I have been a member of the ACM since 1994. I enjoy reading Communications of the ACM and Queue. I find that they help my peripheral vision–as Steven Wright once joked, “I am a peripheral visionary, I can see the future but it’s way off to one side–for technical developments that, although they arise in technical domains that I am not actively following, may have applicability to the technology areas that our firm focuses on. The QueueNews and TechNews article roundups in my inbox: they do a good job of scanning the horizon and pointing out a number of interesting developments. It’s a kind of Science News (another good publication) that’s focused on software and computing.
I think cultivating peripheral vision is increasingly important for startups. A serious competitor is more likely to blindside you if they don’t come directly from the same technology sources and cultures that you are drawing from, but can solve the same problem. They may offer slightly different benefits, but you are more likely to be surprised by a competitor who “cuts their teeth” on a distant but related problem. The flip side is also true. You may be more successful if you can offer a novel application of a proven technology, provided you can find some early customers to help get you oriented to the new problem area. This is one of the rules of thumb for innovation–this one is taken from the “Innovator’s Dilemma“–that I will be cover in my “Crucial Marketing Concepts for Technology Introduction” this Wednesday, November 14 at the SF BAY ACM meeting (there is no charge for the event and it’s only $10 to join SF Bay ACM for a year).