It used to be that a startup would raise capital, hire employees, and purchase physical equipment all to produce version 1 of a product. And this process would take years. While this worked ten years ago, in a digital world, it would end in catastrophic failure.
Today, this process involves rented computers. Services are built fast and deployed globally using cloud services. A sales force often isn’t required for years (if at all). Customers are able to take simultaneous advantage of the latest version of subscription-based services (which are centrally updated on a weekly basis). Technology stacks are free. And feedback is immediate via social apps and sensors built right into the software. Innovation is redefined, with a whole new set of rules:
- Scale fast
- Build exactly what customers want
- Functional specifications are dead
- Storyboards are in children’s books
Innovation is about turning ideas into outrageously successful products and services. And that act of creation—from idea to concept to completion—is insanely hard. And to complicate things, it has to happen insanely fast.
Innovation is a race. There’s no time for Waterfall methods and Mythical Man-Months, and Agile just isn’t agile enough. Sprints are becoming hyper-connected dashes. Innovation cycles are faster, compressed, and even approach the spontaneous.
Companies are becoming more creative in their approach to innovation. Leaders know that in order to win, they have to think outside of the box—and even outside of the enterprise—to partner and innovate. This includes partnering with consumers to co-create. That’s why organizations like Facebook, NASA, GE, and Amazon are crowdsourcing to develop new products and services that solve complex business problems.
Technology is transforming the very nature of business, making it more fluid, social, global, accelerated, risky, and competitive. And this is allowing startups to disrupt the incumbents.
It took the human species over 150,000 years to move from cave drawings to the printing press, a few more centuries to get to the steam engine, and two decades for the Internet Revolution to get up and running. And by 2020, mobile phones—which have been in wide circulation for less than a decade—will surpass the human population. When you look back in time, it becomes apparent that the speed at which we are innovating is constantly increasing.
If we can learn anything from this progression, it’s that the pace of innovation is quickening. Which means that, in order for organizations to thrive in the digital world, they must not only operate at the speed of digital, they must innovate at the speed of digital too.
Digital radically redefines how we innovate, regardless of industry. It accelerates the pace and scale, and creates opportunities for new ecosystems to thrive. In my next post, I’ll explore how these ecosystems are evolving and once-linear supply chains are being re-conceptualized into intricate and connected networks of connections between business, suppliers, partners, and customers.
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