The Age of Innovation

by Kevin Coleman

The Age of InnovationThroughout history, the world has experienced periods that brought about unprecedented change. The industrial revolution is very well known due to innovations associated with that period resulting in the increase in productivity as well as the rapid pace of change that occurred. Then there was the Internet age of the mid and late 90s.  Once again, the world experienced an unprecedented innovation and the pace of change again accelerated. While the implications of the Internet age have slowed and morphed, it continues to evolve today. Those were certainly exciting periods of innovation and they affected all of us personally and professionally. What took place in these periods was truly life changing. While as impactful as those periods were, they will pale in comparison to what lays just over the horizon.  Innovation will be the key to success in this era of rapid technological advancement and adoption.

The new opportunities created by multiple technologies that will emerge over the next few years coupled with the continuation of the ongoing digital revolution will combine to far surpass the innovation that we have experienced previously. This has not missed the attention of many business and government leaders. In just one day, I received over a dozen notices of innovation centers opening all over the world.  What is most interesting is that several governments have come to the realization that they (government) often get in the way of innovation. What is surprising is that they have taken measures to get out of the way of entrepreneurs and companies that are looking to create the technologies of the near future.

To a far lesser extent, company executives have come to the same realization. While the vast majority of organizations continue on using a ‘business as usual’ approach, there are a few that realize they need to not just get out of the way but to find ways to support innovation within their enterprise. They are the smart ones!  In one recent report that looked at the not so distant future, one scenario found the projected benefits of the Internet in 2030 would produce a global gain of $190 trillion. That number is nearly incomprehensible! After speaking on this topic, one executive said, “That is one huge pie and I just want my unfair share of it.”  I am sure she is not the only one that feels that way.  Stop for a moment or two and considerable all the unique innovations that will accompany such a dramatic growth in Internet benefits.

All organizations, government and the private sector must realize that in the global competitive environment in which we live and work, innovation requires the organization to be pulling as hard as they can in the same direction. Today’s leaders of innovation must take a lesson from shepherds.  Shepherds get the flock headed in the desired direction and then follow behind the flock – helping those that fall behind or stray even slightly. All too often employees and even entire departments that believe they stand to lose their level of importance and influence to the organization because of some innovation tend to stray. Worse yet, they invoke the pocket veto. They not only chose to not support the innovation/initiative, but they become obstructionists. Some overtly and some covertly through side conversation try to influence their audience to oppose the innovation/initiative and resulting change. This makes resistance to change the single largest obstacle to innovation. Some refer to it as ‘organizational inertia.’  Objects at rest try to stay at rest and so in this case that translates to ‘we have always done it this way’ attitudes, which frequently impede innovation.

Innovation is difficult and individuals and organizations respond to the changes brought about by innovation at different paces. Given the heightened level of competition we all now face, even a single person resisting innovation is one too many. The Internet of Things (IoT), connected car as a computing platform, wearable computing, 3D and 4D printing, as well as multiple technologies that are just now being created are combining to spawn an era of innovation like no other in history and likely to be the greatest era of technological change in our lifetime. Some analysts have estimated that these technology innovations will result in trillions of dollars of opportunity. All that just waiting for those that dares to set out and capitalize of this unique opportunity. Given all this information, it is easy to see how the future belongs to those who innovate!

There is so much at stake here for individuals, companies and even countries. Those that don’t lead or quickly follow will undoubtedly be aggressively pushed aside! It is only a matter of time and just that simple.

It is important to recognize, the innovation driving the advancement of these technologies will enable innovation in the way organizations operate and conduct business. Embracing a new era is not without risks and although many organizations are cautiously optimistic about what this era will bring, risk management must become an integral part to an organization’s strategy.

These are the lessons I took away from working with one of the most innovation companies of modern times – Netscape. Everyone knew that what the company was building would have a tremendous impact and change the way we lived, worked and how information was delivered and consumed. There is no way we could have grown at 65,000 percent in under five years and done the largest merger in history at that time if all the employees were not moving in the same direction and pulling as hard as they could.  Coming up with an innovative idea or concept is just the first step in a complex process and perhaps it is even the easiest step when you consider what it will take to make the innovative idea a reality. What is your strategy for innovatively addressing the coming era of change being brought about by emerging technologies?

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The Age of Innovation - Innovation ExcellenceKevin Coleman is a speaker, author, and technology advisor who provides insight on strategy, innovation, creativity and the high velocity technology era that is just around the corner. He has spoken at some of the world’s most prestigious organizations, including the United Nations, U.S. Congress, U.S. Strategic Command, and before Fortune 500 organizations and briefed executives in 42 countries.

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