March 27, 2015

Fail fast, learn rapidly

Taneli Tikka

Head of Innovation Incubation, Data Driven Businesses, Tieto

Right now one of the biggest waves of innovation is in digitalisation of our world. All things going digital. And not just things; entire ecosystems, our way of thinking, our point of view and how we approach the whole topic in general.

Alibaba is a massive retailer, perhaps the largest in the world, yet they have no inventory. Uber is close to being the worlds largest taxi company, yet they own no cars. Facebook is one of the world's largest medias, yet they produce no content. Airbnb is one of the worlds largest hospitality companies, yet they own no real estate. Start to see a pattern emerge here?

What does music, cameras, maps, books, and travel tickets have in common? They are all concepts that have gone through the innovation storm of digitalisation and changed forever. Digitalisation is not just "digitizing an object" it's a whole storm of innovation touching everything in the ecosystem - after which there is no return back to the old state of matters. The way music is designed, produced, sold, distributed, consumed etc everything about it has changed. Maps are profoundly digital now; location based services, navigation apps, our own layers of personal maps with our holiday hotspots and geocaches in them. Everything about travel and travel tickets has changed forever; how we plan and research travel, how we book travel etc. Where we used to have an agency with paper tickets we now have a collection of travel apps with personalized experiences and various communities helping us choose better.

This is the innovation put into practice all around and the view how digitalisation is reshaping our world. We are moving from scarce, exclusive, slow and expensive to the era of the abundant, shared, fast and cheap (or better price/quality ratio). Most of innovation around is evolutionary; building the next increment and iteration on top of what already exists. Cultural history of the human race is in remixing; starting from tribal stories at the campfire to very complex systems. Innovation remixes the iterations and frequently produces revolution and total renewal as the result. A change of perspective if you will.

The methods of building all of this innovation, and surviving in the middle of it all with your business, are now more clear than ever: you need a change of clockspeed. Rapid cycles instead of conservative slow ones. Fail fast. Culture and way of working that supports innovation. Attitude to see it through and persevere in the middle of it all. You need to learn rapidly and consider success inspirational and failure educational. Build - Measure - Learn, is the basic loop, and you need to loop fast, or at least faster than your competition.

The gravest risk is to stand still and do nothing at all. It is a sure-shot way of watching innovation and the world drive right past you. Huge impact can be had with the right culture and leadership. Defining those relevant problems to solve and taking a serious crack at them. Everything around you that can be digitized, will be digitized. How will this affect you? What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Answering that question for yourself has some sense of urgency!

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