Innovation is inevitable – like death and taxes!

Gerry Westwood/ February 22, 2017/ Uncategorized

Innovation is inevitable. It’s in the human psyche. It cannot be stopped. Where it offers new value, it offers new ways to make money. History tells us that.

Henry Ford didn’t invent the motor car but making his cars affordable and turning ordinary people into drivers was truly innovative. Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Google didn’t invent the search engine but they did make theirs faster so that people could do more searches and transactions in less time. Their innovation turned impatience into a virtue.

Ford and the Google guys weren’t about solving problems but creating something significantly different. Something that really changed peoples’ lives, creating new value for new sets of people to become new customers and produce totally new revenue streams. That’s innovation. It’s all new!

Whichever way you look at it innovation will have an upside for some and a downside for others.

Take Artificial Intelligence which is truly innovative and will make our lives easier, more personalised. Which is all good then! But when people like Bill Gates tell us that governments have not adjusted to AI’s potential nor its threat – that it could replace over 50% of jobs in the USA in the coming decades* – then perhaps we’ll start to understand a little of how the Luddites** must have felt.

Whether you think this is too far fetched or not, it is still likely that working people will be expected to manage more brain-driven, complex tasks that machines can’t do and that demands attaining new skills and in turn, a revolution in the schooling in maths and sciences, and re-education for a post-school workforce. There’ll be no room for old Luddites!

Get your light bulb moment off the page!

Anyone who believes their job could soon be done by a robot or is bored with what they are doing currently is probably already thinking about what’s next for them. An innovative mindset is in order.

Your mantra will be: “innovation is about ME doing things differently. I will design to provide new value to new people. They will become MY new customers”

External expert resources are well, everywhere, and creating the right environment to develop those innovative juices of yours can be significantly improved within similar minded collaborative and co-working groups. These may form the central pillars around which you design and build your innovation.

Ask yourself and your friends: “does the great value I think my innovation offers change lives? You don’t have to re-invent the wheel but you must get people to enthuse about it so make the value you’re offering crystal clear. The more sophisticated customers’ understanding of your idea, the more likely they’ll buy into it and share its value with others.

But be careful, just because you think it’s a good idea doesn’t mean others will too. Remember the pioneering engineering of the C5 electric car or the recently binned Chinese ZTE crowd sourced smartphone. On paper, both should have worked but people weren’t convinced by value of the tech on offer.

Finding champions

Your champions will be that disparate bunch of “must have” early adopters, the pathfinders who connect to the following mass audience through their reviews, blogs and social chat. They stimulate mass adoption and are a primary target for marketing your innovation.

Treat your innovation like any business project. It will probably require some form of marketing, branding, promotion, PR, social contact, plus business, finance, sales and sales support. All boring stuff to the innovator possibly, but essential if your idea is to thrive. You might need manufacturing, distribution, governance, and employ people you don’t know. You will need IP ownership. But hey, access to these resources exists out there already. Scope out your idea and aim for some quick wins – and then of course, market domination!

Change will happen

Like death and taxes, change is inevitable and significant innovation can radically impact on job security and life choices. Those adapting the best will utilise creative thinking, possibly re-educate themselves and embrace collaboration and co-working in driving their innovation journey.

Innovation is about designing your product with the customer in mind, which is a business process creating new, value-driven experiences that change lives. So, don’t be a neo-Luddite, put on your thinking cap, innovate and embrace the change.

Gerry Westwood, Wizard, Monday 20th February 2017. Cambridge Space.

*Is Artificial Intelligence About to Change Doing Business Forever? SmartData Collective, 8 March 2014. Stephen F. DeAngelis is President and CEO of the cognitive computing firm Enterra Solutions.

**The Luddites were a group of English textile workers and weavers in the 19th century who destroyed weaving machinery as a form of protest, fearing that the time spent learning the skills of their craft would go to waste as machines would replace their role in the industry.

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