Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Merchants of Ideas and Innovation

Chennai, India
I work in the Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant.  We conduct original research, analyze the results and share it with the world.  We also study trends from all sources and ponder their implications across many industries.  My focus is most often on mobile computing technologies and systems, and IoT (Internet of Things).  When we meet with large multinational companies, the most valuable thing they seek from us are ideas.  Although we fancy ourselves to be analyst, writers and lecturers, we are in fact - merchants of ideas.

I have been pondering this notion all week.  Yesterday, while working with our IoT (Internet of Things) lab, I asked the question, "Are companies bringing their ideas to us for implementation, or are they coming to us for ideas.  The majority of companies today are coming to us for the ideas on how to take advantage of IoT in their industry. That doesn't mean they don't have ideas, it means they want more ideas and to validate the ones they already have.

No company budgets for projects before there is an idea.  The idea is what starts the process. Companies do not innovate before there is an idea.  Innovation comes as the result of an idea.  Start-ups do not form, angel investors and VCs don't fund and customers don't buy before there is an idea.

Cognizant's IoT Lab
Ideas are golden.  They are the foundation of every successful business.  Ideas change the world, and the competitive field in any industry.

The english once wore thick broadcloth clothing.  Here is how Wikipedia describes it.
"Broadcloth is a dense, plain woven cloth, historically made of wool...it is a dense, blind, face cloth with a stiff drape which is highly weatherproof, hard wearing and capable of taking a cut edge without the need for being hemmed."
For all broadcloth's hot scratchy utility, the english immediately fell in love with silk once they experienced it next to their skin.  Silk clothing was a good idea.  Silk changed the competitive landscape in the clothing industry which impacted global trade, politics, colonial ambitions, wars and economies.  Fort St. George in Chennai, India was built to establish and protect trade including silk cloth.  See this video I recorded earlier this week on it - http://youtu.be/uZC5KZGkDKM?list=UUGizQCw2Zbs3eTLwp7icoqw.

Ideas have enormous impacts.  Many despots have and still do go to great lengths to prevent the spread of ideas.  They can cause revolutions!

I helped lead a large discussion at a global retailer on how to better encourage employees to contribute ideas for innovation, and then how the company could best manage the selection and incubation of them.  They recognized that ideas are critical for success and that they have a shelf-life. Ideas lose value over time.

More and more companies are recognizing that ideas are everything, and that ideas are necessary to be successful.  It is exciting to see how companies are realizing they need formal systems and processes in place to collect and manage ideas.

Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Senior Analyst
Digital Transformation, EBA, Center for the Future of Work Cognizant
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.