Invent or Die – Reinvent your own business before someone else does.

We live in a connected world and there is no such thing as a proprietary idea any more.

Elon Musk

100 years ago Elbert Hubbard said “The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can't be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.”

It is a statement that is easy to agree with when looking at cases in industries that move fast and now have low barriers to entry. Blockbuster’s business model was obliterated when upstarts wiped out their customer base by piping films straight to their TV sets and computers. Even the media-darling iTunes is in decline as data becomes cheap and streaming services are on the rise.

The irony is that some of these game-changing opportunities sometimes originated from the companies now in deep trouble. The classic case is Kodak being the inventor of digital photography. Sony’s value is now less than 10% of what it used to be, even though they were the inventors of products that others have leveraged to their success (e.g. MP3 players).

The big wake up call is that this dynamic is now playing out in industries that used to have high barriers to entry and long cycle times. Tesla has managed to go from zero to being the best selling car in Norway in the space of 4 years (VW Golf in second place). Established pharmaceuticals were laggards in implementing biotechnology and giants like Biogen arose from obscurity at record pace.

The most notable lesson from the above isn’t that competitors might come out of nowhere and surprise you. It is that the companies saw it coming, but somehow didn’t manage to capitalise on their own insights. So what is it going to take to reinvent your own business before someone else does?

Firstly you need to gain access to the great ideas that your organisation can generate. Research indicate that ground-breaking ideas rarely come from organised effort such as task-forces, innovation departments or other structural solutions. The best ideas arise in the most unexpected circumstances, often on private time. Without a culture and structure where people are recognised for offering any idea that can lead to a breakthrough, even the ones that seem to undermine the current business model, the idea will be taken elsewhere where people are willing to listen.

Secondly you need to develop and prototype the ground-breaking ideas without the limitations of the current organisation and operating model. If new-starts and competitors can let ideas flourish without restrictions, you have to let go and do the same. If the prototyping is successful, this leads to your third stage and the key decision to make.

Am I willing to reinvent my business to scale up and gain the full value of what has been successfully prototyped? The caveat being that if you don’t, someone else will. We live in a connected world and there is no such thing as a proprietary idea any more. All we have left is a race from idea, through testing to successful implementation.

SLP has developed a framework for organisations and leaders to generate disruptive thinking and ideas. E.g. our two day "disruption workshops" generate the thinking and energy of a startup.

The best ideas arise in the most unexpected circumstances, often on private time. Without a culture and structure where people are recognised for offering any idea that can lead to a breakthrough, even the ones that seem to undermine the current business model, the idea will be taken elsewhere where people are willing to listen.