Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Pace of Innovation is Accelerating

With increased collaboration comes increasing transparency and faster innovation. Workers in and out of the company are requiring more visibility into the detailed workings of the organization. Global companies once focused on a “best-in-market” alliance partner business model are shifting to a “best provider” model. That means fewer alliances and increased opportunity for those who are participating. One result is that providers are acting much less tactically and much more strategically. Instead of being task resources only they are now also thinking and acting strategically on behalf of their clients. As a result, they have the opportunity to leverage their entire business chain to the client’s advantage, providing technologies and innovation that the client would not have thought of or be able to execute on its own.

And now we see that the search for innovation is not limited to formal business partners. Sites like bring seekers and solvers together. You have a problem, someone out there has an idea. Companies are asking for and getting innovations on new manufacturing techniques, scientific support, energy efficiency, design, and operational models and technologies from people and sources with which they have no previous connection or pathway. In other words, our resources are no longer limited to those we know or have business relationships with. The world is your workforce!

The pace of innovation is driven by the pace of knowledge. It is one thing to talk about computing power and efficiency doubling every two years while the price of same is halved. There is knowledge in these continuing changes, but it is the incremental knowledge of increasing efficiencies. There are areas of research, however, where knowledge gains are large, coming at us very quickly, and which have the potential to transform our lives. The biotechnology revolution now occurring is driven by the intersection of bio-science and the expansion of information technology; and the promulgation of nanosystems has scientists designing new machines at the cellular level. If you really want something to catch your attention, think about this – Ray Kurzweil stated in 2006 that scientists are within two decades of having reverse engineered the human brain. What does this convergence of affordable high capacity computing, bio-intelligence, miniaturization, and brain intelligence foretell? The futurists among us see a world that includes high bandwidth Net access all the time, electronics that are embedded in our clothes, nanotechnology brain implants, and virtual reality (VR) technology that augments real reality to speed the transfer of knowledge and intelligence.

Is that “out there?” Of course it is. Will it all come true as currently envisioned? Unlikely. Will our world, the way we learn, and how we work remain static and unchanged? Absolutely not.

These emerging technologies will have real life implications to our every day world, including work processes and environments. We will be able to actually experience new buildings before they are built, test system interdependencies to identify errors and opportunities by actually operating systems in VR, discovering and avoiding mistakes that could be catastrophic. We will be able to replace brain function lost to accident or disease and do a thousand other things that will improve the human condition – and FM’s will have a role to play in all of it.

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