How to Innovate – The New Normal
As I talk more to large companies both within and outside the computer technology space I’ve noticed that the best positioned for innovation are those that realize the days of relying solely on internal R&D staff are over. For centuries, becoming an “innovator” has been challenged with many barriers to entry. Complexities relating to financing, engineering, distribution, and legalities have stood in the way of brilliant people executing on their great ideas.
“Traditional innovation” has long been seen as happening only within corporations via a “top down” approach. These companies would have the resources and funding to dedicate to creating new ideas and researching new markets. Typically such corporations would have 10, 50, or 100+ people sitting in a corporate office or lab trying to come up with and test new ideas. That was just the normal way of operating.
In today’s world you can’t compete by relying on input from a relatively small number of individuals. With the advent of new technologies and platforms we have now eliminated many barriers to entry that have existed in the past opening up many opportunities for young, brilliant minds to compete in areas that just a few years ago would have been almost impossible to enter.
Even young inventors with limited capital now have the ability to connect with millions of actual consumers, investors, compute resources, and input to help build useful products and services. No longer do you even need a corporate office with a dedicated staff.
An anecdotal example of how a company who told me about his team who had two options to launch a new product: they could spend 18-24 months from idea to launch using their internal R&D team, or they could go out and buy a small company that was already well positioned to capitalize on said trend. This large company said given the choice they almost always prefer the latter option. As innovation timelines across all industries become squeezed, the need to decentralize (and quicken) innovation will continue to grow.
This concept of “dispersed innovation” will ultimately replace the traditional “top down” innovation that has existed as the norm for centuries.
Below are four platforms we love for promoting dispersed innovation:
Amazon Cloud Services – With cloud services you no longer have to come up with any capital to purchase computer equipment to run your websites or application development teams. You simply rent out what you need and scale up as your business expands. You have almost unlimited amount of computing power at your fingertips. Your imagination and creativity are the only limits.
Odesk – Global workforce available to work for you 24×7. Outsourcing work can now be done with a few clicks of the button. With services like odesk you now have access to thousands of talented folks from around the world to perform almost any task your business requires. Human labor has never been easier to secure.
Coursera.org – Education is the key to success. New platforms like coursera.org is turning education system on it’s head. The days of expensive college education may be numbered as new sites like coursra are offering college classes online for free. Sign up to take courses from MIT, Stanford, Univerisity of Virginia, Penn State, and other top schools. Many classes have over 100K registered students and an active community to learn just about any topic.
Kickstarter – Have a great idea and need to finance it? With platforms like kickstarter you can get financing or investors for your idea. It’s also a great way to gauge interest in your product before you devote your time to deploying it. The way it works: 1) Post your idea and funding requirements 2) Let potential investors know what they’ll get in return for investing 3) Set your minimum funding requirements. If you get your minimum funding requirements you’ll be able to kickstart the project with the funds and return back to investors what you’d promised.
Quirky (www.quirky.com). We’ve all been there, sketching out an invention on a napkin or notepad during a long business meeting. Quirky brings these cocktail napkin sketches to life. Users on Quirky pay $10 to submit their product ideas and can also rate and influence others’ product ideas through all phases of product development: product design, logo, name, packaging, etc. It claims to have a community of 354,000 inventors.
YouTube (www.youtube.com). While YouTube serves a lot of functions (like watching an unsuspecting mountain biker get leveled by a gazelle), one of those functions is dispersing innovation. An example is the music industry. Historically, discovering new artists was an incredibly inefficient process, which required artists to send demo tapes to record producers and then audition in person. At age 12, Justin Bieber was posting videos of himself on YouTube, which were discovered by a talent scout who arranged for Bieber to meet with Usher…and so the phenomenon began. Bieber is not alone either. With platforms like YouTube, the pool of music talent will greatly expand as the costs for artists and producers are minimized—another great example of innovation dispersing among the masses.