I recently had the privilege of helping to organize a unique customer forum for a company where the theme was Innovate to accelerate – an exciting new stage in the positioning of the company, and it got me thinking as to what is happening to innovation today. Okay so you are reading this thinking what is he on about this time? How can there be an Evolution of Innovation, it has always existed! What I want to share with you though is the changing source of Innovation and more importantly the coming change.
We have always been amazed at those garage or workshop innovators who come up with an idea to solve a problem they have identified and in many cases are greatly appreciated by all, we admired these innovators leading the way driving their own ideas to reality and opening our minds to what is possible. In many cases we have seen innovation creating new concepts ad ideas being developed on by others as they seek to follow in the footsteps of those they looked up to in realizing new concepts and ideas.
We then entered a phase where Innovation was driven by large corporations, where the innovator from the Garage or workshop – or even increasingly behind the computer – was upstaged by the resources and clout available to large enterprises that were driving innovation programs, some to the point of dictating to us what we would use as technology moving forward. Think back to some of your frustrations in using what was regarded as cutting edge technology which didn’t work the way you wanted it to – I know I have!
However – the tables have turned yet again, the individual has once again obtained a voice in innovation. It started out quietly in companies seeking to gain insights and feedback on their own technology developments, yet the final decision was always theirs – I suppose in their view they knew better what we wanted than we did ourselves … at least they thought they did.
With the ongoing developments in communication and the Internet we are now empowered as a combined group of individuals to judge innovation from corporate researchers and stop them before they have gained momentum and likewise for the small upstart or single person concept we can provide them with the support to gain funding and ultimately the realization of their idea into a new service, tool or service model which has an immediate and relevant need to a specific group of individuals.
The time has come for the individual to use their voice and join with others in defining the direction of the coming innovations, why do you ask? Because the next series of technology developments are going to be very personal, driven by personalization requirements of all of us and each will be in some way unique. If we fail to leverage the power to direct these innovations then we will miss a unique opportunity in defining the way in which we as individuals interact with the world around us.
But what does this mean for businesses? It’s time to adapt, listen and engage. Recognize that your customer, analyst and even partner is no longer in your backyard but can be anywhere in the world. Businesses need to be considering who they are and what they are trying to provide to their customers. Once this is defined the organization can then assess how they should drive innovation, what part is their own Intellectual Property and where they can leverage innovation partners. Businesses should not look on partners as a failing of their own organization but rather an acceptance that the world has moved on and that they are adapting to it. We may find the need to adjust our business model or even accept that the go to market model could require a shift from direct to indirect or vice versa. The important aspect for businesses to understand is that the source of innovation is changing and the most important action that businesses should take is to ensure they continue to adapt with it. Businesses which continue to adapt will be the most likely to succeed in not only retaining & growing their customers, but also continuing to grow their business. The Evolution of Innovation – I am a believer!