Big Idea 2015 – Innovate or Perish

Dear Fortune 500 CEO,

The results of your tests are in—your company only has five years left to live! You move at the typical snail’s pace of a big company, caught up in bureaucracy and quarterly earnings calls. Your death is inevitable—your billions of dollars of revenue will evaporate quickly, shifting to a company that is just starting up this year, crowd-funded, launched in the cloud, with a new business model you did not think was viable or even possible.

My Big Idea for 2015 is really a warning to the leadership in every major industry across the country.  You are about to be disrupted! Your business model is possibly already doomed. Recent advances in technology have not just made new things possible, but they have made them affordable. This is not a doomsday prediction—quite the opposite. While many major corporations will fail to innovate fast enough to keep up with new business models, hundreds or thousands of US companies will thrive in a new economy driven by innovation, not by low-cost overseas labor.

If I was running a major corporation in America, I might ask myself the following questions:

  1. What would I do differently if I could hire specialized robots for $10 an hour that could work 24/7/365?
  2. How would my business change if customers could use a 3D printer to design and produce a competitive product for mere pennies at the local coffee shop?
  3. What if my customers could make free calls to anywhere in the world and have their calls automatically translated? What if individuals could connect to these international workers and pay them electronically by the hour for services—legal, accounting, health diagnosis, editing, video production, copywriting, etc.? Would my service offering still even be relevant?
  4. What if all traditional payment methods—credit cards, currency, checks, and wire transfers—nearly disappear with a new secure mobile payment technology?
  5. What if new business models reinvented the idea of a middleman—from car dealerships and equipmentdistributers to retail stores and real estate brokers? Would my business be changed when consumers want to buy houses, cars, air conditioners, car loans, and insurance directly from their smartphones?
  6. Could a new start-up “Uberize” my business? Could a dispersed but organized international team of moonlighting employees replace my entire value proposition?
  7. What will we do as solar power continues to improve in efficiency and finally becomes cheaper than oil or coal?

I don’t know if 2015 is the tipping point for all the disruptive change we are likely to see in the coming years—possibly that tipping point was 2014. We have recently seen the start of what is possible, with a hint of things to come. Consumers conduct research on their phones and have enormous social marketing power with instant feedback mechanisms. New wearable devices are popping up everywhere—now doing simple tasks like measuring steps, texting, etc. Smart robots that would have cost a fortune a few years ago can now be bought at a toy store. Self-driving cars are hitting the streets. Thousands of personal drones with hi-definition video capability are circling the skies. A solar-powered plane is preparing for an around-the-world flight. Online merchants are beginning to predict our online preferences accurately.

2015 will be a year of opportunity for many companies with vision to innovate rapidly. However, for those large companies that don’t see this tipping point of change, I regret to inform you of your diagnosis. Investors, sell their stock now—they may not be around in a few years.

This post was originally published on the Relus Technologies Blog.

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