Have you seen Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk on how schools are killing creativity? Robinson laments an antiquated ethos lingering in our education system which enforces learning by rote. His point is that this yields little value later ‘out in the big wide world’ for our children who will enter adult life in the most unpredictable and volatile time in history.
Today has been coined many things - the age of information, the age of acceleration, the technical revolution, even the second industrial revolution. It all boils down to a pace of change that’s unprecedented. The world is pulsing with newness at ludicrously fast speeds. Moore’s Law identified in the 60s that the number of a transistors on a chip doubles each year, whilst simultaneously costs of production halve. That’s what’s at play here. We’ve been able to get more processing power cheaper. And look at how far we’ve come since the 60s. No wonder we’re all a buzz.
So where do we see this technological explosion most manifest? Well, in our marketing landscape, obviously, data and digital are omnipresent making campaign evaluation tighter and more optimisable than ever. We’re engaging with a new breed of consumer who is impatient, discerning, vocal and suffering mass media bombardment, so the necessity of creating meaningful moments is top of every growth agenda. And then there’s globalisation. We’re more connected, always on and geographical boundaries have been obliterated for bountiful trade and commerce. Scale has become the everyday ambition, indeed actuality.
Thomas Friedman, New York Times technology columnist and best-selling author of ‘Thank You For Being late’, asks us not to fear today. To not be afraid of the ever undulating business-scapes we’re navigating. Conversely, he invites us to step headlong into the mayhem, seizing the opportunity that comes with all this freshness. He states “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
What does this mean for businesses then? It means accepting innovation and adaptability as core cultural imperatives. It means being comfortable with failure. It means ‘intra’preneurialism. Dr Astro Teller, Google X laboratory’s most renowned scientist emphasises how innovation is necessary for businesses to survive and thrive, stating “Innovation is a cycle of experimenting, learning, applying knowledge and then assessing success or failure. And when the outcome is failure, that’s just a reason to start the cycle again.” He implores us to start working differently today.
It’s not just about working differently however. It’s about thinking differently. It’s about adopting a mindset of curiosity, exploration and continual invention. With knowledge sharing made possible through cloud technologies connecting brains at the blink of 2 blue ticks in a whatsapp feed, the ability to spark new ideas is constant. And these new ideas create new value. And it’s this new value which creates growth.
I see deep fusion between growth in our companies being tightly correlated with growth in each of us individually. When we personally invite collaboration to transcend ‘what is’ with ‘what could be’ we become more powerful and collectively more impactful out in the market. Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella illuminated this brilliantly last summer with his acquisition of Github stating “Developers will be at the centre of solving the world's most pressing challenges. However, the real power comes when every developer can create together, collaborate, share code, and build on each other's work.” It’s his personal strategy for pre-eminence in the global digital economy.
What about pre-eminence in our own personal economy? Our own personal value? How do we increase our individual impact on the world, our workplaces, our communities? Reid Hoffman, co-founder and chairman of LinkedIn, tells us “Your life and professional career is in permanent beta. We are all works in progress.” In his book, The Start Up of You, he teaches us that to succeed professionally in today’s world you need to think and act like you’re running a start-up by adopting the strategies of successful entrepreneurs. “You are now operating in a quickly changing and uncertain environment with constraints on resources, information and time…” just like a start up.
So, if we do embrace the network intelligence we have at our fingertips, through the prolific social networks available (often super niche to suit), we have the potential of soaring our impact upwards exponentially. We can access new information when we want it, collaborate immediately to evolve it, then when we combine this with a personal characteristic of bravery we have a formula for extremely valuable contribution. Essentially, we have the potential to harness technology to drive growth across both personal and business realms simultaneously. Now, that is innovation.
I wholeheartedly concur with Robinson, nervous that we’re educating children out of their creative capacities. Innovation unequivocally requires creativity, that and a dash of trial and error. In his words, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Let’s step into failing fast and seize the magnitude of tech-enabled possibilities at our disposal. Let’s bring tomorrow into today.