Innovation & Design

Innovation Predictions 2008


Get ready for … anything. As companies, governments—indeed, entire countries—confront an array of dilemmas, the only constant will be change

Building the next-generation enterprise—and maybe even the next-generation nation—will preoccupy most of us in 2008. The demand for innovation is soaring in the business community and is just beginning to gain traction in the political sphere. Most of the leading Presidential candidates have thoughtful positions on innovation (BusinessWeek.com, 11/15/07). And nearly all CEOs and top managers who have learned the language of innovation are now seeking the means to make it happen. It took the Quality Movement a generation to change business culture. The Innovation Movement is still in its infancy, but it's growing fast.

You can see that in the vast changes taking place within the field. Companies are demanding new tools and methods to execute that change within their existing organizations, as well as for the kind of design thinking that transforms cultures. To take advantage of the opportunities, chief innovation officers in big corporations such as Procter & Gamble (PG) and Harley Davidson (HOG) are leaving to join consultancies or set up shop for themselves. Consolidation is quickening apace as small innovation consultancies try to combine big-picture thought leadership with specific, on-demand Web applications that manage networks, talent, customers, suppliers, and employees around the world. In 2007, consultancy Monitor bought into innovation strategy specialists Doblin, led by Larry Keeley, while another large consultancy, BSG Alliance acquired research firm New Paradigm, led by Wikinomics co-author Don Tapscott.

What's up for 2008? Keep an eye on the business schools. Companies are demanding that their managers be more creative and less obsessed with cost and efficiency. The last revolution within executive education was the introduction of Management Science in the 1950s. Will we see the spread of IM—Innovation Management—in "exec ed"?

Privacy, Mobility, and the Next Big Idea

And expect the whole realm of social networking to change in 2008. Just when you "got it" and thought it was all about open, personal, and casual online relationships, social media will morph into another ecosystem—one with lots of gates. Who your friends are is becoming far more important than how many friends you have. We can probably thank our advertising friends for this. The drive to monetize Facebook and MySpace (NWS) by using members' personal information is alienating many people, driving them to more private networks. Stay tuned, and watch Europe and Brazil for future trends. Social networks are beginning to feel a lot like hot nightclubs—with velvet rope barriers.

As for hot products in 2008, prepare for yet more surprises. The triumph of opening up the cell phone will create an array of new applications we can only dream of right now. GPS may seem old hat by next summer. The mobile Facebook is bound to be fascinating. And the e-book may be just an iteration away from taking off. Want to reduce your personal carbon footprint easily? Read books, magazines, and newspapers on an e-book.

And the Big Idea for 2008? Stop competing against your competitors. Your traditional rivals aren't your biggest worry. Disruptive innovation is hitting corporations from outside their business. Verizon (VZ) was forced to open its cell-phone service because Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) smacked it hard. Verizon's new business model will probably generate 10 times the demand for service. You just never know. That's life, in beta.

For more on 2008 innovation predictions, see BusinessWeek's slide show.

Nussbaum is an assistant managing editor in charge of BusinessWeek's innovation and design coverage. In 2005, he was named one of the 40 most powerful people in design by I.D. Magazine .

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