Looking Ahead to 2014

by | Monday, December 9th, 2013

There are more than enough posts about predictions and trends for 2014 out there to entertain your mind. I’m not one to make predictions. I prefer to set the agenda. Two things I will talk about in this post to look forward to the next year: connected experiences and how we think about innovation.

Let’s Talk About Connected Experiences

While most of the discussion in 2014 will still be around the hot topics of Big Data, The Internet of Things, 3D Printing, and other buzzworthy topics; what holds these things together and can’t be easily replicated is an overall connected experience.  Organizations will still look at all of the hot topics as separate pieces, to see how they can integrate them, and this is usually how it starts: you starting testing in isolation until you figure out if works for you.

But experiences are more fluid and connected than ever. The recent advances in sync technology that the XBOX One brings to the table is a leading indicator on how devices are connected experiences. You can bring them with you anywhere. And, while tablets and smartphones will become pervasive touch points in those experiences, the human element will not be replaced. People still want to have contact with people, if it makes sense.

Amazon shows that they understand this better than ever with their Mayday feature that comes with the newest breed of Kindles. Whether they got it right or wrong isn’t the point. What they are saying is that they want to have contact with customers, and will be available with one click when the customer needs them. This is thinking ahead of the game, and just comes to show how they are “retail”.

The Key Takeway Here

The conversation about emerging technologies should be around the connected experience and outcomes for customers, not the benefits for an organization. Your point of view should define what to do and what not to do.

To look back is to look forward. The saddest thing about 2013 is that the word “innovation” keeps getting diluted. It is now a marketing ploy. Before the end of the year, and every day after that, companies who are serious about innovation should ask themselves this question: how can we be the only ones who do what we do?

The answer to that question isn’t about Big Data, or any other “hot topic”, it is about what are you enabling customers to do. How are you transforming them?

People don’t remember specific features, they remember the experience had. Companies are confusing a product upgrade with innovation, and to believe that changing one thing is enough to make a splash is short-term-ism at its finest. A recent post on the Wall Street Journal has pretty much put it in perspective how executives are looking at innovation: “something that is innovative to them”.

The Right Way to Think About Innovation

The right way to think about innovation is this: how are we transforming customers? How are we helping them be innovative?

This is a different way of thinking about value proposition; it’s about developing human capital. Not simply delivering a product or service “because that is what companies do”. Companies that believe that out-featuring competitors is the way to innovation riches are kidding themselves. You might feel that way in the short term, but you are simply adding more wood to the fire that creates a thick screen of smoke that distracts and annoys people.

Customers, people, users, are experiencing more chaos than ever. Too many choices are creating noise in their lives. This is a huge opportunity for both startups and established companies to make an impact in people’s lives. The sooner you rethink how you look at innovation, the faster you will orient your efforts towards really thinking about how you might transform them.

To finish, I’ll leave you with this last thought: the more you say you are innovative, the less innovative you are.

 

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