Fumbling the Future at Xerox PARC

Current PARC campus
There is a wide difference between completing an invention and putting the manufactured article on the market.” — Thomas Alva Edison

In this week’s New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell writes about innovation and how Xerox PARC failed to profit from the many incredible inventions that came out of its lab. (You can read the summary here.)

PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), located on the Stanford University campus, was founded in 1970 as a division of Xerox Corporation. They were an R&D lab that Xerox planned to use to both create new products and augment their current ones. They were tasked with creating “the office of the future.” In the mid-1970s, almost half of the world’s top 100 computer scientists were working at PARC. Within five years of its founding, PARC had developed a wide array of important computer technologies, including the following:

  • Xerox “Alto”– the first personal computer with a mouse and graphical user interface (GUI) that included windows, icons, and pull-down menus.
  • A WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) text editor.
  • Computer generated graphics.
  • An Ethernet local-area-network.
  • Laser printing.

In Everett Roger’s book Diffusion of Innovations, he uses Xerox PARC as a case study in the “commercialization” phase of the innovation-development process. What led the engineers and scientists at PARC to such an amazing track record? Rogers breaks it down as follows: Continue reading “Fumbling the Future at Xerox PARC”

6 Sources for Company Research

I find it useful to know as much as possible about any potential investment, especially if it may become a large position down the road. Why is Company X where it’s at today? Knowing their history, philosophy, and information about current/past management teams can help you solve that question. In turn, it will help when you estimate where they’ll be 10 years from now.

Sometimes I like to take the activist investor approach: For large long-term holdings, you’re ultimate goal should be to know the company better than the management team running it. Nine months ago, there was a story on activist investor Nelson Peltz in Fortune magazine. Commenting on his research methods, the author wrote: “Peltz prides himself on knowing businesses so intimately, from factory floor to supermarket shelf, that he can systematically break down any management’s rationale for mediocre results.”

Below are 6 useful sources for researching individual companies.

Continue reading “6 Sources for Company Research”