Ten Predictions on How Innovation Will Disrupt Business and Culture in 2017
- Companies will disrupt themselves to survive the digital age
To survive relentless market disruptions ignited by the digital economy, established companies in every industry sector will have to massively disrupt their own cultures and employees. In-company “activists” will provoke their own innovation disruptions companywide. This means companies will increasingly return to their startup roots by reviving an entrepreneurial environment of urgency, flexibility, agility and bold creativity.
2. The pace of change will force businesses to create game-changing solutions rather than incremental improvements
Mass digitization, fueled by Internet of Things technology, is the most powerful market transition since the Internet itself, and pundits often hail it as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. New business models can pop up like Pokemon GO from anywhere without warning, trail blaze new markets and dismantle household brands in the process. The digital economy is forcing big companies to rapidly reinvent themselves, and tap into new reservoirs of their own talent to unleash that next billion-dollar idea. Slow, incremental improvements to core solutions or services are a sure-fire path to the dinosaur wasteland.
3. Smart companies will recognize that innovation can come from anywhere
Industry and Cisco experience show that innovation can come from anywhere, across all job functions, titles, experiences, and geographies. That’s why the most innovative companies will scout across the full landscape of their own workforces to unearth leapfrog ideas, whether employees are in Human Resources, Operations, Finance, Marketing, Engineering, or wherever.
4. Silicon Valley startup traits will be infused into corporate workforces
Big, successful companies inevitably become more process-driven, bureaucratic and slow to change their strategic direction. The most progressive of these institutions, however, will try to ride the digital wave the same way entrepreneurs do in a startup. They will empower employees to form their own venture teams around an idea, democratize decision-making, encourage experimentation, celebrate lessons learned from failure, and show idea-makers how to pitch their proposals for development funding.
5. Successful companies will adapt the best of both worlds by balancing the tension between startup and big-enterprise cultures
In “Collective Disruption,” Michael Docherty points out there will always be a struggle, or polarity, between big-company discipline and risk aversion versus entrepreneurial speed and risk taking. However, traditional companies will need to take a “best of both worlds” approach when adapting start-up traits to their own cultures. One size doesn’t fit all, so large organizations must balance the two mindsets for the best fit to their existing culture and future innovation goals. Companies must disrupt, but not destroy, the cultures that got them this far.
6. Coaches and mentors will become more important than traditional managers
Experienced mentors and coaches will be more important than traditional managers in guiding innovative teams. Traditional managers often slow innovation by focusing on hierarchy, top-down decision making, rigid deadlines, and short-term outcomes. Coaches, however, accelerate development by focusing on collaboration, show the way forward, and clearing political or technical roadblocks. Then, like a well-oiled sports team where each player has a vital role, the turns it over to the team on the playing field.
7. Organizations will encourage cross-functional innovation teams
Cisco experience and research shows that inclusive and diverse teams are the second biggest factor—behind a digital infrastructure—in capturing the most value from the Internet of Things. Nothing profound will come from engineers working with other engineers unless they involve multiple functions to round out the solution. To create true breakthroughs, you need to eliminate business siloes, and form cross-functional teams where each member contributes value because of different skills, backgrounds, perspectives and approaches.
8. Companies will see the rise of the internal entrepreneur
A growing number of companies will nourish lean startup methodologies to turn employees into entrepreneurs. For example, Cisco’s ongoing Innovate Everywhere Challenge encourages all employees to tap into their “inner entrepreneur” by providing ways to discover their true passions, purposes, and motivations. All employees have quick, easy access to startup resources, clear steps to form and co-develop ventures, lean startup methodologies (ideation, validation, funding, development), and an open collaboration platform to find and connect with like-minded entrepreneurs.
9. The rise of innovation ecosystem and co-innovation
The opportunities presented by digitization and Internet of Things technologies are too big and complex for any single company to capture alone. Partner ecosystems of developers, startups, entrepreneurs, academia, government and others will grow exponentially around the major technology platforms. Solution providers, along with their partner ecosystems and customers, will increasingly co-innovate market-changers in more transparent and collaborative environments from conception to completion. We will see the growth of global innovation centers where platform-driven ecosystems can come together to co-innovate.
10. Internal and external innovation will converge
Companies that cultivate innovation inside and outside their four walls will begin to cross-pollinate programs, strategies and methodologies. Innovative ideas and approaches from employees or from customers and partners will be shared to synergize creativity around mutual goals. Forward-leaning companies will encourage their in house innovators to study and adapt outside startup models, as well as reach out to external coaches, customers and partners to get fresh perspectives, validate and incubate their ideas.
On a personal note, I am most passionate about disruptive innovation that leads to new business models in companies of all sizes and types. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions, get stuck, or need an innovation therapist: