“When Henry Ford made cheap, reliable cars, people said, ‘Nah, what’s wrong with a horse?'” -Elon Musk
Until a few years ago, most companies focused on process improvements or incremental changes. The strategies used to remain competitive were cost optimization, economies of scale, quality improvement, moderate time-to-market, etc. Different groups and initiatives were formed within organizations to work on these Key Performance Indicators. When companies like Apple and Google emerged, they revolutionized the IT industry, and competitors and segments focused just on improvement were eliminated overnight. It was a wake up call for everyone working on the incremental stuff.
Fortunately, there is no longer any confusion on what to emphasize. Rapid technological advancement has called for big ideas and bigger thinkers. Every business and industry is now expected to bring true change. And innovation in one industry is expected to trigger innovations in many others. I call this Innovation Proliferation.
In the words of Ray Kurzweil: “Our intuition about the future is linear. But the reality of information technology is exponential, and that makes a profound difference. If I take 30 steps linearly, I get to 30. If I take 30 steps exponentially, I get to a billion”.
Superficial improvements just aren’t enough when innovations hit the market at an exponential rate. Whether as an individual or as a leader of a company, you will be expected to deliver cutting-edge services and products. Without speed and disruption, you can only expect to deliver mediocre improvements. True innovations require agility and daring. Only a few can cope with the requirements of both visionary thinking and ruthless execution. The best companies are now trying to crack the innovation code by developing new philosophies and frameworks informed by this new methodology.