If necessity is the mother of invention, then perhaps imagination is the source of innovation.
In December 2010, I was given the opportunity to write the cover story for Entrepreneur Magazine. The article, “Change: Lessons on What’s Next,” explored the innovation behind three (well four) companies — Foursquare, Square + Twitter, and Zappos. Throughout the years, I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with Dennis Crowley, Jack Dorsey and Tony Hsieh. And over that time, I’ve observed inherent traits that I believe represent the future of business and how companies engage with customers to create a more adaptive and connected infrastructure to compete for the future.
What I will share here is the unabridged version of the my article and also the uncut interviews with Crowley, Dorsey and Hsieh through a week-long series. I believe it will inspire you to see things differently and to look beyond the tools and networks that we lean on today in our attempts to introduce change. These stories place greater emphasis on innovation and a quest to deliver a more meaningful experience that in the end, reveal that technology represents enablers while you and your passion represent the capacity to lead change.
The Spirit of Innovation and Entrepreneurialism is Recession Proof
The spirit of entrepreneurialism powers capitalism. And the ideas we envision and the passion to bring them to life define the state of our economy and the future of business universally. While growth markets and recessions force the expansion and contraction of economies, innovation is constant and it is the very essence of the ideas that push thinking and markets forward. Innovation is the proverbial yo-yo on an escalator and while economies may ascend and descend, they are always going up.
In September 2010, the National Bureau of Economic Research, the official arbiter of the U.S. business cycle, announced that the recession behind curbed consumer spending and confidence officially ended in June 2009. What wasn’t constrained during these last few years however, was innovation. Entrepreneurs were the beneficiaries of a constant source of funding to materialize new products, services and technologies. While the number and size of deals bobbed with the financial tide, in Q2 2010, 612 deals were closed to the sum of just under $6 billion.
Even though entrepreneurs can seek comfort in knowing that financial and now consumer support is at the ready, a new challenge is manifesting as you read this. The pervasiveness of Internet-savvy consumers is undergoing a pivotal transformation. As such, the typical digital consumer is now giving way to the rise of a more discerning, informed, and connected social consumer. These consumers are surrounding themselves with the people and information that helps them make better decisions thanks to social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Their attention is focused in new paradigms and away from traditional media that served as a means for branding and demand creation. Simply said, in order to connect new ideas with social consumers, new or adaptive business models are mandatory. Gone are the days when great companies, products and services naturally found their markets. In the attention economy, businesses must manually connect with customers and prospects where their attention and interest is focused.
The importance of innovation doesn’t just lie in the development of brilliant ideas, innovation is now also necessary in the development and execution of these ideas and how corresponding infrastructures erect and evolve to support and scale with them. The “modern” schools of business management suddenly appear old school in the face of new media. And with the rise of the social consumer, tomorrow’s business leaders are now forced to rewrite the books that help grow companies and markets today. These new leaders will also change the lessons students learn in school and the lessons they will continue to learn through experience.
Innovation is an essential ingredient in not only the survival of emerging companies, but now business in general. And, innovation is not limited to technology or the entrepreneurs that innovate on their own. Tomorrow’s business will empower a new genre of intrapreneuers to create and innovate internally. Ideas can change processes, systems, and methodologies to lead businesses from static entities to dynamic organizations. We are forced to compete for the future, right here, right now and as such, the future of business is not created, it is co-created!
In this series, we take a look at three innovators who are changing the game. Their vision, ambition, and ingenuity prove that sometimes breaking the rules or writing them as they go is what it takes to push business toward a new genre of success.
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