Radar. The word conjures up images of colossal metal dishes pointed toward impending danger. Anupam Nayak, SF ’10, is out to replace that old black and white picture we now have imprinted on our brains with images of fuzzy slippers and warm blankets. She and Lucas van Ewijk, former head of the radar department at TNO, the leading Dutch research institute, and a small group of entrepreneurs have decided it’s time to free radar from its confined military identity. Radar is a powerful, versatile tool, they believe, and can be a crucial game changer in other realms. Healthcare, for example.
“We realized we could install a radar device the size of a business card in a patient’s room—either at home or in the hospital—to monitor respiration and other vital signs,” Nayak says. The idea of continuous patient monitoring blossomed into the startup Applied Radar Technology, which successfully navigated three years of regulatory trials before attracting the attention of the marketplace. She and van Ewijk decided to set up a new entity, VDisha, that can truly expand radar research and commercialization into the healthcare realm. In collaboration with government-funded radar research groups in the Netherlands, their aim is to expand VDisha into a multi-million dollar international initiative, bringing in partners from research groups around the world.
When it comes to approaching African leadership challenges, Yaya Moussa, SF ’10, believes the focus should be through a wide-angle lens. The leaders of individual African nations, he says, must think continent-wide and must collaborate with and leverage the strengths of neighbors.
A native of Cameroon now based in the U.S. after two decades in Europe, Moussa is CEO of Kontinent, an investment company that specializes in African extractive resources. His global resume has given him a multicultural perspective when it comes to finding solutions, and he brings that perspective to the problems of Africa.
“If African countries are to survive and compete in the global arena,” Moussa says, “their leaders must transcend narrow nationalism and think of the continent as a whole. Raising that awareness is of survival-level urgency. African countries need to collectively build a critical mass to have some weight on the global stage. A divided Africa is a weak Africa, an Africa with no future.”
Many of the crises facing countries across the continent, he notes, are first and foremost leadership crises—lack of vision, concerns about legitimacy, and misalignment of interests between leaders and their people. “Those deficiencies are only compounded by the sense of exclusion and by the enduring injustice felt by large chunks of the population—the root cause of political, social, and military unrest.”
Execute, execute, execute. Managers in large organizations are promoted for their ability to execute, which is useful when scaling up a successful business model. The execution mindset becomes an obstacle, however, when firms need to pivot to a new model. The search for insight, says Duncan Simester, NTU Professor of Marketing at MIT Sloan, starts in the weeds.
“Although strategy asks big questions,” Simester believes, “the answers can be found by focusing on specific problems and concrete examples.” He uses the oil-drilling business to illustrate his point. In the past, it was common practice for a company to purchase rights to an oil field and start drilling multiple wells. The dilemma: drilling is costly and only one in a dozen or so wells will yield oil under that scenario. The more strategic oil companies are now thinking harder about where to drill before they begin—a practice that is bringing them closer to their goal of finding oil in half their wells.