2020: Three Trends for the New Decade

Updated: Nov 30, 2021

The inexorable march of “do more, faster, with less“ will continue. And that's okay.

As we enter a new decade, technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, the Internet of Things and Voice Computing are dominating the headlines. Yet there are other, less talked-about trends that will ultimately determine how we use those technologies and how they will impact our lives. Here are three we’re following closely.

1) The Two-Track Organization

For years legacy organizations have struggled to institutionalize their innovation efforts. Does innovation live outside of the core business? Within the business units? Alongside them? Is it a full-time gig for employees or tacked onto their regular duties?

A consensus is finally emerging.

It goes by many names. Two-track, dual operating system, dual-engine, ambidextrous and others. But they all mean the same thing: Innovation works best when it lives outside of the core business; operating in parallel to it and staffed with dedicated, specialized talent.

The rationale is straightforward: Searching for new business models is very different from executing an existing business model. It requires a different set of skills, new processes and incentives to succeed.

This emerging best practice isn’t meant to replace or compete with existing business functions, however, but to complement them. As David Kidder, CEO of consulting firm Bionic put it: “Together, these dual operating systems give you the power to discover and validate new ideas at the speed and cost of startups, then launch the validated ideas into new businesses at the scale of enterprises.”

This new innovation track will not only require new approaches, but a new brand of leadership as well.

2) Leading by Experimentation

It turns out success requires a lot of failure. And leaders who are not only comfortable with this failure, but know how to make the most of it. Alexander Osterwalder, in HBR.org last November, provided us with a great, real-world example of the math involved.

In his piece, he described the German appliance maker Bosch's Accelerator Program, which provides a platform for internal innovation teams to validate new business ideas. Bosch leaders and innovation managers select cohorts of 25-30 teams from around the world that work together for 6-12 months. Teams receive initial funding of approximately €120,000 and get three months to test whether their business ideas can scale. Depending on the results, teams can obtain additional funding of €300,000 or more.

Since 2017, Bosch has invested in more than 169 teams. Of these teams, 70% stopped their projects after just the first investment and 72% of the remaining teams stopped after the second investment. Through this process Bosch discovered just 14 teams that successfully took their projects to scale with follow-on funding.

Experimental leaders are in many ways the antithesis of traditional business leaders. And better suited to our turbulent times. They’re comfortable with uncertainty, they empower and support their teams above all, and they tend to lead with questions rather than answers.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is a prominent example of experimental leadership. Nadella pivoted Microsoft from what he called a “know-it-all” culture to a “learn-it-all” culture and famously reinvigorated a company that had been treading water for 10 years.

Now, with the rise of today's no-code tools and platforms, it has never been easier to lead through experimentation.

3) No-Code Development

Imagine conceiving a new generation of digital products and businesses without writing a single line of code. Increasingly we can, thanks to the no-code and low-code movements: A drag-and-drop, visual approach to software development that allows non-technologists to quickly create functioning software experiences of all kinds and test them in the marketplace.

The movement has been quietly gaining momentum for years, but in the past 12 months it has exploded in visibility and capability. Today, even a liberal arts graduate can create an e-commerce marketplace, a blogging website, native mobile apps, voice bots and more.

Challenges and opportunities that were previously addressable only by those with technical know-how or deep enough pockets can now be addressed by any entrepreneur with a good idea. Innovation and design teams that relied on partial prototypes to test new ideas can deploy functioning software instead and collect more reliable feedback, while saving their valuable engineering resources for other needs.

"I believe that the no-code and low-code movements are possibly the single biggest paradigm shifts in independent entrepreneurship that we have seen in a decade." - Colin Winhall, makermag

We would add corporate innovation to that quote as well. It’s going to be an interesting decade.

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