In March of 2008, the United States’ national public radio system (NPR) seemed to have a fatal and too common choice: to bet on the past rather than the future. It’s the kind of decision that has initiated the fall of many once-great companies: Toys “R” Us, Polaroid, Borders, Macy’s, RadioShack, and BlackBerry, to name a few.
When an airplane hits turbulence, it seeks a new altitude. One without turbulence. Even better, one with tailwinds.
Now, COVID has certainly injected turbulence rarely seen in history. But is this turbulence universal? Is every sector of the economy under threat?
If you want to predict the path of innovation in your industry, consider one unifying strategic concept: proximity. Introduced by innovation guru Rob Wolcott, proximity is the theory that the production and provision of value moves ever closer to the point of demand. Viewing your industry through this lens can reveal new opportunities, help you clarify where to focus your innovation efforts, and help you better anticipate which innovations will thrive and which will fall.
We are dealing with unprecedented change invoked by the COVID-19 pandemic. What we need more than ever is a sense of hope. So, we’ve taken The Outthinker Process – a strategic process that helps business leaders step outside of conventional thinking to redesign their business models and strategies – and reformed it specifically for what we’re going through right now.
In March, as the reality of COVID-19 started taking hold, when my team received our fifth request in one day to postpone a keynote speech and my calendar was suddenly, unexpectedly, free for months, we sat down to discuss what to do. We figured that (a) other business thought-leaders are similarly, suddenly free and (b) many are wondering what would happen to the business they own or work.
As I write this, I’m resting in an elegant second-floor hotel lobby overlooking the cobblestone streets of a pedestrian shopping district in Dublin, Ireland. Over the past 48 hours, I’ve delivered nine hours of speeches and workshops, conducted three podcasts and radio show interviews, and come to appreciate the remarkable advances Northern Europe has made to become a vibrant technology innovation hub.
In the 1830s, an artist and tinkerer, Samuel Morse, directed his curiosity to a question few had considered before. Numerous scientists and inventors across the globe were working on the problem of how to communicate across long distances more quickly.
Twenty years ago, long before we had children, my wife and I decided to spend Valentine’s Day weekend in Tuscany. We were living just a two-hour flight away in London at the time, so leaving on a Friday and returning on a Monday would still mean two days and three nights of rolling hills, wineries, and amazing cuisine.
That historic moment when the perfect team unifies beyond an opportunity, pregnant with possibility, is the essential scene of any great innovation legend: think Jobs and Wozniak when they created Apple, Gates and Allen with Microsoft, or Page and Brin with Google.
If people try to tell you that pivoting is the new thing, that it’s the fresh Silicon Valley approach to business designed for today’s fast-paced digital world, don’t believe them.