"Disrupt yourself before someone else will"
Executives discuss innovation at the launch of the Deloitte Center for the Edge Europe
Robotics, 3D printing, driverless cars. Technological developments that are going on right now, but are not always picked up in the boardrooms of large corporations. As an executive, how do you identify and seize the opportunities on the edge of your current business? Keynote speakers Peter Diamandis and John Hagel shared their insights at the official launch of the Deloitte Center for the Edge Europe on November 20 in Rotterdam, which was organised in partnership with Singularity University NL.
22 november 2013
"No matter how many smart people you have inside your organisation, there are always going to be more smart people outside"
There is a big shift taking place in the ways we do business, according to John Hagel, co-founder of the Deloitte Center for the Edge in Silicon Valley. Booming digital technologies are opening up a wide array of new possibilities. But the paradox is this: while the window of opportunity is expanding, short-term performance pressure is mounting as well. Both for you as an individual, and for your company as a whole. What used to bring success yesterday, can be obsolete tomorrow. "If we stick to our traditional business models, we'll keep running faster but will still be falling further behind."
Peter Diamandis, founder of Singularity University (partner of Deloitte Center for the Edge), gives an example. Multinational Kodak had a market cap of 28 billion dollars in 1996 and had 140,000 employees. However, it failed to adapt to an increasingly digital world and filed for bankruptcy in 2012. In the same year, a small company of 12 employees called Instagram was acquired by Facebook for 1 billion dollars.
This is what Diamandis calls deceptive growth. The disruptive power of a small startup can lurk beneath the surface for a while, until it suddenly explodes into the marketplace - and then keeps growing, at an exponential rate. The problem is: it's hard to foresee such disruptions, because you and I tend to think linearly. We tend to think that it will take years for technologies to impact us. This is a mistake. But it's nothing to be ashamed of. It's how our brains were wired over 150,000 years ago, when things changed much more slowly than they do now.
Tap into the crowd
So how do you identify the opportunities at the edge of your current business and act on them before someone else does? Don't wait for innovation to occur from the inside, is what Diamandis and Hagel advise. Or as Hagel frames it: "No matter how many smart people you have inside your organisation, there are always going to be more smart people outside." Don't see this as a threat. See it as an opportunity. "Tap into the power of the crowd and small ventures," Diamandis says.
If there ever was a case for the power of crowdsourcing, Diamandis delivers it. In 1994, he founded the XPRIZE to fund and operate a 10 million dollar incentive competition. The dream? Inspire the development of private passenger-carrying spaceships. 26 teams from 7 countries participated in the competition. This first XPRIZE competition resulted in the birth of SpaceShipOne: the world's first non-government piloted spacecraft.
Since then, Diamandis and his foundation have launched similar competitions to fuel innovations in healthcare, education and environmental protection. And the interesting thing is: sometimes the people who came up with the brightest ideas, were the people you would least expect it from. For example, the owner of a Las Vegas tattoo parlour (!) invented new ways of cleaning up oil pollution.
Unlikely stories like this make Diamandis sparkle with optimism. "The future will be better than you think, if you're willing to unlock the power of crowd. Over the next seven years, more than three billion people will come online who have never had the opportunity to share their thoughts on a global scale. What are they going to create and discover? We're heading for the greatest period of innovation in the history of mankind."
Wassili Bertoen, Director at the Deloitte Center for the Edge Europe, agrees. "There is a huge potential for innovation in The Netherlands and Europe as well, waiting for us to be unlocked."
How do you make such a bold vision work for you within the dynamics of the boardroom in a large corporation? As one the 50 participating CEOs and board members said, "It's a struggle not to get caught up in detailed five-year strategic plans."
John Hagel, who has worked with executives worldwide, offered valuable advice. "First, focus on the the next five to ten years. Don't map out a detailed blueprint for your business. Just make sure you have a clear sense of where you're heading. Then, focus on the next six to twelve months. Choose two or three operating initiatives that will help you most to propel forward your business towards your long-term vision. No more than that. It's essential that you free up resources for your two or three most critical initiatives."
What are your critical initiatives for the next six to twelve months? What opportunities are there at the edge of your current business? And how will you disrupt your own company? Find out more at the Deloitte Center for the Edge Europe. Or get in touch with Wassili Bertoen, Director at Deloitte Center for the Edge Europe, at +31 (0)6 21 27 22 93.