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The Startup Kids

May 30, 2013 2 comments

Digital innovation is becoming the norm for young startups these days, and the resulting shift in culture and attitude that comes along with it is now pervasive in the Silicon valleys, alleys, glens, and roundabouts of this world. However, this wasn’t always the case, and it only takes a good documentary to show just how far things have moved on from the days of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to the current crop of digital wunderkinds.

 

BCSStartupKids

BCSStartupKids

 

Early this month, I attended the screening of The Startup Kids, a documentary film about said young digital startups, courtesy of BCS Entrepreneurs specialist group, and I wrote a review for it here. Suffice it to say that the cast of subjects interviewed on this hour long film read like a who is who of young digital entrepreneurs and included founders of such popular services as: Vimeo, Soundcloud, Kiip, InDinero, Dropbox, and Foodspotting to name a few. The topics covered include: what it takes to be a real digital entrepreneur (e.g. words like obsessive, passionate, workaholics come to mind), and why only the smart, flexible, and incredibly lucky few ever make it all the way. All in all, it was a really good and insightful documentary

Thanks to the BCS Entrepreneurs, and the Innovation Warehouse, for hosting this fun event, and here’s hoping for more such events in the future.

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Digital innovation: developing a tradition for change.

May 28, 2013 Leave a comment

Some organisations have great tradition, and some others are wonderful at change e.g. changing products and services (or even their business models, culture and identity), but perhaps the most impressive are those organisations that eventually go on to develop a demonstrable tradition for change. This, in my opinion, is one of the key beneficial outcomes from the pursuit of digital innovation and transformation.

Anywhere you go these days, people (especially of the CxO variety) are thinking or talking about making their businesses more innovative and competitive. Business-as-usual just doesn’t seem to be able to cope with the multiple challenges / opportunities presented by digital technology; therefore it must be time for something new or different, right?

Innovation is often described as doing or using something in a new or different way to deliver value. By this definition, innovation is based on something that already exists (note: this is in contrast to invention which is about creating that “something” in the first place, or improvement which is about doing the same things better). By extension, digital innovation involves the use of digital technology, in new or different ways, to transform an organisation or industry.

evolution of communication

The evolution of communication

Image – Source, “The World Beyond Digital Rights Management

The development of computing and Internet technologies, and the disruptive effect they had / are having on many traditional industries, is a prime example. In my 2007 book on digital rights management, I described the evolution of human communication (plotted over time and numbers reached) with an early infographic which also captured how computing and Internet technologies have parallels with (and essentially re-creates, re-interprets or replaces) most prior communication technology and formats (e.g. spoken, written, visual, broadcast and telecommunications).

The invention of these technologies, and the subsequent disruptive innovations they spawned have had such a widespread effect on almost every facet of human existence that it has become necessary for organisations both large and small to recognise, adapt and thrive by embracing this new era of digital innovation. More to the point, it means that larger organisations, i.e. those bastions of tradition (due to size or longevity), and their smaller, nimbler counterparts, i.e. the masters of change (due to necessity), each have to acquire key attributes from the other in order to develop their own tradition for change.

How else will your traditional laden organisation cope when customers and new employees turn up expecting to engage / be engaged via their Google Goggle, or whatever device / communication format is in vogue? On the other hand, how will your whizzy, super-agile, high growth company cope with customers that expect backward compatibility with legacy PC-based client server style applications? It seems the key challenge for many organisations will be how to evolve without losing sight of the beneficial traditions and historical context of their industry.

In any case, innovation and the ability to change (and to be changed) fast must become the common DNA / fitness attribute for most organisations and individuals. Tradition is good. Change is good, but nothing beats developing a tradition for change.