Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Ideas as Competitive Advantages

Recently an executive referred to our TCS Future of Business team as an idea factory.  I took that as a huge compliment.  No invention, good deed or successful company has ever been created without ideas.  Ideas can form nations.  Ideas can send astronauts to the Moon and robots to Mars.  Ideas can accelerate the development of life saving vaccines.

Last year I met with a room full of executives and one of the first things one of them asked was, "What new ideas are you bringing to the table?"  I loved that question!

In evolutionary biology competition is often described as survival of the fittest.  Today, however, competition often revolves around ideas, and the best ideas win.
While human biology evolves so slowly we don’t notice, ideas evolve so quickly, we can’t keep up. Idea evolution is like biological evolution on steroids. ~ Futurist Gerd Leonhard
If good ideas are the secret to success, then it is important we know their definition.  A good idea is a "thought about a virtuous course of action.".  Where do we get good ideas?  My TCS colleague and renowned futurist Frank Diana recently wrote that, "We all now have access (via the internet) to the collective intelligence of society, and we are therefore exposed to more ideas than ever."  Good ideas do not even need to be completely new to have value.  Frank often speaks of the value of "combinatorial" technologies.  Unique combinations of existing technologies that offer value in new ways.

The challenge, of course, is determining what are good ideas worth keeping and pursuing, and what are bad ideas that should quickly be thrown out.  How then do we determine if an idea is good or bad?  Philosophy, logic, history, religion, experience and the scientific method are important frameworks and tools that can all help.  Also, if we are in agreement that a good idea should be based on fact, something known or proved to be true, then the more facts that support a particular idea or course of action the better.

If we truly believe that competition today is driven by good ideas, then the more good ideas the better, right?  Here is where the rubber meets the road.  How many businesses truly invest in purposeful idea generation?  In my experience most companies treat good ideas as radom and unplanned apparitions - things that just appear, unplanned and unexpected.  That just won't cut it.

Last year I interviewed a serial entrepreneur in the UK named Richard Skellett.  It was his belief that the value of an employee should be based on the number of good ideas they generated, rather than on their age, experience, role and title.

Good ideas are out there ready to be harvested.  The future is owned by those with good ideas.  Only good ideas will solve the world's most pressing problems.  

Read more on the Future of Information, Truth and Influence here:
Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.