Looking back to see forward. Future thinking to an innovation strategy.
When we think about how companies must evolve to survive, we can learn some lessons from history.
Hollywood studios used to control the entire movie industry. From storyboard to distribution, their grip on production and consumption was absolute – until television was born. TV disrupted everything. Studio staff left, starting independent production companies that were essential to the new TV industry, with its daily output of sitcoms, soaps and adverts. Eventually, the number of major movie studios shrunk and the rest is history.
One of the problems is simply a matter of scale. The larger the organisation, the more difficult it becomes to pivot and adjust to emerging and disruptive influences. After operational costs have been made ‘lean’ and the Toyota Business System imposed, corporations try to compensate for being unwieldy by selling an interest or buying into a new sector. Not so much circular design as cyclical.
In the case of companies large and small, when disruption strikes (and it will strike you sooner or later) the natural response is to pull in your horns and resort to what you know. To get back to your reason for opening up shop in the first place. Unless you’re prepared.
Here’s an exercise to try: before a threat emerges (i.e. now), write down how you see your business / department / self ten years from now. Don’t filter it. Just write down what you see for yourself and how you envisage your fortunes. When you’ve done that do the same for the picture in five years. Then two. Then one. At some point in this exercise, a new way forward will start to appear.
At room44 we do this regularly. We find that making the effort to look ahead on a regular basis does (at least) three useful things:
- It records the future you want for yourself
- It helps include new ideas into your thinking and anticipate disruption
- It brings short-term actions into sharp focus, without which the long-range plan won’t be achieved
If you want another reason to innovate, have a quick read of this blog post (The siren call of what we know). It looks at the macro trends that might just change the way you think about innovation.
Future thinking. Future proofing. Innovation justified. It’s what we do.