A picture of me standing at a lectern, working on a laptop computer, on the stage of the FWD50 digital government conference

Hi! I’m Alistair. I write surprisingly useful books, run unexpectedly interesting events, & build things humans need for the future.


  • Four things big innovators do differently

    This originally appeared as a guest post for Geckboard. Large companies all have different strategies and approaches to coming up with what’s new. Some centralize innovation, while others distribute it. Some rely on acquisition, while others prefer to incubate. And some move cautiously, while others cast about wildly for the mythical unicorn that will catapult them into […]

  • Lean UX NYC 2014: Tilting at Windmills

    I gave a short overview of innovation in large companies at the Lean UX New York conference this morning. As I do more of these, I’m starting to realize that the following facts build on one another: Technology is reducing the economic order quantity of things, making the first unit produced cost as little as […]

  • David McRaney on cognitive bias

    I first read David McRaney’s blog a while ago, and found him to be a likeable contrarian, pointing out the silly ways we’re easily led astray. As someone who spends a lot of time telling people to listen to data, it’s clear to me that data alone isn’t the answer: despite the best facts, we’re […]

  • Breather, real estate, and the Innovator’s Dilemma

    As a quick note, I’m going to be conducting a number of these interviews in the coming months. Some of them may find their way into a book as case studies. I’ve already got a few with executives at big companies. But most of them won’t be posted on the blog, and you’ll need to […]

  • One list to rule them all

    Startupfest’s Pamela Perotti asked for my thoughts on this great Forbes piece by Lightspeed’s Barry Eggers about using Big Data to build top ten lists that actually matter. First: it’s an excellent post. You should read it. I’ll wait. Every enterprise decision-maker will soon be running their business according to the lists Barry envisions, as the […]

  • Interrupting gracefully

    As we’ve seen, in an information-rich world, attention is a precious commodity. One reason Google is successful is that it has positioned itself as an exchange between money and attention—more attention gives you a better ranking, which means more money; paid ads buy you more attention. That means that in order to survive, you have to […]

  • The role of big data in enterprise innovation

    I once joked that time is the primary key of the universe. I’ve since stopped thinking that’s a joke. As the world around us becomes increasingly data-driven (something we explored recently at O’Reilly Strata, a conference I help run) the way we make decisions changes at a fundamental level. Rather than framing a question, then […]

  • Most enterprise innovation problems are attention problems

    In 1882, things were pretty simple. If you made a good product, you won. This is before the era of broadcast media, mass production, and even what we think of as advertising today. That year, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “If a man has good corn, or wood, or boards, or pigs to sell, or can […]

  • What Amazon gets about reframing

    Many quickly dismissed Amazon’s drone announcement in late 2013 as a publicity stunt. It coincided with the busiest online shopping day of the year, and redirected much of the negative media attention the company was dealing with. Plus, it just seemed weird. But transformative innovation comes from things that seem weird to begin with. Last […]

  • Launching Tilt the Windmill

    Since the publication of Lean Analytics, I’ve spent a year talking to companies large and small about innovation. For the small ones, it’s relatively easy: they’re chasing a dream, and they don’t have to trade off sustaining the now with inventing the new. They have nothing to lose. All they can do is innovate. To be […]