Over Christmas, my wife and I were shopping for a present for our three-year-old daughter, Holly.
“She seems to really like working with you on your laptop,” my wife said (clients who notice strange typos in emails . . . blame Holly!). “Why don’t we get her a toy that encourages that interest so she’ll be more familiar with the technology as she gets older?”
It seemed like a reasonable suggestion, so we bought her a “Dora the Explorer” laptop. Holly’s had it a couple of months and enjoys it immensely, and I can take Dora’s insanely irritating voice if it helps my daughter learn numbers and letters. Reflecting on the fact that Holly routinely plays with both our iPad and Kinect, I said to my wife, “I think the odds that Holly actually uses a laptop during her working career are pretty close to zero.”
We often think that innovation really matters only to a small group of people, like corporate leaders steering their companies through changing industry conditions, entrepreneurs hoping to create the Next Big Thing, and research scientists dutifully developing the technologies to enable both.
But we all have to come to grips with the reality of an increasingly dynamic world. I’m willing to bet that you do your job in a different way than you did when you started working. Look at the seemingly prosaic world of consulting. I joined McKinsey & Co. as an analyst in 1996. We received training on how to place acetates on overhead projectors during presentations. There was an art to the practice of managing voice mail (one colleague became a legend for figuring out how to get the Audix system to time stamp a message so it appeared like she was working insane hours). One of my managers told me that one of our sources of competitive advantage was our library, where we had stacks of paper reports that were too expensive for individual companies to purchase. Consultants could pour through those reports to find critical data that our clients couldn’t access.
1996 wasn’t that long ago. And I think it’s a safe bet that more will change in the industry in the next 15 years as technology advances, collaborative networks and emerging markets rise in importance, and entrepreneurs craft disruptive models such as 10EQS and iCanPilot.
Scott D. Anthony is managing director of Innosight Asia-Pacific.