When we think about innovation, we try really hard to see into the future. What could we invent? What could make a difference in the world? Sometimes, innovation is about new ideas and products. Other times, however, innovation is about reinvention (what could we be doing differently?). Some of the best innovation is a fusion -- taking new ideas or products and applying them to existing methods and processes.
Take a popular buzz word -- digital marketing, for example. It has been around since the dot-com bubble era. While I was working with the rising digital firms in the dot-com bubble, we would build digital businesses completely from the ground up. Fast forward 15 years, and there's still buzz around the digital experience... yet most people think that it's a new thing and see "digital experience" as a new phenomenon. Is it a new thing? I think it's more of a revolution, that this buzzword is being reinvented for today's generation.
Developing a solid strategy is one thing, but execution is what sets apart the 'okay' companies from the 'great' ones. The Palm Pilot PDA was a game-changer for corporate business people in 1997. But then Blackberry began monopolizing the mobile industry in 1999 with mobile phones that operated like PDA's, striking a blow to Palm. Yet, Blackberry lost its place as a market leader almost immediately once Apple's iPhone gathered a following after 2007. Looking at the smartphones we use today, however, we see that the basic idea is having a personal assistant in a portable device, which his exactly the idea Palm had pioneered so many years ago. They had the answer right out of the gate. If they would've taken their strategy and capitalized on the mobile phone PDA concept sooner, then who knows? Palm Pilots could have been the mobile device of the 21st century.
I gave a keynote late last year at Concordia University on Innovations, Startups and Entrepreneurship. What struck a chord with my audience during my talk was not about innovation per se; it was about inspiration. How do we inspire the next generation of leaders? Is it even possible to cultivate genius innovation, or does it need to grow naturally? For that matter, how do you solve the problem to begin with? How do we make the world a better place? All of these questions are the starting base of innovation.
Sony has always been one of the top innovators for decades - electronics, quality, premium products and style. Think about it: it really has been decades. Anyone remember the Walkman you used to carry around and rock out with? Sony was also the first leader to grace the world with the 4K TV ten years ago. These television sets have ultra HD resolution of 3840 x 2160, four times the number of pixels in normal HD TVs! Companies like Samsung and Panasonic soon caught up with their technology, but Sony has set the example. Further, Sony reinvented the Walkman to be all about high resolution in sound quality. If you think about it, they have really been leaders in reinventing the category of the Walkman. It was the precursor to the next generation of high resolution sound: the MP3. This is the direction that all audio has moved to, and other companies like one I came across, AfterMaster, as well as Sony continue to reinvent technologies and work on the next stage of high resolution audio. But, what's next? Companies should take the next step of integrating technologies so they can incorporate into other channels like mobile, auto, or even our homes.
People often ask me to weigh in on the PC vs Mac debate. I don't think the PC market is dying just yet...However, I do think the market is going to go more mobile, shifting the categories within Apple iOS and Android. So, I would say the future will bring answers to how the gap between these operating systems and devices will be bridged. It may only be a matter of time! Take big data and IoT - these alone are going to become a $50B industry by 2020 (MWC Brian K from Intel shared in his keynote this month). Integration is inevitable, and what we've seen so far is just the beginning.
I was getting on the plane last month and a woman asked me what type of smartwatch I've got. As I showed it off, I told her that I don't really use it to text or make calls. It's just not functional enough. But, for me, it's worth it because of the tracking technologies for my health. I can see how many steps I've taken throughout the day, how many hours of sleep I'm getting (or not getting), and this is extremely helpful. The woman then told me that she has an implanted heart detection device that automatically will connect with her buzzer that she carries in her purse - talk about technology integration! The healthcare IoT is booming and that will continue to be a huge trend in the coming years. It's amazing to think what else will come out of the innovation put into IoT.
With all of these thoughts, I'm left with more questions. Is it an evolution or revolution that we live in? It seems like technology is outpacing society sometimes. I'm so glad that mobile is on the forefront. Again, mobile isn't something brand new - it has been around for a while, from the StarTAC to pagers, to the first iPhone. Technology is everywhere today. We hope to see people and businesses continue to invent and reinvent technology because this innovation is what will lead our future.