Hmmm…. 2012…. Not your average date in the calendar, according to everyone from the ancient Mayans to hordes of New Agers who are busy getting ready for “galactic alignment”, to popular fiction’s high priest of secret mystical knowledge, Dan Brown, to Hollywood’s master of the cataclysmic blockbuster, Roland Emmerich. 2012 has been the inspiration for hundreds of books and hundreds of thousands of websites focused on spiritual transformation, the end of “The Great Cycle”, “Harmonic Convergence”, and “Balancing the Cosmos”. In fact, NASA’s public outreach website “Ask an Astrobiologist” has already received over 5,000 questions from the public about what next year might bring, some asking whether they should kill themselves, their children or their pets as we approach impending doom!
So when we sat down to write our 10 predictions for 2012 we did so with a degree of humility, certainly not claiming to know anything more about next year than any of the reputable parties mentioned above. But we did come up with a few developments that we believe we could be looking back on one year from now – that is, if we’re all still here by next December 21st, after we reach “Timewave Zero” and “Geomagnetic Reversal”, not to mention Earth’s collision with the planet “Nibiru”.
First, we have a few predictions about the evolving state of innovation itself, followed by some more general stuff about innovation geopolitics, and then a few of the intesection points between technology, lifestyle and popular culture where we believe innovation will touch our daily lives in exciting new ways.
But, as a precursor to all of that, here’s our quick summary of 2011 and its impact on the innovation profession.
This year we saw amazing growth in the number of organizations pursuing Innovation Excellence around the world. Clearly, the innovation movement is picking up momentum, with companies of every stripe and from every industry trying to embed innovation into the DNA of their organizations and make it a deep enterprise capability – just as we describe it every day on this site. Countless new innovation infrastructures and teams were created around the world; new processes, mechanisms and systems were installed; new innovation partnerships were formed; and hundreds of internal/external innovation campaigns and challenges were run. There was a real buzz in the innovation practitioner community, too, as we have picked up in our daily posts, with lots of newly appointed “process champions” working hard to formalize their funding models, selection criteria, and communications strategies, and to lead brave cultural transformations inside their companies in order to support and enable continuous innovation. 2011 also marked a big switch in how a large number of organizations were thinking about innovating with their employees, and we saw a lot of them switch from an electronic suggestion box model to a predominantly challenge-driven innovation model as innovation professionals sought to maximize their limited resources.
So what do we see ahead for 2012?
When got together over a great bottle of wine and ruminated on all the great contributions you’ve made this year, we came up with these 10 predictions for innovators — for the people who do the real work. As you will see, we started out somewhat narrowly focused on the way we see innovation evolving, and ended up a lot wider in scope… even – dare we say it? – a little more spiritual in our thinking. Why not see for yourself?
- 2012 will be the Year of Open Innovation. As more and more organizations build their internal innovation capabilities and feel comfortable soliciting ideas from employees, we will see more organizations in 2012 open up their quest for continuous innovation to ideas from suppliers, partners, and even customers or the general public. This will cause an increase in the competition for ideas, which means that organizations must be much more deliberate and systematic in how they approach their community of potential open innovation partners – if they hope to become THE partner of choice. Failure in Open Innovation typically comes from poor communications or the absence of cultural readiness. While success at Open Innovation requires changing the perspective and culture of your organization from ‘Not Invented Here (NIH)’ to the famous words of Procter & Gamble (P&G) – ‘Proudly Found Elsewhere’. But beyond a changing mindset, organizations wishing to utilize Open Innovation to accelerate their innovation efforts must also re-structure themselves, and possibly even the evaluation of their employees, to facilitate and encourage the acceptance and commercialization of valid ideas coming in from the outside. Which organizations will succeed and which will fail at Open Innovation in 2012? You tell us…
- In 2012 companies that fail to innovate will continue to fail. In 2011 we saw the acquisition of Motorola Mobility by Google and of Blockbuster by Dish Network, the absorption of Sony-Ericsson into Sony after a buyout, accompanied by the failure of Borders. All of these companies were once very successful and even innovative, but missed a wave of innovation in their industries and left themselves weak and vulnerable. All successful companies were innovative at one time. The trick is to create an organization with the ability to continuously renew, reinvent, and reconsider what will make your organization successful and innovative in the future. This is what Innovation Excellence is all about – making innovation a deep and sustainable capability of your organization – not a one-time thing. In 2012 will Research in Motion (RIM) or Nokia find themselves acquired or out of business? What other once proud innovators are in danger of being acquired or going bankrupt in 2012?
- 2012 will mark the rise of systematic innovation efforts in small business. While 2011 was a year in which an increasing number of big companies joined the ranks of those pursuing Innovation Excellence, in 2012 we will see an increase in the volume of small to medium-size companies seeking to make innovation a deep organizational capability or core competence. We are not talking about startups here. The startup phase is all about sorting out whether the company’s founding idea is an innovation or an invention. Those startups that possess an innovation – which starts to meet a large niche or mass market demand – will become obsessed with meeting that demand. Startups formed around an idea that only proves to be an invention will shrivel and die. As a result of their limited resources, startups should focus more on building the foundations of Innovation Excellence, primarily a culture of experimentation, information sharing, and rapid learning. In the short run, these will help to evolve the founding idea for market success, while giving the startup something to build on when growth slows and the resources become available to make innovation a deep, renewable capability. The big questions we’ll continue to see from small and medium-sized businesses in 2012 when it comes to innovation will include: How can we encourage innovation without allocating a team of 20 people to it? How can I fund innovation projects if I don’t have millions of dollars to set aside? Am I too small to engage in Open Innovation? Finally, here’s one for you: If you are in a small or medium-sized business, what questions do you have about how to make innovation happen?
- In 2012, national and regional governments will become increasingly involved in nurturing innovation. As Britain’s Economist magazine has noted: “Innovation is now recognized as the single most important ingredient in any modern economy.” That’s why, a couple of years back, President Obama pledged $100 billion in government funding to support and encourage American innovation. And the European Union recently followed suit with their 80 billion Euro “Horizon 2020” fund to create what they are ambitiously calling the “Innovation Union”. What we will witness in 2012 is an increase in government programs that are set up to encourage long-term economic growth through innovation. We are already seeing this at a more local or regional level inside many countries, and it’s not necessarily the countries that regularly make it to the top of the Global Innovation Index. For example, Argentina ranks 58 in INSEAD’s latest index, and Colombia is down there in the 70s, but both countries have recently established government agencies in some of their most important regions to financially support companies that want to improve their innovation capability. Colombia even has agencies at the city level, such as Ruta N in Medellin which is focused on supporting local companies in their innovation efforts. In fact, one of our other predictions for 2012 would be that Latin America will continue to rise as an important innovation region, not necessarily in terms of overall R&D expenditure, number of patents filed or trademarks registered, number of Ph.D.-holders in the population, and so on, but in terms of the number of companies that are working hard to embed in innovation into their organizations, often resulting in important non-technological innovations such as new services and business models. Tell us, What is the government doing in your own country to support companies that truly want to become innovation champions?
Turning our innovation lens out to some of the other big trends that are happening around us, and in particular to areas where technology, lifestyle and popular culture are coming together in exciting new ways, we came up with these further six predictions:
- In 2012, self-expression will transcend entertainment. And become the growth enterprise. Steve Jobs anticipated it with i-Life, giving us our own Spielberg toolkit. Arianna Huffington harnessed it, and now has her hands on the wheel of AOL, which will become a relevant platform, once again. Michelle Obama certified “collage vs. matchy-matchy,” adding JCrew and Target items and sensibilities to her first lady appearances. One Literary Agent friend laments that more people are writing books that reading them. Our Self Publishing editor, Joan Holman, tracks this phenomenon for us closely, and with her help we’ll be making it easier for all of you to do just that in the New Year. It might just be that Tom Peters’ claim that “Everyone is a Michaelangelo” is the pendulum swing out of greed, financial decline and uncertainty that “Occupy Wall Street” is only hinting at. Or why else would Russell Simmons be signing on to produce?!? Russell Simmons isn’t calling you?No worries! You can produce yourself. All it takes is a little courage, technical resource and the willingness to take a risk publicly — aka fail! Do you have exciting new plans to self-publish in 2012? If so, let us know. If you’re a regular contributor to Innovation Excellence you’re already a self-publisher!
- All this self-expression spells trouble for Old School leaders — but good news for “Transformational Innovation Leaders” who as “game-changers, think outside the box, and see what others don’t,” say Jane Stevenson and Bilal Kaafarani in their new book Breaking Away. Because they’re also “technically insightful and intuitive” these leaders should have no problem incorporating Facebook, Twitter and the much larger super highways of their own employees’ ideas, ideals, passions, insights and networks into their organizations, products, services and brands. Should be fun. There will more conversations and less one-way interruptions. Is this something you’re already doing in your own organization? And how about embedding Innovation Excellence into your corporate Intranet?
- In 2012, eBooks will reinvent the traditional book publishing industry. All part of the same self-expression trend, but with a twist in the tale. Of course, we don’t doubt for a moment that 2012 will continue to see traditional print sales collapsing and bookstores closing, while e-books sales rise exponentially and self-publishing becomes more popular with both new and veteran authors. But there’s also a chance that traditional publishers will finally start to catch up, learning to embrace the “strange new digital world” instead of denying that it’s actually destroying them. Having seen the future, in the shape of the iPad and the growing array of multimedia eBook apps on Apple iTunes, not to mention the array of new SW tools now available to the self-publishing crowd for creating more sophisticated ebooks, the publishing industry will be forced to use its financial muscle to innovate and improve the quality of its own products. Amazon is the player to watch, as always, not just as Kindle continues to evolve as an eBook platform, but as Amazon continues to move into publishing, and experiments with alternative author compensation models, from its Lending Library to subscription services and ad-supported e-reading sites. If business history is anything to go by, who do you expect to ultimately win the battle? Traditional publishers or self-publishers? Our money is on the latter, and look out the first of our own Innovation Excellence eBooks later next year.
- In 2012, Apple will reinvent Television. First it was computers, then portable media players, then cellphones, then tablets. With each of these revolutionary moves, Apple reinvented a critical media platform, and the company has skillfully used these innovative platforms to change the way we work, rest and play. What’s next? Well, the only major platform that’s left is television. Our prediction is that in 2012, Apple will launch the iTV, a beautifully designed TV set that delivers content a la carte – like TV channels, streaming movies from Lovefilm and Netflix, and live sport from ESPN or Sky – as iOS-style apps. If Apple released this product in 2012, would you want to buy it? And would you like to see an Innovation Excellence TV channel app?
- Purpose will Prevail. No longer contented just to consume more or sell more, people, organizations and businesses everywhere will be focused more and more on figuring out and working toward some kind of purpose. Purpose is a funny thing. It galvanizes, excites and motivates. And it’s the Valhalla of work. Jim Stengel (former CMO of P&G and currently writing his own book on the subject) made the idea mainstream for marketers, and we all witnessed the results in his uncanny partnership with A.G. Lafley and a decade of growth at P&G. (We keep trying to tell them to just open up as a school!) On the other coast, Umair Haque takes his typically mild-mannered (NOT!) tone and advocates nothing less than “A political philosophy that defines the highest good that a society elevates and pursues”, something that “anchors a society’s preferences and expectations”. He asks us what our own purpose is, as a society, as a civilization, and argue that it’s missing entirely. “We don’t have a vision of the highest good that matters, resonates, and means much in human — let alone social — terms.” In telling the Emperor that he has no clothes, Haque may have given us the key to a strategy for sustainable recovery. What’s your own view? How important is a sense of purpose to an innovation team, and to society in general?
- In 2012, Mexico’s tourism industry will boom. Finally, a quirky little prediction that Mexico’s tourism industry will have a record year in 2012 as the country’s national tourist board leverages one of its most strategic assets: the Mayan ruins. International tourists have been frightened away in recent years by violent drug wars and kidnappings. What better way to lure them back than to invite them to come and experience the end of the world – right there alongside the ancient civilization that actually predicted it? Now there’s a great innovation. At least this way Mexico can make a ton of money out of curious tourists and New Age flakes before the whole planet gets swept off to oblivion. How about you? Where are you planning to spend your own “last-ever” vacation?
We couldn’t finish this post without making a confident prediction for Innovation Excellence itself. In 2012, we pledge to grow in relevance as a platform for YOU. In the coming year we’ll make it even easier for you to get your ideas, your innovation experiences, your videos, your projects in need of resources, and your feedback up on our web pages and shared with the community of innovation practitioners across 175 countries. It’s a feedback loop like no other. You do the heavy lifting of innovating and we’ll work hard to share your thinking with a very targeted audience: people who “get” innovation and are committed to using its incredible power to change the world.
May your New Year be creative, satisfying and impactful beyond your dreams! — Rowan Gibson, Braden Kelley, and Julie Anixter.
Braden Kelley is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. Braden is also an Innovation Excellence co-founder, a popular innovation speaker and trainer, and advises companies on connecting with their customers and embedding innovation across the organization.
Rowan Gibson is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on enterprise innovation. He is co-author of the bestseller “Innovation to the Core” and a much in-demand public speaker around the globe. On Twitter he is @RowanGibson.
Julie Anixter is Chief Innovation Officer at Maga Design and the managing editor and co-founder of Innovation Excellence. She worked with Tom Peters for five years on bringing big ideas to big audiences. Now she works with the US Military and other high test innovation cultures that make a difference. On Twitter she is @julieanixter.