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The Innovation Doomsday Clock

The Doomsday Clock, first published on the cover of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947, sent a wake up call to the world. With the big hand set to minutes before midnight, the Clock put the world on notice: If we don’t take urgent, purposeful action, it’s lights out for planet earth.

The “Innovation Doomsday Clock” doesn’t exist... but it should.

Given the accelerating pace of worldwide innovation, every CEO should consider publishing an “Innovation Doomsday Clock” to symbolically represent how long their organization is likely to survive before being rendered irrelevant by evolving technology, industry dynamics, consumer preference, business models, demographics, or government regulation.

How many “minutes” are left before your organization is disrupted? Consider the following:

  • Big Data & Artificial Intelligence Are Coming – In July 2011, IBM’s Watson beat the two reigning champions of Jeopardy to win the $1M prize. Four years later, Watson is assisting in medical diagnoses, providing real estate advice, advising online shoppers, recommending music, training sales reps and much, much more. In November 2014, IBM released the Watson API to 800 businesses and individuals. How long will it be before Watson is advising your clients instead of you?
  • Robotics & Automation Are Coming - Machines can now drive cars, pick strawberries, make hamburgers, and report on sporting events without any human assistance. How long will it be before robotics and automation undermine the basic rational for your business model?
  • Virtual Reality & Telepresence Are Coming – Improvements in virtual reality technology are increasingly removing the “where” of human activity in a manner that threatens to dramatically disrupt industries such as retail, tourism, and all types of service. How long will it be before your services are replaced by a company operating thousands of miles away?
  • The Entrepreneurs Are Coming - As this article in The Economist explains, “Cheap and ubiquitous building blocks for digital products and services have caused an explosion in startups.” What’s not stated in the article is that these startups are coming to disrupt your industry, your company, no matter how invincible it may seem. For example, would you believe that there’s a whole category of startups in the shower head space? Yep. And Timothy Cook of Apple has even invested in one of them.

The list goes on and on. (For a somewhat comprehensive view of emerging technologies, check out the Gartner Hype Cycle technology map.) And yet few organizations are responding with the level of urgency and commitment that the situation demands. Few companies are giving innovation the level of priority it requires. Few companies have had the courage to set the time on their Innovation Doomsday Clock.

Gray Somerville

Gray Somerville is a serial entrepreneur, innovation expert, and LaunchPath’s CEO. Besides LaunchPath, Gray has helped launch and lead three other successful startups including Telogical Systems and Adacus.

@graysomerville