Startups, Innovation and The Future

Thinking About the Future Leads To Startups and Innovation

We get this question a lot – why do you focus on these three things on your blog? If you ask me, innovation is all about attempting to predict the future – looking at the market, at both mega and micro trends, and coming up with high-level scenarios to determine the state of the world, the market, and the company itself in that future. We look at startups because, typically, they have a lot to teach these enterprises: speed of development, innovative ideas, new technologies, etc. – we look at these startups not only as possible acquisition targets (although personally, I prefer innovating from within, I understand a balanced innovation program of both internal innovation and external innovation – or even tapping into open innovation, is probably the best solution) we also look at their business models to determine if any of it can be applied within the organization. For example, are there places within the organization which could be better served with more of a Lean Startup model or some of its elements? Could we bring more innovation into a specific process by introducing more of an agile methodology into the process?

Here is an example: recently, I’ve presented three major themes in my work, overall concepts which I feel are trends that we need to address and focus on – they are both indicators of where we can see new markets, as well as markets that can be safely, eventually dropped. They indicate both a direction for startups and enterprises alike and include both technological and cultural shifts which will determine the direction of most companies:

Seamlessness: This theme involves the sublimation of technology overall into a benevolent watcher who can do things for us before we even ask for them. This theme includes everything from the current day way in which the Uber interface works (press button, car appears, get in the car, the car goes to destination, car stops, you get out – all transactions happen seamlessly in the background) to some not-too-distant future when all of the systems around us proactively assist us in our lives. When technology first reached into our lives via the internet, computers, and smartphones,  we applauded it – finally, we had access to all of the world’s information at our fingertips. Unfortunately, it also pushed all of the work involved in doing even the simplest things into our laps. For example, travel. Before this, we simply called our travel agent, he found us an awesome trip in a few hours, called us back, and we went. Now, we spend weeks looking for tips and tricks to get us the lower fare. Things are harder to do now because we don’t apply technology in the correct way to help us. They give us information but don’t help us understand it. It is my contention that the Internet of Things, Big Data, Predictive Analytics, and Automation will finally allow us to live the Jetsons-style life we always hoped technology would be able to provide. This big picture has many pieces, and we see a lot of movement in the details, but eventually, everything will become seamless.

Crowdification: This theme is something that will affect all of us – the crowd is not only getting more powerful due to the ability for us to bring the crowd into the full product development process, but the crowd can also provide the manpower we need in order to provide the proper direction to the machines which will help us run our lives. Take curation, for example. Right now, I feel that we have allowed machine curation to win out over human curation, resulting in what I feel are terribly ineffective feeds that I get from my typical social media streams. When was the last time you read any stream in any of the social media that you read and thought to yourself – everything that I have just seen is completely relevant to me? I’d say not that often. The reality, in my opinion, is that we need to bring more humans back into the curation process – to come up with a more balanced, humane approach to content creation and curation. Technology will no longer reign supreme in a seamless, crowded world.

Platformization: this theme is mostly for non-technology companies – while technology companies completely understand the need to provide a platform of their services specifically or third parties to build applications on, non-tech companies still feel that they need to provide that last mile to the customer, otherwise they will become irrelevant. If you ask me, 80% of the companies out there ignore a huge new channel simply by pigheadedly wanting to remain front and center in front of the customers. If they simply created a new channel as a platform and were able to take a small piece of every transaction, then they may end up even more profitable than ever. If you ask me, every business can have a platform play and should explore it. There are more entrepreneurs out there than ever before – give them the building blocks to be your last mile to the customer.