I was recently on a trip to the US; a transatlantic flight on a Boeing 747, my favourite airplane – apart from the Seneca II that I used to own. Anyway, the reason I love long-distance flights is because they cut us off from everyday life, although unfortunately no longer the phone nor web these days.
They therefore provide us with a very rare commodity; some precious thinking time. How do we ever get that otherwise? Speaking personally, my brain seems to be constantly under pressure from the challenges of work, family, friends – in a word, living – so I love it when I need to get on a flight, the longer the better.
I watched Transcendence on this flight; it’s about the moment when the human brain and technology become one. I love science fiction (SciFi), because it frees the mind to dream and to be far more creative than the “normal” working environment ever allows.
After the film and lunch were over, my mind turned – of course – to business and how I could set my past, current and future clients free too; how to make them more creative as well as more customer centric. So this is what I came up with, far above the clouds and worries of my everyday world.
The future is in our h ands
We are all wise after the event, but how do we become wise before it? In my opinion, by setting free our thoughts about the future and our creativity. Many companies have an innovation group, but rarely do they set them free, to think big, to think out of the box.
In fact in many cases, they are literally put in their own boxes, separated from the business for which they are supposed to be innovating. Whilst the intention of this separation may be laudable – it is claimed that it provides increased freedom – it generally doesn’t work, because the group’s creativity is not grounded.
Despite their incredible creativity, even science fiction writers are grounded; their stories are based on facts, a progression from current actualities to future possibilities. I am not suggesting that innovation be limited to the mere renovation of today’s products and services, but rather that they be based upon a realistic progression of today’s realities, rather than pure hypothesis. In particular, they should be developed out of current sociatal trends, behaviors and needs.
Trend following isn’t creative
Are you following trends? Are you happy with the information you are getting from your supplier? We all love to look at new inventions and products from around the world, but just think about what useful and actionable information you are really getting.
I’m sorry to break the news to you, but you are almost certainly getting exactly the same suggestions as the tens, if not hundreds of other clients your supplier has. Reports aren’t generally personalized, or only minimally, so whatever ideas their reports might spark, are likely to be sparking in every one of your competitors minds too!
So if trend following won’t help your innovation, what will? My answer would be many things; isn’t that good to know?
Develop your trends into future scenarios
Trends do not provide you with a competitive advantage, especially for innovation, so you need to first turn them into future scenarios. There are (at least) two ways to do this.
Firstly you can combine the trends and form what are often referred to as axes of uncertainty. When crossed, these form four (or more) new worlds for you to then define, describe and develop. Your possible actions in each of these scenarios can then be identified, so your business is prepared for all major possible risks and opportunities.
“We must never be afraid to go too far, for truth lies beyond” Marcel Proust (>><<)
The second way is by identifying the major trends that may impact your business and then letting a Science Fiction writer describe the world that could develop. It is not so much a matter of being right as being provocative, the more the better. That’s why SciFi writers are amongst the best people to stretch our thinking. They have the creativity to go far beyond what most of us would think about, even when stretching our thinking. After all, the point of future scenarios is to prepare business for the future, not to predict it (>><<)
Visualise the future
Once you have developed your scenario – or two – you should visualise them to increases buy-in and sharing. This can be through a simple presentation, descriptive profiles or more exciting animations and videos.
Lowe’s has been one of the companies at the forefront of such visual development, using virtual reality to develop The Holoroom to show what SciFutures‘ science-fiction writers had developed. The room puts consumers into a new world where they can see their own new world, at least of their home after their planned renovation.
Other industries that are quickly developing new virtual worlds for customers include car and plane manufacturers showing future travel options. Car purchasers can also experience their new cars before actually buying them and can help in the development of cars that more perfectly meet their desires and needs.
Innovating outside the box
In too many cases innovation is built upon reality and a company’s current offers, in other words are renovations not innovations, just a step change from what we have today. New products developed using scenario planning tend to be faster, clearer, more efficient, longer-lasting and overall more attractive.
Technology makes what was even unthinkable just a few months or years ago, a reality today or in the very near future. Everything is moving faster and faster, so businesses must do the same. As this is rarely possible, they must already think the unthinkable today, so that they are prepared when it actually happens tomorrow. (>><<)
Are you ready for the brave new world that is estimated to be just ten, twenty or at most just thirty years from now? That’s when the point of singularity is estimated to arrive.
If you would like help in improving your own innovation process, or in developing a future scenario for your organisation, please let us know; we would be excited to inspire you.
C3Centricity used an image from Dreamstime in this post.