Innovation Is Everywhere

My belief that human development will accelerate in the coming decade is fueled by a wave of emerging innovation both now and in the future. Our ability to invent dates back a very long time. Each new wave of invention builds upon the last, with subsequent waves accelerating on the strength of new building blocks that emerge and the growth of knowledge. We stand on the shoulders of brilliant people that came before us, and as inventors, inventions, and knowledge converged, our standard of living was elevated. No period represents this phenomenon better than the late 19th and early 20th century. It was early 2016 when I first attempted to capture the dynamics of that period visually.

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Innovation At Scale

The world is experiencing another period of great invention. We have the building blocks of the future, but to drive human advancement, the resulting innovation needs to scale. Organizations are getting better at experimenting, prototyping, and delivering minimum viable products. But scaling innovation remains a challenging endeavor. As the organizing system of our world changes, structural shifts will follow. One such shift involves the way we create and capture value, which increasingly takes the form of ecosystems. These emerging ecosystems complicate our scaling efforts.

In a recent book titled The Voltage Effect, author John A. List shares his perspective on how to make good ideas great and great ideas scale. He provides a number of examples that describe why some ideas are built to fail, while others are built to scale. Given the importance of the topic, I highly recommend the book and have added it to my library. The Amazon abstract is provided below.

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The Journey: The Next Phase Of Human Development

In a continuation of my series titled “A Journey through the Looking Glass”, I will touch on the next phase of human development. The post picks up from the last one where I explored two historical paths of innovation. To this point in our story about the future, we have explored the past, identified signals that may help us understand the future, and applied that learning in a way that helps us envision it. In telling this story, a common reaction is split between fear and fascination. Indeed, both reactions are human responses we must consider when gazing into the future. In truth, we are part optimist and part pessimist. I explored that sentiment in a poll dating back to 2016. In that poll, 44% identified as optimists, 16% as pessimist, and 38% were somewhere in the middle. What do you think?

In this segment, I will view the future through the lens of fascination and optimism.


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The Journey: Dual Paths Of Innovation

In a continuation of my series titled “A Journey through the Looking Glass”, I will touch on two historical paths of innovation. The post picks up from the last one where I explored the building blocks of the future.

THE DUAL PATHS OF INNOVATION

Two major forces are likely to converge in very unpredictable ways. First, the road to abundance described by Peter Diamandis promises to advance our human development in ways not previously thought possible. At the same time, our journey will face several unintended consequences. The intersection of these two forces underscores the importance of focusing on emerging scenarios now, thus enabling human development and mitigating the risk of these unintended consequences.

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The Journey: Catalysts Of The Past And Those On The Horizon

My previous posts launched a series that will tell the full story of a reimagined future. Described as a journey through the looking glass, the story began with a series description and a look back in time. The series continues, with each post featuring a piece of our journey. We explored the role that convergence plays in advancing human development in the last post. In this post, I will now shift gears and focus on the catalysts that drive convergence.

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AI 2022: Creativity, Ubiquity, and Public Policy

How far will artificial intelligence (AI) go? In a post earlier this week, I asked for the reader’s perspective on that question. The poll from that post is included here – please contribute your thoughts. In the nearer term, a recent article provides perspective on AI trends in 2022. Three key areas are addressed: creativity, ubiquity, and public policy. I have shown several examples of AI encroaching upon areas of human creativity. The article provides examples that mark a shift in the creative abilities of AI.

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Signals To Watch for In 2022

Understanding possible futures is all about signals – and there is no shortage of them. A dominant conversation these days is focused on how to sense these signals, derive foresight, and respond. While foresight helps us see possible futures, the next challenge is moving from a high degree of uncertainty to some level of actionable certainty. That step in the process is a combination of science and art. Signals manifest themselves through the current and emerging building blocks that shape our future – and they are coming at us from every corner of society. Since I don’t believe in prediction, I will focus my year-end post on signals to look for in 2022 across four key areas.

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Are Electric Vehicles Taking Over Faster Than We Think?

We are in the middle of the biggest revolution in motoring since Henry Ford’s first production line started turning back in 1913.

Justin Rowlatt – Why electric cars will take over sooner than you think

That quote from a recent article brings to mind a fundamental truth: there are divergent opinions on just about any emerging future scenario. Author Justin Rowlatt states that we have past the tipping point; that milestone where electric vehicle sales begin to overwhelm traditional car sales. As the big car makers position themselves to sell only electric vehicles at some point this decade, one must wonder what factors led to those decisions. One of those factors comes from government, as they ban the sales of traditional vehicles on some predetermined timeline. The author however points to the speed of the technological revolution the world is experiencing. I liken this period to the early days of the second industrial revolution. A period of great invention which is likely surpassed by the period we have entered – with the big difference being the speed of realization.

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Resilience Is Top Of Mind These Days

Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. That word is suddenly in everyone’s vocabulary. Whether it is individual or organizational, resilience helps us withstand adversity and bounce back. The pandemic can be credited for our heightened awareness, but it was just a matter of time before we all got here. The factors described in my Post yesterday describe why: complexity, pace, volatility, unpredictability, and the unexpected. These factors have always been there, but during specific transformative eras throughout human history, they combined in ways that challenged the existing order.

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Innovating In An Uncertain World

Two words have come up frequently in leadership dialog: Innovation and Ecosystems. Several posts have described ecosystems and the dominant role they are likely to play in future economic activity. The number of organizations pursuing ecosystem-related initiatives is growing rapidly. Innovation on the other hand has been a topic of conversation for most of our economic history. Yet, something is different. The conversation about innovation culture is intensifying and the need for an innovation mindset to permeate the organization is increasingly recognized. Why? What changed? We can attribute some of the change to uncertainty. One could argue that business has always operated in uncertain environments. I would argue that a number of factors make the uncertainty in our current environment unique, comparable only at some level to past transformative periods in history. We then must consider complexity, pace, volatility, unpredictability, and the unexpected.

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Innovation In The Education Space

A great video describing innovation in the education space. Special thanks to April Harris for pulling together another impactful video! Join the conversation on this and other topics by visiting the Reimagining the Future YouTube Channel.

Is The Digital Era Over?

I had a discussion last week that focused on a post-digital world. It was an open question about the state of digital and the related transformation journey. Although the digital maturity of organizations is not where I envisioned it – and Covid-19 underscored the point – digital should be a foundational piece of a bigger story. The continued digital discussion ignores the bigger contributions of science and the boardroom conversations around purpose and innovation. A recent article goes one step further in declaring that the digital era is over, and we are in a New Era of Innovation. In it, Greg Satell makes the exact argument I made above.

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What Does 250 Years of Innovation History Say About Our Future?

“Without good stories to help us envision something very different from the present, we humans are easily stuck in our conventional mental programming.”

Per Espen Stoknes

That quote captures a phenomenon that has plagued humans throughout history. In a recent article, Per Espen Stoknes looks at 250 Years of Innovation and what it reveals about the future. History is indeed very revealing, a fact that explains why Futurists spend so much time in the past. Whether it is the Uncanny Similarities to the 1920’s or other Lessons from History, applying history is very instructive. That quote speaks to a status quo bias that has existed in every age. As the article’s author describes, we have a strong emotional bias that prefers the current state of affairs over change. That bias now hampers our response to an ecologically destructive future. The article views the topic through this lens.

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The Changing Nature Of Clothing

As we look ahead to our continued human development, it is easy to focus on things like energy, transport, health, and food. Changes in these areas grow more evident by the day. But what about clothing? We rarely think of innovation in the context of what we wear, and for good reason: clothing has not really changed (except for style) in a long time. Clothing, however, is expected to change dramatically, according to a recent Article by Jared Lindzon. Advancements in manufacturing in four primary areas are the reason. Those advancements are increased connectivity; data; computational power; analytics; machine learning; artificial intelligence; human-machine interaction; and advanced engineering.

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As We Accelerate In The Short Term – Horizons Move Closer

While COVID-19 is an acknowledged accelerant, we are accelerating towards a known destination. Remote learning and working should have evolved sooner; the digital foundation should have been a priority earlier; eCommerce should have exploded by now; and last-mile delivery is only just beginning. Although we may arrive at this destination sooner, acceleration now draws scenarios that are further out closer. Those that may have been reluctant to order online overcame their fears. The elderly on zoom calls is now a thing. With broader societal adoption comes an ability to more aggressively pursue innovative ideas that may have been further out. When combined with learning that comes from broader adoption, acceleration becomes a virtuous cycle.

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How Fast Will The World Change In Ten Years?

“Standing still is the fastest way of moving backwards in a rapidly changing world” – Lauren Bacall

By now, it should surprise no one that the world is changing very rapidly, but just how fast is an open question. Michael Simmons explores that question in a recent Article. When looking at the future back in 1930, the big concern was how to use the leisure time enabled by technology. Instead, a quote from the article describes the world that actually emerged:

“Rather than being bored to death, our actual challenge is to avoid anxiety attacks, psychotic breakdowns, heart attacks, and strokes resulting from being accelerated to death.”

Geoffrey West
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The Future Always Follows Two Paths

In a Post from 2016, I explored the balance required when the forces of innovation take hold. The pace of innovation four years ago was already staggering, and the engine that drives it continues unabated. From that post:

The unabated exponential progression of science and technology has driven a staggering pace of innovation. The building blocks are mostly there, allowing creative minds to combine them in ways that attack the world’s most difficult challenges. Additional forces have emerged to position the next two decades as a period that is purpose-focused and transformative. Innovation itself is no longer the sole purview of business, universities, government, and military, as our connected world provides an ideation and innovation engine never seen before.

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Current Poll Results: Catalysts of Change

By now, readers of my Blog know that I have been researching the catalysts of human action for over 18 months. I have used a poll to gather insights from the community. I posted Results a while back, and am providing an update via this post. As a reminder of the topic, here is an excerpt from a Post back in April 2019:

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Advancing Human Development: The Catalysts Of Change

More votes have come in since I last reported on my poll. The question based on history is this: what catalysts drive human action in the future? It took two world wars and a great depression to drive humans to act in ways that prevented reoccurrence and advanced human development. In a world that looks eerily similar to that era, we once again wonder about catalysts. Here are the current results.

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A Glimpse Into Your Views On Catalysts For Change

As I mentioned in a recent Post, the global pandemic has altered how we think about our world. However, one thing is constant if not amplified by it: society needs to act if we hope to shape a future that advances human development. The rapid pace of innovation – riding on antiquated institutions – required our attention pre-pandemic. In a post-pandemic world, both of those factors are amplified. The inadequacies of our institutions are more visible now than ever; and innovation that may have unfolded over years is realized in months.

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