If the innovations of 2014 have proven one thing, it’s this: We are living in the future. With the announcement of the Apple Watch and with Google Glass hitting the market, technology is clearly picking up speed, and there’s no sign of it slowing down.
This year will undoubtedly be the most progressive year yet. But surprisingly, 70 percent of executives at top companies admit their ability to innovate at an appropriate pace is “average.” Even worse, 13 percent say their capabilities are “weak.”
If a company fails to innovate (and quickly), it’ll get shut out of its market, lose its reputation and appeal, or worse, get trampled by a newcomer. That makes identifying current innovations, predicting future ones, and becoming a pioneer more important than ever in 2015.
Now Is the Time to Innovate and Adapt
Markets are constantly changing, and business leaders have a responsibility to stay current with industry trends and be prepared to shift. The companies unable or unwilling to adapt will become obsolete.
Take Blockbuster and Yahoo, for example. Although the video rental chain successfully transitioned from VHS to DVD, it failed to survive the next big innovations: disc by mail, vending machines, and video streaming. The market clearly was moving away from brick-and-mortar movie rental stores, but Blockbuster didn’t respond quickly or decisively enough to remain relevant.
Similarly, Yahoo was poised to lead the fledgling web search and services space, but a series of missteps caused it to fall behind Google. It has been trying to catch up ever since, and only recently has shown real progress.
Becoming innovative doesn’t mean you need a hefty budget to cushion potential failures. Just look at the three-year-old consumer electronics company Xiaomi. By selling at tight margins and capitalizing on the longer revenue stream from software, founder Lei Jun created a cheap, competitive smartphone, and that earned the company the title of Fast Company’s No. 3 Most Innovative Company of 2014.
This year will present endless opportunities for innovation and disruption. Companies can’t be hesitant to experiment or pivot their products to match fluctuating market trends. To help you understand which trends will be the game changers of 2015, let’s take a look at the most important ones.
7 Innovations to Watch in 2015
1. A spike in entrepreneurship: As a direct result of high unemployment, young people are turning to entrepreneurship. Where they cannot find jobs, they will make their own, and this means fewer obstacles will stand in their way. But withstanding the test of time in an ever-changing global market will continue to be a challenge.
2. More virtual and augmented reality tools: Google and Facebook are on the brink of virtual and augmented reality tools that will completely redefine the way consumers live and companies function, from advertising (company-sponsored virtual reality tours) to internal communications (virtual board meetings).
3. The threat of data breaches: As the bulk of company and customer information moves to the cloud, data breaches will become more sophisticated and devastating. To combat this, companies will start taking security measures more seriously as they strive to protect their valuable information.
4. An emphasis on empowering consumers: As the handmade and DIY trends take off, more companies will emerge to empower consumers to create things instantly and with minimal effort. Existing companies will also recognize the value of giving consumers the tools and skills they need to become their own creators.
5. The importance of fare splitting: In 2015, the mobile payment option will be a no-brainer for consumers, and the ease of distributing the costs of products and services will incite consumerism. As companies innovate into 2015, enabling fare-splitting capabilities will drive more business.
6. The rise of branded government: Polling has shown that Millennials in the U.S. are increasingly skeptical of the government. To solve social and financial issues more effectively in 2015, government entities and innovative companies will begin to collaborate, presenting businesses with new, lucrative opportunities.
7. New applications for robots: Robots might seem like the premise of cautionary sci-fi tales, but 2014 showed us that they’re essential tools for innovative production and service. While Amazon signaled it was serious about using delivery drones and Kiva robots, other companies will need to start experimenting with this technology to keep up with the rising standard of efficiency.
Don’t Get Left Behind
Although becoming innovative is crucial for companies in 2015, getting there isn’t easy. When prioritizing innovation in the coming year, allow these three tips to guide your efforts:
- Be vigilant and flexible. Remember that the status quo is no longer acceptable, no matter how well a company is faring in today’s market. Always be aware of the changing climate to identify potential challenges and opportunities and be ready to adapt.
- Look for creative applications. Applying old concepts to new industries has been key to innovation in nearly every industry. We’ve seen Nespresso fuse coffee and luxury, and even McDonald’s adopted Ford’s production model to make hamburgers.
- Empower your employees. Companies rely on their workers to inspire innovation, and that includes founders and people without a Ph.D., MBA, or scientific background. Your staff members are one of your greatest resources. They hold intimate knowledge of your company, so it’s vital that you make them feel comfortable sharing their ideas and innovations.
The New Year brings many exciting business and technology innovations, and that can feel daunting. But by keeping an eye on emerging trends, you can use them to your advantage, building knowledge, credibility, and revenue in 2015.
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Luis Gallardo is CEO of Thinking Heads Americas, a team specializing in developing and structuring the ideas, values, projects, and contents of the clients it represents. Luis is formerly the president of brand marketing at Burson-Marsteller for EMEA, as well as director of global brand strategy at BAV Consulting. He’s an award-winning author and holds an MBA from IMD in Switzerland and a master’s degree in international relations from Lancaster University in the U.K.