Imagine you can listen in on all the best "think tank" sessions around the world.

You have access to leading innovators and thinkers, in industries from pharmaceuticals to financial services, from technology to wine.

Your job is to creatively synthesize the greatest learnings from think tanks, conferences and gatherings whose purpose is to map out the future, to understand what success will look like, and to plan how to get there.

Imagine the insights you'd hear.

Those are the kind of insights that London-based Caroline Chapple holds. Chapple is a graphic recorder or "live scribe," which means she listens to conversations and represents them in visual form by drawing out central themes and key content.

Representing the ideas graphically, and making sense of the information in a way that's appealing, makes it more engaging--both at and after the event. In other words, she takes complex ideas and repositions them into a story that's easy to understand.

Here's an example of her work:

Those complex ideas are the concerns that are top of mind for industry leaders and innovators. Here are six of those ideas that, Chapple notices, keep repeating themselves at the events and conferences that she attends:

1. The world is changing.

VUCA--Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity--is real, and how to cope with it is one of the biggest questions for innovators and futurists alike.

It's a changing world. The old rules no longer apply. If we don't adapt, we die.

"That is the starting point for discussions on innovation," Chapple says. "If [the companies] don't innovate, they run of the risk of having disruptors taking away their businesses. This discussion appears to be cross industry."

2. Disruptors are important.

Though the term seems to be less in vogue than it was two to four years ago, there's still a lot of talk about disruptors. The discussion, Chapple says, is usually twofold:

  1. Disruptors may come and take our businesses, so we must innovate.
  2. Disruptors got to where they did by innovating, by being free of our legacy issues and by being bold.

The discussion is less about becoming disruptors than it's about what can be learned from them. As entrepreneurs, we have the agility to bridge those two sides: learning (and gaining) from the boldness of disruptors without being weighed down by inherited systems and practices.

3. There are requirements for innovation.

The discussion then turns to identifying the requirements for innovation. These include mindset (embracing change, thinking differently, curiosity, and continuous improvement) and infrastructure (networking, participation from the bottom up, enabling collaboration, and saying no to silos).

4. Big data can be easier for small companies than large ones.

There's always a discussion about big data, Chapple says, though "often in terms of 'It's the answer to our prayers,' and not so much on how we explore, investigate, use that data in real terms."

This is a sticking point for bigger companies in particular, who may have several old, legacy systems which don't link together easily. "They may not have the data-matching abilities that either new lean or very-switched-on older companies have," Chapple notices. "And then, of course, you have to have the strategy and understanding to know what you want to get [out of the data] and how you will use it."

5. There are consequences to automation.

What are the consequences of increased automation? How do we support redundant workforces? What kind of world do we want to live in? How do we become lean, agile, all things to all people, while still doing business as usual?

These are the big-picture questions that people are starting to ask. "I don't think anyone has any answers," Chapple says.

Most of the dialogue around automation concerns vehicles, the "last mile," and jobs--largely in transportation and retail--that will be lost.

The conversation about consequences inevitably addresses how we can create the skills for the jobs that we don't even know exist yet. Chapple sees this happening at work she's done--with Europe-wide organizations in particular--but still, how do you know what you don't know?

6. You need to battle for the customer's attention.

Whoever has it, wins. Even though companies are starting to show signs toward moving employees to the heart of their business, customers are still the most common top priority.

Yet the conversation is not so much about the actual innovations to win that battle.

"It's more about the fear of the consequences of not having [the customer's attention]," Chapple says, "setting the conditions for it, and then identifying some examples of disruption."

The entrepreneurial takeaways are clear: Disruptors and progressive-minded companies will set the pace on the road ahead. We can identify the disruption--and we're agile and unburdened enough to actually execute.

Let's go out and do it.

Published on: Jul 20, 2017
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