#GROWconf spotlight: Brian Solis says innovate or perish

Brian Solis GROW

It’s simple in thought, but in reality being innovative is excruciatingly difficult. The GROW Conference is in its sixth year and all about the future of innovation, growth, and entrepreneurship. From August 19-21, Whistler, BC will play conference host for a second year. Once again, GROW is delivering an impressive line-up of speakers, sessions, events, and networking opportunities.

After organizer Debbie Landa kicks off the event, Brian Solis will be first on stage to present “Living in a Connected World.” Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation. His most recent book, What’s the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth.

BetaKit had an opportunity to sit down with Solis for an extended conversation. Enjoy!

Why we should care about GROW Conference?

It’s about the future of business and technology, and it’s about coming to understand either how to disrupt or how to scale or how to innovate or how to partner with people who are going to help you one or more of those three things.

You’ll ultimately sign up because you realize that you have something to learn. Even if you’re successful today, by plugging into a network of entrepreneurs and thought leaders and experts who are finding alternative ways to hack growth, you realize that you can only walk away informed, enlightened, and inspired.

Is there a correlation between growth or size of company and the slowing or stagnating of innovation. How do we avoid the Kodak experience?

The Kodak moment is absolutely loaded. For me, it’s amazing how brilliant it is. I think it was 1975 when one of Kodak’s brightest engineers made a pitch to the executive team about the digital initiatives that his team was working on. It was groundbreaking, and Kodak actually had all rights to these patents. Yet at that time the executive leadership deemed it “cute” and wanted it kept under wraps. It was a decision about not cannibalizing their short-term profitability, so they let someone else do it. That Kodak moment means it was the moment they failed to execute in keeping step with how your customer is evolving.

Innovation is focusing on two things; the first is technology and what you actually do with it. The second part of innovation is human; this is the problem that is really going to separate tomorrow’s players from those competing in the fray today. Innovation challenges for big companies include ego, denial, lack of urgency, not my job attitudes, self-preservation, a risk-averse culture, politics, and the list goes on.

What's the future of business?

The common denominator is that these are all human attributes, and end up defeating any opportunity to create a culture of exploration.

What’s absolutely necessary is that companies understand how to build an infrastructure within the organization, be it a team, department or even full blown innovation centre to adapt your culture. It’s complex, it’s incredibly difficult, and most businesses aren’t changing because most people in leadership positions got to where they are based on management; good solid management. But very few leaders are literate or inspired enough to apply technology and to recognize its role in the future, and then lead accordingly.

The consumer is being absolutely conditioned to think that the world revolves around them.
– Brian Solis

The human experience has always been paramount, so I don’t know why it’s been undervalued. I think we’re now paying more attention now because the human experience is something incredibly influential once it’s shared. It’s why social media is so game changing. Suddenly everyday people have the same type, or better influence than the people who used to control all of the media before. That’s transformative.

The thing we have to think about is how do we use technology to enable something; what is that something? Experience is part it. That means experience has to be designed so technology has an enablement path. The human experience is something that requires architecture and design, and technology is part of that. We’re essentially becoming conductors of an entirely new type of symphony. This is transformative, this is going to require all businesses large and small to disrupt or be disrupted.

Everything is ripe for disruption. It’s why taxi’s are freaking out about Uber; it’s why hospitality is wondering what AirBnB means to their business; or you have services like Instacart and others that a creating what I call the On-Demand Economy. This means that the consumer is being absolutely conditioned to think that the world revolves around them. This in turn means business no matter their size have to rethink what it is they do and how they do it, to cater to this type of connected customer.

So how do businesses deliver on these new expectations?

By understanding where and how to remove friction, it’s the best thing they can do. In turn, they’ll gain empathy, because the alternative is to wither into irrelevance.

What will we be talking more about a year from now, that’s not much talked about today?

I think this idea of experience is going to become a bigger deal. The idea that social, mobile, and digital really sum up the chasing after the digital customer experience. The digital customer experience is something you really have to know, you have to study, and you have to design around. It’s all about the premise that people are going to have experience, so design it. Then bring it to life in each of those streams in a way that works with people want to work. It’s going to be all about how business understands and starts working with the idea of micro-moments.

John Gray

John Gray

John is BetaKit’s first West Coast Editor. He’s BC born and raised with a Vancouver postal code for the last 35 years. John’s been involved with the start-up community since early 2009. He’s co-founder of Omniscient Technologies a visual analytics company whose assets were acquired in October 2011. John and his co-founder reacquired their IP in October 2014 and will be launching a new version Mentionmapp.com this year. As a writer, John cares about keeping the humanity in our stories and conversations about technology. He has a B.Ap.Sc. in Communications and a B.A. in English, both from Simon Fraser University.