Are we there yet? — Why corporations are taking so long to actually innovate?
How far are we from having true ambidextrous corporations as the norm? When is corporate innovation, in the 2020 sense of it, finally going to become mainstream? Companies that have the ability to both focus on their core business and yet, still look forward and truly invest in new, disruptive (and, yes, quite uncertain) horizons of innovation? Why is it taking so long? Because more and more I feel that companies are napping at their posts and letting startups come in and take over.
We all know the famous cases of empires that got buried by innovative companies, like Blockbuster and Netflix, Kodak and digital cameras, the entire music industry and Apple. But it seems like we have a short memory, or it simply is that we are too afraid to believe in William Gibson’s quote: “The future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed.” But it is getting evenly distributed, my friends. And very fast.
Just recently we suffered the loss of Clayton Christensen, the incredible Harvard Professor and author of the worldwide famous “The Innovator’s Dilemma”. His book was published in 1997. 1997! Twenty-three years ago! By that time I was fifteen and trying to innovate on how to cure my acne and talk to girls in high school without being a complete nerd (the latter quite unsuccessfully till this day, I might add). But since then, I’ve worked for over 10 years in the stock market, lived in 4 different countries and built 4 different startups. A pretty good improvement. But don’t take me as a comparison.
Probably the most read book of the startup generation, “The Lean Startup” by author Eric Ries, was published in 2011. Fourteen years after “The Innovator’s Dilemma” and just mere nine years ago. And how many companies were born since and, using his methodology, have become monsters (or better yet, unicorns), and are coming, hell-bent, to grab the seat as industry leaders? If they haven’t already. A few examples are Robinhood (stock trading), Juul (vaporizers), Impossible Foods (plant-based meat), Warby Parker (eyeglasses), Lyft (ride hailing), Lemonade (insurance). Not to mention entirely new industries such as cannabis, that will eventually take on consumer goods giants by the horns. These are just a small number of companies that didn’t exist nine years ago. And there are countless more.