Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Innovation Needs To Lead Events

Today`s and , most probably, this week`s favourite quote comes from Paul Saffo`s article about ways to rescue Yahoo, published in The New York Times, and it goes like this:

"Ultimately, innovations need to lead events. Trouble begins the moment a company is forced to respond to events, and the greater the lag, the greater the potential for disaster." 

Paul is a forecaster who explores change and I stumbled upon him through twitter (he was tweeting about Nasa`s discovery of the first planet in the habitable zone of a solar system similar to ours, which was pretty interesting to further investigate).

Back to the quote: the fact that innovations need to lead events is proving ever more true today, when technological progress,  interconnectivity over networks and the growing influence of communities have raised the bar high, making competition fearsome, bloody and unforgiven. Paul is talking about Yahoo, but also look at RIM, the manufacture of Blackberry, the hit phone and the competitor to the iPhone only a couple of months ago. The innovation it brought to market, its USP, is quickly fading. No "new, cool stuff", no honey. Their tablet business looks to me as an example of following the events rather than dictating them, and the results are showing: the reality failing to match their growth and revenue forecasts. RIM needs to fix its organizational structure and sit down at the design table/screen and think about the next great thing it can bring in mobile.

This is an interesting time as well: you can not hide behind past laurels any more. The digital plus the crisis have thrown all of us out of our comfort zones: starting with the job market and how you approach your career to the rise and advance of the open, shared and increasingly participatory business models and non-traditional ways of leading and managing companies. Take the newspaper industry: the past years have witness the decline in advertising revenues in the Western world by approximately half! Old players that have been around for decades where thrown into a downward swirl reversed only by those who caught up rapidly with today`s change/consumer habits.

Some went digital or partly digital, some re-enforced their quality and usefulness while others went against market trends and forecasts proving that given the right formula, digital is by now means a threat. Still, most are following trends trying to respond, but few are setting them and we all know which one is better.

Innovations need to lead events. Today, we have all the tools, ever more than a couple of years ago, to break rules, create and  redefine conventions. In this aspect, it becomes quite simple.

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