Monday, February 01, 2016

One Thousand innovation posts and more to come

It seems fitting that on the first day of a new month, early in a new year I'll pen what is my 1000th post on innovation.  Looking at that number makes me think that innovation is either a vast topic or that I repeat myself quite frequently.  Happily, I believe both alternatives are true, keeping with the both/and mantra of innovation.

You'll forgive me for being a bit reflective here in the first section of this post.  I started writing Innovate on Purpose over a decade ago, as innovation seemed poised to take root in corporate America.  My colleagues and I at OVO Innovation created our consulting practice to assist large corporations in their innovation journey.  I decided to write about my assessments, my discoveries and the lessons learned along the way.  And over that time I've seen a lot of innovation, and innovators come and go.  I have to express my disappointment at the commitment to innovation that we've seen over the past decade, and I have to tell you that I believe a real reckoning is coming.  Like Jeremiah from the Old Testament I feel like a prophet of impending doom, but I also see the incredible possibilities that lie ahead of us once we finally decide that innovation is more important than efficiency and as we recognize the coming wave of business model innovation.

What's old is new again
Today (February 1, 2016) I did a quick scan of the social media sites, especially Twitter, to see what people were highlighting.  What's remarkable to me was the large number of tweets about innovation culture.  I saw this one on why the financial services, especially banks, lack a culture of innovation.  Having several large financial institutions as innovation customers, I can tell you that any company with a "risk" department struggles with innovation, and the same is true for highly regulated companies or industries.   In the same twitter stream Henry Hart Doss talks with Larry Keeley at Doblin about innovation culture, Doss taking the perspective that culture is important, and Keeley seeming to claim it isn't.

A decade on corporate leaders are still trying to get their heads around innovation, and decide whether it's a cultural phenomenon, or a process and tools issue, or something to do with design, and how it all links into strategy, all the while trying to isolate the disruptive aspects of innovation from the engine of profitability and efficiency.  At this point, many of the current leaders have missed the boat, and I believe we'll need to wait for the next generation of leaders who will recognize that these are all components of an integrated solution.  Innovation is impacted by the culture of the organization, is a process and tools issue, incorporates design and user experience and has a range of outcomes.  Until we see it as an integrated, mutually dependent whole, innovation is only toying at the margins and will always fail to deliver based on the outsized expectations that are set.  But these issues are just the tip of a larger iceberg that's appearing on the horizon.

What's going to happen
Here's my prediction about what's going to happen next.  Innovation, like a virus, mutates beyond expectation, shifting from an innocuous bug to a deadly contagion, as issues like business model innovation create significant disruption.  All we need is the emergence of a few trusted platforms upon which innovations can thrive, and major industries will quake and topple.  For example, payments is ripe for innovation, and what we lack are some basic infrastructure standards.  If those infrastructure standards are completed and a platform is created, we could witness a wholesale change in the way banking and financial services are created and offered.  We could see the rise of a real "retail" payments offering that wipes out retail banking, credit cards, payments, etc.  And that's just based on the rise of one platform.  If Uber and Airbnb can take grow so quickly based on their respective platforms, why can't we "uberize" other industries?

People will scoff, but the coming business model innovation wave will not simply topple giants, the way product innovation and design innovation humbled firms like Yahoo, Motorola and Nokia.  Those firms still exist, but as pale shadows of their former selves.  Business model innovation, the next emergent wave of innovation focus, will not wipe out individual businesses, it will rework industries and revenue streams.  We are on the cusp of a significant amount of disruption.  If you think you've seen a few disruptions, like what happened to Blockbuster when NetFlix really took off, then you get the general idea.  Except we'll be talking about industries, not individual companies, when people really understand what business model innovation can do.

So, over a decade of blogging we've succeeded and we've failed.  We are still trying to convince executives about the importance of innovation culture, and the need to build innovation skills.  I think we can safely say that there's more focus and more awareness of the need for innovation in the corporate suite, but the commitment to conduct innovation is still not where it needs to be. 

This is going to change.  People who understand a hockey stick graph, or Gladwell's tipping point model will agree - we are nearing an inflection point, where we'll shift into a new business reality, leaving behind the large, slow behemoths.  What will replace them are fast, nimble business model innovators that can morph and adapt as consumers and markets change and adapt.  To do so they'll be much more flexible, configurable and able to identify trends and change as those trends change.  These firms and their leaders will understand the coming business model disruption.  In fact they are with us today, much like the small rodents and mammals were living with the last dinosaurs, scurrying around under their feet, ready to rise as the old guard passed away.

Yes, I'm being a bit apocalyptic, but when you reach 1000 posts you get the opportunity to opine about your longer range views.  The fact of the matter is that this coming disruption is an OPPORTUNITY, not a disaster, for those who see it coming and are prepared.  This isn't a nuclear winter wasteland, except for the people and firms that ignore the pending doom.

I'm looking forward to the next 1000 posts, and I'm sure they will happen, since so much is still to unfold.  Thanks for your indulgence and your readership.  I'll try to keep the flame burning in the next few years.

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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 6:56 AM


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