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.
When you ask why large companies have a problem building an innovation proficiency, you get back all the usual suspects: “We have silos.” “It’s nobody’s job.” “We’re afraid of failure.” “It’s unpredictable.” And what do all of these things have in common?
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.
The rules of the game used to be pretty simple for large food companies: Make massive quantities of tasty and inexpensive (if not particularly nutritious) food products, create memorable brands around them, and use their market clout to get them within arms’ reach of the everyday consumer. For my mother’s generation, the germ-free, safe, and convenient access to packaged and processed food was a boon.
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.
In 1995, while working for Netscape, Brendan Eich came up with a programming language that he developed in just 10 days and today is used the world over by millions of developers. It was the era of the dotcom boom when Netscape was the best (and only) web browser around and 56K dial-up modems were the epitome of speed.