I’ve never been one to believe in the Singularity, at least not in the hokey, semi-religious sense that Ray Kurzweil claims is just around the corner.
But all the same, I am blown away – blown away – by how fast innovation is going these days. And not just the speed of innovation, but the acceleration of innovation (which is really more important, right?). Every month the rate of innovation seems to be higher than the month before. There are so many things launching and so many new ideas flying around that it is becoming a common occurrence for someone to say to me “oh, you know about such-and-such a site” and for me to have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. And I do quite a bit of work to stay on top of new ideas and new sites, as I’m sure you do.
This has happened just in the past few years – it’s amazing to think back to 2004 and how relatively slowly the web was moving then compared to now.
And there’s no reason to think this is going to plateau suddenly. I think just the opposite – the rate of innovation five years from now will make today’s rate seem like a crawl.
In terms of civic innovation, this is great news for communities, the people who live in them, and the people who run them. It means there will be more and more new solutions to problems, offered up at an ever-increasing rate, with solutions then built on top of those solutions. (So don’t go locking yourselves into closed contracts for solutions, cities!)
But at the same time it’s tricky news for those who innovate and create these solutions.
How, as an innovator, do you keep up with this rate of acceleration?
How do you plan and execute a (relevant) startup in this environment?
How do you make a five-year plan for what you want to accomplish, when the acceleration of innovation means your five-year vision will be obsolete in 18 months?
And how do you make a splash in such a huge storm of innovation, that is getting bigger and bigger all the time?
All of this acceleration is going to impact how innovation happens dramatically. It’s going to have to – there’s no way it couldn’t. We’re going to have shorter development cycles, shorter planning horizons, faster turnover of ideas (i.e. faster failure) – everything is going to be compressed, shorter, faster. And maybe that also means product itself will be smaller, lighter, more discrete, more able to be executed quickly. (This is already happening of course, as the focus of tech production focus moves from websites to apps…)
I’m thinking about this as I plot next steps for projects of my own: how can I design a product, a business, an organization that is up to speed with what the rate of innovation will be two years from now? How can I design something that anticipates this hyper-accelerated state of change? That even takes advantage of it?
It’s like swinging at a ball that you know is going to be going 2x as fast by the time it gets to your bat. Think forward. Anticipate acceleration.