In a few short years much of what you do, make, fix, sell, and ship, won’t mean much to anyone. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that if you stay put doing whatever it is your business does right now – you’ll be out of business.
If you want to survive, let alone thrive, you must tap new trends and produce new ideas at an accelerating rate.
Robots, artificial intelligence, and technology built on top of the internet will continue to threaten the very fabric of what most business (and jobs) are set up to do today. If I’m to be totally honest, it will wipe most business and jobs as we know them today completely away.
No one was a social media manager, app developer, or drone operator (there are 70,000 of these now) ten years ago.
And in ten years there will be very few cashiers, travel agents, and social media managers (coming full circle on this one pretty quickly).
This isn’t a new idea by any means. Each technological advance has done this for decades, (think cars, email, and computers) but the difference today is that evolution has been democratized. Meaning, in the past, entire industries were regulated into stability to maintain the status quo.
Today, anyone, working in the equivalent of a digital garage, can produce an innovation that can make what you do redundant.
And, the rate of innovation is going to accelerate in ways that will catch many people off guard.
I’m not writing this to suggest doom and gloom, but I do think that any business that lacks a plan for intentional innovation – even if it means deconstructing your current revenue model – is putting their business in a risky position.
Want proof that this is coming?
Right now, there are multi-million dollar small businesses with no offices, no employees, and no debt that are capable of competing with and beating out Fortune 500 companies. They are doing this, not simply because they offer better pricing, they are doing it because they also offer better products and better processes, and deliver results with more capable people.
It’s easy to witness the impact of what I’m describing in well-known examples like, Craigslist vs. paid classified ads, Uber vs. Taxis or Airbnb vs. Hotels, but it’s also happening in obscure fields by companies you’ve never heard of unless you work in that industry.
Ironically, some of these nimble disrupters, such as Netflix, have moved into the Fortune 500.
But I’m talking about something much smaller perhaps – down to the level of beating out your closest competitors.
Name your industry, name a job or task vital to that industry, and I guarantee you that there are companies working on making that job or task irrelevant.
There are many industries in serious trouble already, but it’s only a matter of time before most seemingly profitable industries come under fire.
Where to look for your innovation
Here are a few things we know for sure
People are getting older and living longer
Some of the hottest markets right now are those in the field of medical technology and caring for aging adults.
How can your business look for innovation in this trend?
The way people pay for goods and services has forever changed
I went on a weeklong trip to a foreign country and never used cash of any currency. People expect to be able to pay, send, finance and split transactions using apps and online services.
How can your business meet this expectation?
People expect everything to be smart and convenient
Almost everyone has a smartphone these days, and they’ve gotten very used to being able to do more and more things with that device. Not only are they using apps to communicate and pay bills, but they are also turning to their smartphone to turn on lights, adjust the thermostat, monitor security.
How can your business tap into the fact that people have this powerful device with them at all times?
Companies no longer need offices or employees
As I stated in the intro above, a business is no longer a collection of people huddled in desks at a single location. Even businesses that have a physical location are finding employees using it less and less.
How can your business take advantage of this trend to run more profitably or fill the needs of companies that want and need virtual staff and freelance talent?
Millennials are fast becoming a significant buying force
Much has been written about the significant attitude shift in the generation that now makes up one of the prime buying demographics. Most members of the millennial generation are digital first when it comes to finding and engaging companies they buy from, but there’s also a strong need for connection to a brand’s story.
How can you make your brand more approachable and human while offering the convenience of digital technology?
I know that I’ve proposed more questions than answers today, but this is a topic I plan to return to repeatedly as I believe innovation is perhaps the most significant threat and greatest opportunity facing most small business today.
Innovation is a strategy that must be central to your day to day planning.