In our last blog post, we argued that a “digital transformation” being experienced across nearly every sector is thrusting us into a new era of complexity. Large companies are failing to adapt. They are dying earlier and faster than ever before. And their failure to adapt could come at a profound detriment to society.
An odd thing happened in a client’s boardroom recently. We were listing out the competitors we needed to keep an eye on as part of a scenario planning exercise. We had discussed the usual suspects – long-time direct – and even the more recent entrants – mostly technology start-ups that were now picking up speed. Then someone said, “What really scares me are the competitors we can’t see.”
What is next to fall?
The talent barrier is already coming down. In the past, companies offered workers a straightforward bargain: give up what you want to do to do what we want you to do, and in exchange we will give you full-time employment, a title, and a hierarchy. Trade freedom for predictability.
Last June, John Chambers, former Cisco CEO, proposed that “soon you’ll see huge companies with just two employees – the CEO and CIO.” The concept seems crazy now, but tangible evidence suggests we are moving toward such a future, faster than you might think. As with every major transition, this one will create losers and winners, thinkers (who hold on to outdated concepts) and outthinkers (who embrace the new).
Opportunities appear … then vanish more quickly today than ever before. In response, many businesses – from startups to Global 100s – are trying to accelerate their decision-making approaches. They are embracing a philosophy referred to with terms like agile, lean, and scrum.
Corporate venturing models assume that the path to launching a business begins with writing a business case and then seeking funding. But this overlooks perhaps the most important source of capital: your customers.
It’s been 15 years and I still vividly remember the moment when one of our very first clients killed off a multi-million-dollar idea. They were a leading global logistics company, getting excited about the opportunity to operate shipping ports. The conversation heated up, the possibilities … the brilliance … the potential!
This week, we convened innovation heads from places like Chubb Insurance, Estee Lauder and Macmillan and mixed them with a world-renowned innovation expert (Professor George Day from Wharton) and one of the leaders of GE’s Crotonville leadership training center (Bob Cancalosi). Over four hours, they teased apart our shared challenge: how to unlock innovativeness, entrepreneurship, and growth trapped inside organizations.
“If only I worked at Google,” he lamented. At Google you get 20% of your time to explore new ideas, failure is not only tolerated but celebrated, and the company supports the kinds of long-term projects that most companies shun.
I am playing a game. My goal is to interview 10 innovators every week as part of my new book project. Each time I learn something, but every now and then I hear a story that opens up an entirely new perspective.