Business thinkers John Seely Brown and John Hagel are always worth listening to. Their perspectives on innovation and concepts like FAST Strategy have not only resonated as theories for me in recent years but have given practical, effective models for the work we’ve been doing at iCrossing, especially in “edge” areas like social media research, strategy, marketing and measurement.
Like Umair Haque, who also thinks and discusses the economics of the edge, their writing seems even more urgently relevant to businesses, activists and governments in the face of multiple economic, geo-political and environmental disruptions.
If you’re confused slightly by what “edge” means in the context of commerce, politics, society etc., there’s a nice illustration given in an article by Hagel & Brown in a BusinessWeek article about Google and the phone business:
Two decades ago, wireless telephone networks created a vibrant new edge to the wire-line telephony business. Many analysts at the time viewed mobile phones as a fringe event, something that would never take hold in the mainstream telephone business, except perhaps as a status symbol among the very wealthy.
Twenty years later mobile telephones are ubiquitous in the U.S. despite continuing challenges in service coverage, particularly in buildings. In many other parts of the world, these devices have replaced the old wire-line phone as the primary means of communication. What was on the edge has now become the core.
If you’re thinking and planning right now for the year or years ahead – and many people I know are – then the piece is reading, especially for the advice the duo give. The headlines are:
- Don’t get distracted by your existing competitors (where are the start-ups who will compete with you tomorrow)
- Look beyond product innovation (to really develop new models and markets changing how the world works may be required)
- Mobilise others in support of your innovation initiatives (heroic entrepreneur myths oversimplify)
- Don’t be deceived by theoretical concepts like “emergent” and “self-organising” (leadership required!)
- Target the edges (find where there’s high value for your customers)