Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Understanding future conditions is vital to create innovative solutions

I'm just wrapping up another project that's focused on trend spotting and scenario planning, working to help a client company understand the emerging competitive conditions their business will face in the next 5-7 years.

While foresighting, trend spotting and scenario planning are exceptionally valuable, many innovation projects simply ignore the benefits they can receive from doing this work.  Instead innovators plunge in to create the products and services they believe customers need.  This approach is why so many innovation projects fail to deliver value - no matter how compelling the innovative product you create is, if the circumstances or environmental conditions change, consumers and their needs will change as well.  To create a really compelling product or service, you need to be able to understand or predict the future conditions and tailor your innovation to those conditions.

Why understanding the future is so important

Many potential customers tell me they'd like to understand the future - in fact they'd pay good money for a forecast that is highly probable.  However they don't believe they are good at predicting what might happen and therefore don't spend time trying, or worse they simply assume the future will be an awful lot similar to current conditions.  They are often shocked when we demonstrate how rapidly customers, technologies, needs and conditions are changing.

Of course it's possible to create a compelling product or service and have it well-received in the market without doing foresighting or scenario planning, it's just much more likely that you'll miss evolving needs or opportunities and the product you create will fall flat.  If we accept that people acquire goods and services to fulfill "jobs to be done" or to satisfy needs, then we must also accept that jobs and needs are fungible and change over time, and that new entrants and new substitutes arise all the time.  Ignoring future conditions that will shape needs, wants and especially ability to pay is a recipe for disaster.

Insightful yet inexpensive

Further, foresighting and trend spotting when done correctly creates an opportunity to gather insights on what might happen and how the company should be prepared to act.  Foresighting is valuable to understand emerging needs, but also useful to understand emerging threats and opportunities.  Doing this work is relatively simple with good participation and facilitation, and creates insights that shape your innovation activities.  It is powerful and insightful, while also being a relatively inexpensive investment.

Its importance and value are increasing

Foresighting and trend spotting are becoming ever more important, as the nature of change is changing and the rate of change is increasing.  Digital transformation will create disruptive change in many companies and will create new types of demand.  New generations of consumers are emerging with different concepts about acquisition and ownership.  Understanding the evolving future and identifying emerging needs before or as they happen is more important than getting a new feature on an existing product which may be obsolete or unnecessary by the time you get the new feature installed.

Practicing the Future

Instead of wandering blindly into the emerging future, you should be practicing it regularly.  Conducting trend spotting and scenario planning activities won't guarantee a perfect understanding of the future, but can give you good insights into emerging market conditions and the potential for new segments, new customers and importantly new threats or competitors.  Having seen how things may unfold will prepare you to put new capabilities in place and to anticipate when the tipping point arrives.

If you want to understand how to do this work well, or need help doing a foresighting or scenario planning activity, contact us.  We have tremendous experience doing this work and identifying the emerging opportunities that will shape future innovation.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 10:08 AM 0 comments

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Digital Innovation meets As a service

For a while now I've been considering the impact of all the emerging digital transformation tools on innovation.  Artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT, blockchain and a host of other technologies will have a bit impact on how corporations conduct work and create new insights and new products and services.  However, I'm increasingly of the opinion that we are guilty of focusing on the technology and ignoring the real benefit of these technologies and other IT-influenced changes, and what customers really want.  As these technologies are implemented, the real benefit will be the data they generate and companies will have to confront the question - how do we gather, use and most importantly, monetize all of the data?  And this, I think, is where the real impact on innovation will be felt.

Two converging themes

There are two really interesting and potentially impactful converging themes in innovation, both of them led ultimately by the increasing power of information technology and ubiquitous connectivity.  The first is digital transformation - the ability to both generate vast amounts of data from sensors and IoT devices, as well as to manage the data and make sense of it using other technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning or predictive analytics.  The second is the increasing demand for solutions, not products.  I think increasingly people will want to acquire solutions "as a service" or will be happy to share data about device usage in order to receive a less expensive product. 

Companies can provide products "as a service" by changing value propositions and business models, and can further lower the cost of the service by collecting and monetizing the data generated by usage or by pushing other offers to the user of the device.  An entire generation is entering the workforce that grew up with Facebook and Google, so these data exchange models are well understood and already accepted.  The big challenge is for "as a service" solutions to move from the purely digital world (search, social networks) to physical products.  In some senses the shift has occurred for larger capital goods like aircraft engines.  GE doesn't sell the engines, they sell flight hours of operation.  Michelin has a "tires as a service" offering, which is where this really becomes interesting, because tires are a consumable commodity.  If we reach the point where consumables can be offered "as a service" then almost any physical product can be offered as a service, which will have to be supported by new business models.  Further, many of the "as a service" models will be funded to some extent by data, either harvested from the device or information pushed to the device.

Why a new "whole solution" emerges

If these ideas above are true, they have significant impact on innovation and how it is conducted today.  In the past, Geoffrey Moore created the idea of the "whole product" to cross the adoption chasm.  If the arguments above are true, we need to consider a new "whole solution" model to compete in the digital innovation economy, where the value proposition of the physical product shrinks but is augmented by value from the data that surrounds it, the customer experience that empowers it, new business models that sustain it and ecosystem partners who fulfill the promise.

Yes, companies that make physical products will continue to make physical products, but increasingly they'll find that customers expect a more holistic "whole solution" which will incorporate data (from the digital transformation application).  That data may originate from sensors on the product, from a bluetooth connection between the product and the smart phone or device the owner possesses, or eventually from ubiquitous 5G, which just creates a virtual network between any internet enabled device anywhere.

Customer experience
Beyond the physical product and the data that enables, surrounds or funds it, the customer experience will need to change.  In the Michelin example, tires as a service indicates that my experience expectations are actually higher than if I manage the tires myself, because my expectation is that Michelin has experts on staff ready to identify any issue, and who can guarantee that I get the most value and longest life from my tires.  In this example my expected experience is that I do nothing and simultaneously get more, which means my experience expectations are vastly increased.

Business Models
Finally, those products, data and experiences will come wrapped in a different business model - or, more likely two or three different business models.  Again, Michelin is a great example.  Michelin still sells tires to consumers without any support or "as a service" offering, as well as providing an "as a service" offer.  The revenue models, service models, pricing, support and warranty options for these two delivery models are significantly different, and any company that embarks on an "as a service" offer will encounter those who prefer to acquire and own a device or product, and those who are happy to use it as a service, so multiple business models will be required.

The challenge for innovators

I'll submit that the converging factors - increased data generation and management, and increasing expectations of products as service - are here and will continue to converge.  This means that innovators must decide how and when to include data as a component of the offering, and how to shape and ensure customer experience and be prepared to offer multiple, concurrent business models based on the same product.  In other words, are innovators ready to vastly accelerate innovation thinking and options, and work well beyond the innovation requirements of the physical product to include data, customer experience, business models and other factors?

If not, what will it take to develop the innovation teams and skills in order to compete in this market?  The impact to innovation is real and cannot be denied.  Can you and your team rethink and revise how you innovate?  If you need help, we can help think through not only the core product, but how and where data is important, the customer experiences expected by consumers and the requisite business models, as well as critical ecosystem partners.

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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 6:39 AM 0 comments

Monday, April 22, 2019

For interesting innovation, ignore your instincts

I've been around the block for a while, and every once in a while I'll tell the folks on my team who are younger than me what's likely to happen with a specific strategy or project.  Since they are young and a bit wet behind the ears, it often comes as a surprise to them that I can predict with some degree of certainty what's likely to happen.  What they don't realize is that I have the blessing of past experience, and from that experience I can recognize patterns and previous behaviors, and interpret how current activities will play out based on past successes or failures.  To some extent, I'm banking on my observations and experiences.  I'm also calling on my instinct as to what will happen in a particular set of conditions.

Trusting your gut and working within a set of predictable parameters can be a fun parlor game in the day to day operations of a large corporation.  These capabilities are not, however, what you want to bring to bear when you innovate.  In fact your past experiences, recognition of patterns and instincts may be holding you back.

How instinct holds you back

You may ask - what's wrong or dangerous about using well-honed experience and instincts when I innovate?  These capabilities have served you well in the past - prevented you from making the rookie mistakes that younger or less experienced team members often make.  Here's the issue - if innovation is meant to create truly new and different products and services, then the work is likely to go beyond the scope of your knowledge and experience.  If you can safely evaluate new innovation activities and outcomes within your own past experience, there's a good chance the work you are doing is incremental, not transformative.

Worse, when you bring all of your historical baggage with you, you will try to force ideas to work within the context you are familiar with and where you can bring your past knowledge and frameworks to bear.  After all, what's the use of having all this experience if we can't use it?

Good innovation work should take us outside our comfort zone, beyond the course of our knowledge and by all means into uncertain waters.  If you then try to force all the innovation work you do into a paradigm where your experience can help you make quick decisions or apply certain rules of thumb, then you will constrain your thinking and bring all the idea generation back into a setting that you can control.

Are you willing to go beyond your experience?

The real question - and it becomes more important in innovation every day - is whether or not you are willing to move into spaces and discoveries beyond your experience, where your instinct and your pattern recognition doesn't work and may not even be applicable.  It's in this zone where new ideas that haven't been tried or haven't been applied correctly live.  Steve Jobs referred frequently to the idea of beginner's mind, which to me is one of the most important traits a real innovator can possess.  Beginner's mind is the ability to look at a problem as if for the first time, without bias, without experience.  To ask, how might we solve this problem in the absence of past knowledge.

That activity is almost a waste of time if you are trying to solve the problem quickly and with existing capabilities or technologies.  A beginner's mind approach is infinitely valuable if  you are trying to get a fresh look at an old problem or find new, untested solutions.  This is why people with years of experience in an industry rarely create ideas that seem fresh or new, while people outside an industry can create ideas that seem strange or unusual to those within the industry.

There's another reason to ignore your instincts

Another reason to ignore your instincts has to to with the nature and pace of change.  Many of us grew up in a hierarchical organization where power and information flowed top-down, and slowly at that.  Increasingly we are faced with flatter organizations that are closer to the customer and living and acting in real time.  Digital transformation is going to unleash a tremendous amount of new data and new insights, which will naturally unleash new operating models, new business models and new experiences.  All of which mean your instincts, which are based on more stable models where less information was available and change was more predictable, less accurate.

This all means that your instincts are honed to slower change and growth than is underway, and more than likely your attention is drawn to solutions that have been promised and away from where real change is happening.  What you think should take years to change may take days or months, and where you expect change to occur or what you think will remain stable may turn out to be the reverse.

Do instincts go out the window?

So, when we innovate, must we wander around like children using Beginner's Mind and ignoring all historical conventions?  Do our instincts matter when innovating?  This is again a question of divergence and convergence.  During the necessary divergence of exploration and discovery, instincts can hold you back.  When we converge, however, there are still the same challenges of feasibility, viability and desirability, and your instincts may be more useful in this context.

The point isn't to ignore or eliminate your instincts, your historical knowledge and your ability to recognize patterns.  It's to help you think about when these attributes add value in an innovation setting, and when they become barriers to doing good innovation work.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 5:43 AM 0 comments

Monday, April 08, 2019

What I'ved learned so far about digital transformation and innovation

Lately I've been drinking from the firehose.  It seems every day there are new reports on digital transformation and innovation.  My good friend and collaborator Paul Hobcraft is constantly reviewing new reports and creating insights of his own, which inundate me with more information.

At the same time I've had the honor of chairing the Innovate Carolina conference, where the theme considered the interplay of innovation and digital transformation, and I'm teaching a class at NC State on digital transformation and innovation.  Well, teaching may be a strong word.  I have had the good fortune to attract a number of excellent speakers, from RIoT, IBM, RTI, NC State and others who know more about these emerging technologies than I could possibly know.

But through this I've learned a bit about both innovation and digital transformation.  Below I'm going to share a few things I've learned so far, and my sense of the implications.

Learnings so far:

  1. Innovation and digital transformation both impact efficiency; only innovation is about creating dramatically new stuff (so far).
    Most new technologies are first deployed to reduce costs or improve efficiencies.  In this way they demonstrate a rapid return on investment, so it's not surprising that many digital transformation initiatives are initially focused on efficiency gains and cost improvements.  So far digital transformation hasn't really addressed the question of transformative innovation - that is, innovating beyond the core.  I think there is great potential for digital transformation, especially big data and predictive analytics, to create new insights that lead to new innovations, but that seems to be still a few years away.
  2. Innovation and digital transformation both impact customer experience.
    Increasingly the focus within innovation is around design, human centered design and customer experience.  This focus is increasing because we need to provide more value to core products and because many innovations aren't centered around products but services and experiences.  It's interesting that a significant number of benefits from digital transformation are also focused on customer experience, whether this is based on smart bots on websites or more predictive data flow in an interaction.  Perhaps one of the best places for these two management philosophies to work together is in customer experience.
  3. Digital transformation is widely discussed, but not widely distributed (stealing from William Gibson).
    Digital transformation is a category term, embracing and encompassing a number of technologies, strategies and other factors.  The fact that the pace of change and adoption of the underlying technologies is different won't surprise you, but the gulf between the different technologies and their practical applications is rather large.  Machine Learning is being applied everywhere, and IoT is just a new way of saying "sensors".  There are billions of sensors already deployed across the globe.  However, blockchain is still in its infancy and few companies have a compelling use case for artificial intelligence.  Robotics are already widely deployed in factories and will become more so in service operations and human facing operations relatively quickly, but autonomous vehicles are still some distance away due to acceptance, regulations and insurance concerns.
  4. Few are prepared to manage all the data that will soon be generated.
    As more "digital transformation" occurs, as more sensors are deployed, more data gathered about people and their product usage, as more products produce more data about usage, far more data will be generated and stored.  Few companies are in a position to capitalize and use all that data efficiently, and those that do will have a major head start and gain so much more knowledge and experience that they will leave other competitors in the dust.
  5. Digital transformation (and all of its requisite technologies and implementations) may crowd out innovation.
    Digital transformation is not a blanket concept but a category of technologies that will be implemented, including IoT, Big Data, AI/ML, robotics, autonomous vehicles, blockchain, and their enablers - 5G, ubiquitous connectivity, cloud computing.  There are many technologies and many implementations in order to gain benefit.  My sense is that these technologies and their promise may overwhelm many companies and detract from innovation work, because a technology implementation (such as a project to implement more machine learning capability) has a definitive outcome and may quickly demonstrate benefits from cost cutting, whereas most innovation activities are somewhat risky and may or may not demonstrate value.  I continue to believe that innovation is on tenuous ground while this new phenomenon of digital transformation is paramount.
  6. In the end, it's just business and mostly about people.
    Our closing speaker at Innovate Carolina, Bermon Painter, said it best.  All of this, whether it's digital transformation or innovation, are just ways of doing business, and eventually all of this should be centered around people - customers, people in our company and in our value chain.  Does any of the technology get in the way or create frustrations for people anywhere in the value chain?  Do our innovations improve lives and create seamless interactions, or the opposite?  Whether it is new or old technology, new or old products, it is the people who ultimately matter.  Is that where your focus lies?
I'm interested in where all of this goes next, and how the interplay between digital transformation and innovation unfold.  Regardless of how it unfolds it will be an interesting ride.

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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 7:22 AM 0 comments

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Why taking your best shot is all wrong in innovation

I was speaking with a prospective client recently and was dismayed to hear them talk about innovation in a manner that seems to suggest innovation is a "one and done" activity.  Then a good friend introduced me to the book Loonshots, which I haven't read, but did listen to a podcast about.  I'm not here to review Loonshots, but I do want to debunk the idea of innovation and its connotation to "shots" of any kind.

We use this kind of language all the time - "take your best shot".  We use this language in our personal lives and in our business lives.  This phrase is often used in a setting where the speaker is uncertain about his or her ability to do something, will attempt it anyway, but goes into the activity with some fatalism.  My concern is when we use this kind of thinking when we innovate.

Best Shots

When you innovate, you are often doing something new and unusual, that many times may not achieve the goals or expectations you hope for.  Further, you may be working on innovation without the proper training or skills, and with less than a full complement of resources.  This is why many people talk about giving innovation their "best shot".

In no other important business activity would we use such fatalistic language, have such a negative expectation and work in such a one off way.  In no other business process would we approach a problem with such poor definition and preparation.  Yet innovation is more important than ever, but we still approach it as if it's a one time, unusual proposition that we'll give our best (but probably inadequate) effort to, with little expectation of success.

Just read the phrase to yourself:  Give it your best shot.

The phrase even signals things that I believe are fallacies about innovation, that by repeating we allow to become reality.


First is the word "shot".  This is one reason I have discomfort with the "Loonshots" book.  In the podcast I listened to the publishers talked about Kennedy's plan to put a man on the moon.  This was a "Loonshot".  But NASA never envisioned only going once.  The idea behind innovation is not that it is an occasional "shot", but a constant, sustained effort, composed of small, incremental changes and larger, transformative or disruptive activities.  The phrase "give it your best shot" comes from (as best as I can tell) the 1700s and refers to shooting at a target, in a day when a musket could only be fired once, then slowly reloaded. Thus everything depended on the one shot.

This thinking should be almost heretical to us.  Innovation, especially in a corporate setting, requires a lot of "shots", simultaneously, and consistently.  Unlike marksmen, who have a stationary target and lots of shooting practice, most innovators are aiming at an uncertain future and have little experience.  We need to help innovators understand how to improve their understanding of the future (research, trend spotting, scenario planning) and how to become more proficient at innovation methods and tools, but we also need to bake in the idea that more innovation should be done more often, more consistently and with different goals or outcomes in mind.


Another word I hate in the phrase "give it your best shot" is the word best.  How can we give something our "best shot" when we are 1) uncertain of the framing, scope or goals 2) unpracticed in the methods and tools 3) unsupported in the work and 4) working against cultures and corporate norms that push back against change?  Why must we make innovation a competition against everything the company does and reinforces, rather than make innovation something the company accepts and embraces, and prepares people to do?  Why enter this vital work with fatalism rather than with confidence?

So, when we repeat this phrase:  Give it your best shot, we are invoking the idea that an activity that used to be performed by experienced marksmen with plenty of experience and good conditions is now an activity performed with little experience or practice, in imperfect and often contradictory conditions, and only done once, and often with a sense of impending failure before we even start.

Sounds like a recipe for success, no?

What I'd prefer we think about

Rather, what I'd prefer is that we give teams the skills and tools they need to do innovation more effectively, preparing them for the work.  We should give them a sense that one innovation project isn't the end all or be all of the innovation work - there are persistent innovation activities working on both incremental and disruptive change constantly - the idea that we are taking many shots.  Further we should reduce risk and uncertainty by clarifying the conditions in which they work (changing the corporate culture), improving the field in which they work (better insights, better sense of future conditions) and in improving the confidence they have about the work.

If someone tells you to take your best shot at innovation, here's what you can say in return:

My best shot is actually a series of shots, and my success rate will be radically improved with training on innovation tools and methods, proper definition of the expected goals and outcomes, better understanding of the future market conditions and familiarity with customer needs, and working within a corporate culture that reinforces the work I do rather than resists it.

Don't be a solitary marksman.  Be the army.  Come in full force and bend the organization to your will.  Take many shots, at many different targets, all the time.  Send your best people to bootcamp to get them the skills they need to succeed.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 5:19 AM 0 comments

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Innovating when everything is "as a service"

I've been talking with a number of people who are more connected and smarter than me about digital transformation.  I've become convinced that the myriad and sundry tools and methods around digital transformation - cloud, ubiquitous high speed internet, IoT, AI, machine learning, robotics, augmented reality and all the rest - are going to create a major transformation in how consumers acquire and use products and services in the future, but more importantly how corporations and startups recognize value from their products and services.

This realization hit me when I was watching a short video recently where the speaker talked about how everything would be "as a service".  We are already familiar with this concept, in that many things we used to acquire and own are increasingly provided as a service.  In the not to distant future we could experience transportation as a service rather than purchase our own cars, or, my dream, lawn mowers as a service, where a trusted partner leaves a fully maintained and fueled mower at your doorstep just as you need it and picks it up the next day.

This transition into an "as a service" world changes the ownership model, the customer experience model and the revenue model, all at the same time.  What the "as a service" model doesn't fully contemplate, however, is the importance and value of data.  After all, does a mower really create interesting data that can be harvested?  Some products, like Alexa, create interesting data about the searches people conduct.  That data is valuable to create predictive analytics or to personalize offers. Where possible, we also need to consider how an existing or future product - no matter how "smart" or dumb the product is - will create data or use data - and what the data will mean as part of the value proposition.

What's all of this have to do with innovating?

In the past, we thought of disruptive new products, and occasionally thought about disrupting a channel or business model.  If the analysis above is anywhere near correct, the emerging digital transformation will require innovation on a completely different scale.  The product will simply be the kernal of a much broader offering, and the product may be something the company is more than willing to provide for free, in exchange for deeper understanding and ability to manage the data generated around the product.  This exchange of value, while it seems simple, is actually really complex in reality.

I led a small software firm years ago during the transition from installed software to "as a service".  The impact of moving from a large, one time software sale, where we'd make hundreds of thousands of dollars, to a recurring monthly retainer that required years to make the same amount of money, meant we had to radically rework our operating and revenue models, or change businesses.  We chose the latter.  And in this analysis we aren't even considering the volumes of data that can and will come streaming out of many offerings, and the complexities of managing that data and using it to create new insights.

When we innovate in the future, we need to understand exactly what the value proposition for each offer is to the customer, and to the ecosystem, and to the company making the offer.  Where does each benefit?  How does the company make money?  Where does all the data go and who owns it?  What business model supports the interaction successfully?  In other words, Doblin's Ten Types are no longer discrete options, no longer an either/or proposition, but become a framework where you may consider all of the "types" for each innovation, and add a few more, to include value for data as an example.

We're not ready but we need to be

Few large companies are doing basic product innovation well, but they are light years ahead of those that aren't really innovating at all.  A visible and relatively rapid moving tidal wave is emerging as digital transformation takes root and we create more IoT, more AI, more ubiquitous wireless broadband, more cloud storage and so on.  These things won't be siloed for long, and as they combine into a true digital transformation they open up entirely new operating models.

If companies have struggled to innovate a basic product, what will happen when innovation requires thinking through new operating models, new revenue models and new business models and channels?  The opportunities are much, much larger but will most likely accrue to those that move decisively and quickly, and the doorways to those opportunities will also close quickly.

Where is IT in this?

I asked a question to many companies about this topic in a recent event.  I asked - if your innovation opportunity creates opportunities for collecting and managing data, and gaining value from that data - who on your team could support that?  Most suggested that it would be the responsibility of their internal IT team - not the product team, not the innovation team, not the people doing digital transformation - and then went on to say that their companies simply couldn't manage the data effectively. 

It's not an internal IT team's job to think through how data generated from a new product may impact revenue and how to collect and manage that data.  But right now in most corporations NO ONE is thinking about this, and they should be.  If you though innovating a new stand alone product is difficult, wait until you try to create a new solution that is based on a product that generates or collects data and shifts a business model.  New companies can do this because they've got little infrastructure to resist it.  Established companies will need to become uber agile and able to change quickly, something most are not able to do.

The rising tide is visible from shore, but few large firms are doing enough.  They are working on the fringes of innovation and implementing some digital transformation tools without considering how these combine to create new business model and operating model opportunities.  By the time they discover just how much change is possible, it may be too late.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 7:08 AM 0 comments

Thursday, March 14, 2019

I'm running for the presidency of Innovation

I thought - why not?  Everyone else is running, so why be left out in the cold?  If the governor of Washington State can run on the single plank of climate change, if senators who have barely introduced themselves to their colleagues can run, if a west Texas Irishman named Beto can consider running, then so can I.  Of course my candidacy will be strictly tongue in cheek, and really meant to frame a more interesting question - where does innovation stand in all of this?

What's my platform?

If I'm going to make an imaginary run for president, it will be on the basis of innovation.  If I become president I'm going to find ways to make it easier for the government to innovate how it operates.  I'm going to find ways to improve our patent and trademark office to accelerate good patents and slow down or eliminate defensive patents.  I'm going to find ways to help all of our government agencies and programs innovate, to both cut costs and to improve services and customer experience.

But beyond that, I'm going to look to innovate how we provide government services, how we delegate responsibility, how we speed up the delivery of services.  For example, our response to Puerto Rico in the last hurricane.  The response was slow, and inadequate, but came on top of a large response in Houston and the challenge of getting supplies to an island.  But we should look at how we can innovate the delivery of services, because one major catastrophe or one difficult delivery point shouldn't become a barrier to an innovative agency.  And this promise goes beyond FEMA to all agencies and government activities.  We need to rethink how the government is structured, and how services are delivered.

Beyond government

Beyond government my administration will do more to encourage innovation in corporations.  That's not just with more R&D tax breaks, but with more cajoling of the executives to start putting innovation resources and funding behind their innovation promises.  We are in a fight for our competitive lives as global market changes occur (as China becomes larger and the EU disintegrates), as new technology shifts (digital transformation) and as the nature of work and where people work changes (increases in automation, decreases in traditional starter jobs).

In the past the government was a big investor in new R&D, leading to specialized software and hardware that eventually had commercial use.  That model is reaching the tipping point - if it hasn't already - where the government is increasingly familiar with taking on COTS products and using them.  We need a new space race, a new digital transformation focus, a new innovation focus to get people bought in to the need for more innovation, more frequently and more consistently.

As your innovation president, I promise to work harder to make the government more innovative, to innovate how we legislate and especially how we budget and deliver services.  Just as importantly, I promise to put pressure on our leading corporations to do more innovation, and to do all I can to encourage startups.  As part of this I propose giving a green card to any person graduating with a masters or PhD in a science or technology field, who will stay and create a business.

We need to find ways to remove risk and uncertainty where possible, and create new sources of venture capital and risk capital to help smaller businesses get started.  We don't necessarily need more unicorns, but more viable companies that create interesting and innovative products and services.

What more could a president do?

Beyond a few of these activities and investments, perhaps the most important thing I could do as president for innovation is constant reinforcement.  Many presidents - both in government and in the private sector - have an innovation summit or a short focus on innovation and then declare victory.  My goal will be to keep innovation in the forefront, in multiple communications, in multiple cabinet meetings and in regular communications to the population.

This is why I mentioned above the new space race, the new burning platform.  We need to talk about innovation and why it matters, but more importantly what it will achieve or help us overcome.  Innovation is simply a tool to help us accomplish new things.  We need to do a better job creating focus on what innovation should be focused on and how it helps government, the private sector, our states and communities and so forth, to demonstrate that innovation is helping achieve measurable outcomes and goals.  As your president, I will appoint a cabinet level member to define our new moon shot and keep innovation at the top of my agenda.

Just as the space race energized a whole generation of scientists, engineers and innovators, we need a new rallying cry, to improve how the government innovates and how corporations and startups commit more energy and effort to innovation.  As your president, this will be my overriding focus.  Do I have your vote?

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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 1:00 PM 0 comments