How would your company cope if its entire product portfolio became obsolete? A ridiculous question? Just ask Polaroid whose whole business model died when digital photography was born. Or incandescent light bulb makers who are seeing their products banned around the world.
Today, most innovation is incremental. Companies improve tried and tested products to chase the tail of demand. But that leaves them open to the “obsoleteness problem”, as they are just keeping pace with a logic that is plummeting. What’s more, incremental innovation is unlikely to deliver the breakthroughs needed to address bigger world issues such as climate change and water shortages.
For many, the answer to both these challenges lies in open innovation. But is today’s model of open innovation up to the challenge? Steven Peleman, founder of Corporate Hurricane thinks not.Watch movie online John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)Watch movie online A Cure for Wellness (2017)
“Big companies talk about open innovation. But what most of them practice is only a limited version of it. They get involved in collaborative projects but with a fixed purpose in mind. That’s great for highly predictable, and hence often incremental, innovation. However, real change comes from disruption. You can’t guarantee disruption up front, you can only pursue it. And that means bringing together a wide enough pool of thinkers without a clear linearity of time and result, so they have the freedom to think open-endedly,” he asserts.
This implies a more system-level approach to innovation. For example, the biggest gains in energy consumption and carbon emissions will come from considering all facets of how we generate and use energy – rather than focusing solely on new, more energy efficient technologies and products.
Starting from this point, there is no limit to what ideas can be generated – making breakthrough innovation more likely. Many of these ideas may fall outside the current business scope of the partners involved, providing opportunities for companies to protect themselves against the obsoleteness problem. But it poses challenges about how to develop the idea in its earliest stages, which is where Corporate Hurricane can help.
“I see Corporate Hurricane as an organization that incubates ideas,” explains Steven. “We offer an objective view on technology, developing future core business for companies,” he continues. “It’s impossible to predict the future, but if you combine radically new technologies with the knowledge of potential markets and scenarios, you can generate important breakthroughs.”
Living Tomorrow site in Vilvoorde, Belgium – the home of TomorrowLab, a company for which Corporate Hurricane manages all innovation projects with partner consortia. It’s a location that certainly encourages innovative thinking. In a standard business park the Living Tomorrow building stands out: a sky blue, avant-garde sculpture.
Inside, the building houses a network of rooms jointly created by different businesses to showcase potential consumer applications of our future. And as Steven shows me round this “Home of the Future”, he explains how it acts as a platform where others can see concepts in action – both technological and in how open innovation can work.
After romancing with the slick applications in the Home of Tomorrow I grounded myself. Yes, it would be great to adopt all of this technology and improve certain elements of our lifestyle. But, for me, some aspects of the project are luxuries that we can live with or without.
The real importance here is the nature of open innovation practised. More than anything, it shows how a collective of businesses growing new ideas together can make a difference to all our lives and to their own bottom lines.
The concerns if we don’t reconsider innovation are stark. For businesses, many may see their products become obsolete without having thought of the new, disruptive technologies to replenish their lost revenue.
For the rest of us, the magnitude of the changes needed to address bigger world issues such as energy and water use can’t be tackled in incremental steps. In order to make the changes crucial to improving our environment and the quality of our lives, we must step back and totally reassess the systems by which we operate.