varied from 150,000 to 1.2 million SQFT. Puga Sankara has an MBA from Georgia Tech. He can be reached at [email protected] or visit the company at www.smartgladiator.com. Also follow him at www.pugasankara.com.