For innovation clues, go beyond now

Until the early twentieth century, most people avoided the beach. Swimming wasn’t a popular pastime, there were few roads or facilities, and many worked six days a week anyway. Few anticipated how all that would dramatically change, beachfront development would boom – and the French would design the bikini, innovation author and consultant, Jeffrey Phillips, asserts. “True innovators are working now to discover the ‘beachfront’ property of the future, staking out ownership of valuable real estate that will rise as customers understand the features and benefits,” he says. ”This new real estate may require a change in mores (as it did in swimming) or a change in culture or attitudes (paid vacation), but good innovators understand that everything changes, and often not in the way we anticipate.” He laments the general lack of interest by business in contemplating alternative futures, a position echoed by INSEAD futurist and strategist, Peter Schwarz. The best way to prepare and protect ourselves from unpredictable ‘black swan’ events is to think the unthinkable. “It is possible to think about those events, if one is sufficiently imaginative and asks the right questions, as opposed to trying to project trends based on the past”, he says. The single biggest reason we don’t see things like the global financial crisis coming is denial, he adds. “We don’t want to see it because it implies we’d have to do something differently if we took it seriously.”

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