How has innovation evolved over the past decade?


Innovation 10 years ago was not the buzzword that it is today. We must be careful that we don't lose the true essence of the word to those marketing departments hijacking the term. Innovation is a process for solving problems -- a cycle that must repeat as long as challenges and obstacles exist. In many cases, the word "innovation" is used to describe the outcome of this process and this is where we must be careful. We must not confuse the process with the outcome -- which is often the result of executing a common sense solution (one solution of many) that emerges from a constant incessant quest to understand the problem more deeply.

The moment we stop to ask questions in order to know more about the problem at hand, the moment we put our assumptions aside (or even acknowledge our assumptions), to look at new angles of the problem -- that is the moment the process of innovation begins. Questions challenge the status quo, the standard operating procedure, and they create a little window to more information - more data. As we are armed with more information, we can aim to develop a stronger solution -- but as we begin to execute the solution, we uncover new information, new data. And so the cycle of innovation goes.

So many industries and sectors have changed over the past decade (as more continue to shift dramatically) that I have too much to write on the topic. So I am limiting myself to the first three points that come to mind for each of these five areas:

 

Impact on Economy

1. Innovation plays a huge role in entrepreneurship today as new technology dramatically shifts old business models, technologies, services, and cultural norms. Over the past 10 years, there has been intentional and deliberate efforts made by entrepreneurs to innovate and bring disruptive new products to market.

2. The individual consumer's contribution to the broader economy is increasingly fragmented -- for example, people are paying many more vendors a month small sums of money. Due to a number of factors including the rise of the sharing economies, the rise of the freelancer, and the rise of millennial preference towards service technologies.

3. Value is created between people in ways that cannot be truly described and captured by just financial metrics -- especially as data plays an increasingly strong proxy for money.

 

Impact on Culture

1. We are just starting to become aware of the strengths that diversity of thought and perspectives bring to any culture of innovation

2. The rise of the digital native and subsequently the beginning of the rise of the data native

3. The late nineties and early 2000s developed an expectation in the market for "freemium" content, services, and technologies -- with a large percentage of every customer base paying little or no money and providing personal data in exchange for new technologies. This created unique challenges to traditional business models and forced both companies and financial markets to shift their perspectives. Consumer expectations are continuing to shift and change -- from a new global trust in the "sharing economy" apps (Uber, AirBnb, etc.) to a new distrust in those same apps  collecting personal data.

4. Innovation in the design, ease of use, and user experience of software products (as apps) in the consumer markets created a huge contrast with the user experience of enterprise software -- people are using better designed technology at home than they are at work. This contrast in experience at home vs. at work creates opportunities for incumbent (mainly enterprise Saas) technologies to compete with traditional market leaders.

 

Impact on government

1. Data as a public good is beginning to emerge as a foundational principle in local and federal governments around the world.

2. Government is beginning to be embraced as a platform for innovation that to foster private sector growth

3. New methodologies and philosophies from the technology sector are embraced by govt. to help scale govt services - i.e.  Agile, crowd-sourcing, open data

 

Impact on global development

1. New technologies, tools, services with massive impact are starting to emerge from emerging markets, both to meet their own regional needs and to serve a global market

2. "Innovation ecosystem development" is now taken on as a task by cities and community builders in emerging markets around the world. These innovation spaces and business models are intentionally funded, managed, and scaled in key geographical hubs around the world (ie. Nairobi, Medellin, Skolkovo) While not all of these of efforts have been successful, there is a very clear and marked shift in the approach towards innovation by tech communities around the world.

3. More opportunities to serve a new set of diverse markets around the world - from food delivery apps in China to car-sharing apps in India - While the proliferation of mobile technologies throughout the world has been accelerating, there are now massive markets demanding content, services, technologies provided through their mobile platform of choice.

 

Impact on Technology

1. Increase in the quality, quantity, and manageability of data

2. Service technologies - apps and Saas tools that provide services

3. Standards and interoperability meet the demand for a new set of "languages" for machines and people to communicate with each other.