Innovation Myopia

In 2005, the year in which I launched my innovation blog, New Florence, I had 65 posts there. This year, at the pace January has started, I will have that many by the 3rd week of February! And my books written in the last 3 years have another 800 pages of other innovation case studies and trends. In spite of all the doom and gloom, we are living in an amazing innovation boom.

It also drives home the myopia of so many companies and individuals. There are vendor fan boys who refuse to acknowledge innovation from competitors.   There are social mavens who have no interest in sensors or satellites. There are folks who measure innovation based on R&D spend when business models, ecosystems, channels are showing dramatic innovation opportunities.  There are tech journalists in NYC who have never visited any of the innovative CIOs within driving distance of Manhattan. There are process specialists – hr, procurement etc – who only show interest in their domains.

We all need to expand our horizons. There are some dramatic implications for all of us no matter which industry we work in, which country we live in, or what phase of life we find ourselves in.

Time flies faster – much faster  Best Buy used to sell plenty of extended warranties. Now it has moved to “shortened”warranties via its Buy Back program. As customers lust after newer versions of everything, that program promises to buy back recent versions you are ready to retire. Last year at CES, it was the year of the tablet and people called HP a basket case. This year at CES it is the year of the Ultrabook, and HP is back with a vengeance. Workday has 3 major updates a year. In contrast many other enterprise vendors are still on 3-4-5 year cycles to release products or upgrades.

Our experiences are way more global Our airlines and telcos and our politicians still pretend consumers live in a cave. They forget we fly Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines and experience broadband in Japan and Finland and watch CNN and are active on Facebook and know there is a much better way. An IBM executive in Romania told me in 2004 that the entire hilly country of Macedonia was a hotspot. I filed that away and used it as an example in The New Polymath, after an email exchange with the project manager on that deployment. You don’t even need to get on a plane. I scrounge sites like MIT Technology Review and New Scientist for innovation ideas. Once a month I go to my local Barnes and Noble. I skim 8 to 10 magazines over a cappuccino and get 4-5 blog ideas every visit.

Demographic stereotypes are outdated I was fascinated with my nephew’s 2 year old daughter when they visited over the holidays, especially how adept she was with her iPad. (yes, her personal one). I am even more fascinated to see grandmas on flights with Kindles. When I ask them they tell me they are lighter than hardbacks, the font size can be magnified, and many like the text to voice feature. And then the conversation often drifts to medical devices at home and Bluetooth in their cars.

Sourcing stereotypes are outdated Technology capitals – Silicon Valley, Bangalore, Munich – are particularly arrogant about their role in the innovation world. My next book has plenty of Silicon Valley but it also has case studies on Estonia, Roosevelt Island in New York City, 3M in Minnesota, Corning in upstate NY, UPS in Georgia, Valence Health in Illinois, Taubman Shopping Centers across the country.

We are way more technologically curious I was fascinated with the Chinese printer my local takeout has to help out the cooks in the back with order information. I asked the owner for a tech tour. She asked me to come back when it was less busy and then gladly and proudly complied. The New Florence blog was inspired by a conversation with a manager at the New York Marriott Marquis. He explained how kiosks and software negated the need for what would have been years of chaos if they had tried to add more or bigger elevators in that always busy Times Square property. I have had countless conversations with pilots who are transiting at the back of the plane about aviation technology. I used to get funny looks, but now a days technology curiosity is not unusual. Your consumers expect more, your users expect much more.

Our friends are also more technologically curious Mike Prosceno of SAP, an avid fisherman,  sent me an email describing a fishing forum where they were discussing how they could use 3D printing to produce lures in the exact color combination based on what the fish were biting.  I constantly get ideas for the blog from Dennis Howlett in Spain, Thomas Otter of Gartner in Germany, Charlie Bess of HP in Texas. My friend Tom Chimera owns an RV and told me he was headed to an RV show this week. I asked to join him and yesterday, the President of Featherline Coaches gave us a tour of the technology in his high-end Prevost RV (list of $ 2.7 million). Everything from iPad controls to technology to ensure zero emissions from a 50,000 lbs home on wheels. Tom was even more energized than I was after the session and I have invited him to guest blog on the experience.   More signs technology curiosity is becoming more mainstream. Expect much more demanding customers, partners, investors.

Enjoy the innovation boom. Get a new set of prescription lenses. So much to soak in! And so much new to adapt to.

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CEO of Deal Architect, a top advisory boutique recognized in The Black Book of Outsourcing, author of a widely praised book on technology enabled innovation, The New Polymath, prolific blogger, writing about technology-enabled innovation at New Florence, New Renaissance and about waste in technology at Deal Architect.  Previously Analyst  at Gartner, Partner with PwC Consulting. Keynoted at many business and technology conferences and has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, The Financial Times, CIO Magazine, and other executive and technology publications.