It is a truth not always acknowledged that the average person usually fails to recognise a good new idea. Although an idea whose time has come can and should differ from what's been done or previously suggested, it cannot be too different. The average mind tends to interpret anything that diverges from its usual experience as outlandish, outrageous, or just plain dumb.
That's the view of futurologist Magnus Lindkvist, who is not only a trendspotter but a trained economist. He explained the phenomenon in an inspirational talk to partners of business-intelligence vendor QlikTech at the vendor's Business Discovery World Tour 2013 in London last week.
He points out that many people claim to be interested in innovation and to always be looking for the next big thing, yet most tend even to be disparaging of new ideas at first. Only as time goes by do they become comfortable with innovation of any kind, and with the change it might encourage, enable or represent.
"The future is a little bit like ketchup," he says. "You squeeze, and you squeeze, and nothing happens – and then you have ketchup all over the place."
Eventually, one or two brave souls may test out a new idea, putting it into practice, and, after an even longer period has elapsed, the bulk of the population may decide these scorned 'oddballs' might be onto something and a genuine, widespread transformation may begin.
He explains that innovation tends only to be recognised and understood once it has reached the R&D – "rip-off and duplicate" – phase, but, if you wait until then to do anything new, you're only a follower and are unlikely to reap the greatest rewards.
Fortune favours the brave, and the future likely won't follow the path most believe it will – as most predictions only extrapolate from the known, tried and true. Just look at Pop Idol, he says. The talent show presents a 'recipe' for musical success resulting in a continuous stream of talent apparently all singing from the same hymn book, quickly produced and even more quickly forgotten.
"Reality has a habit of taking us by surprise. There's a Gangnam Style in your life," he says. "Penicillin was discovered because a window was left open by accident; Viagra was a failed blood pressure medication with side effects."
The choice for companies as well as individuals, he says, is to compete or create –knowing that if you cannot create something new, you will simply end up competing against all and sundry, reducing your chances of survival in a rapidly changing environment.
So what's happening right now in IT, and what's the point of examining it anyway if you can't use the events of today to forecast what tomorrow might bring? Current trends include big data, mobility, cloud and all related permutations. Business intelligence is grappling with the problem of making better use of the information and data that is generated by the ongoing expansion and commercialisation of technology, particularly communications technology.
"At the moment, we are seeing the ability to process information becoming IKEA-fied," Lindkvist says.
IKEA didn't invent flat-pack furniture, but it commercialised the concept at the right time, extremely successfully. That's what commercial technology providers ought to do. This means, perhaps, finding the good, unusual ideas, and extrapolating from them before everyone else figures it out. Easier said than done, of course, but Lindkvist has some tips.
"If you want to create, there are four things that will help you transform. Number one: look for secrets. All opportunities begin as a secret. Ask what important truth do very few people agree on? An idea might not be right, but it has potential. In business, what great company is nobody building?
"Number two: experimentation. Nobel started by blowing things up, but the experimental mind is being phased out via things like health and safety. Three: try and fail, and, when you've failed, recycle the failure. If you want to discover the future, discover failure: failing business models, failing technologies. We forget that nothing fails like success; companies like Nokia went bust because they were doing too well. Failure promotes creativity.
"And number four: patience," he says.
QlikTech aiming for innovation
Sean Farrington, UK and Ireland managing director and regional vice president for northern Europe at QlikTech, says he believes Lindkvist is right about the need to do something different. QlikTech, he says, is trying to set itself apart, and provide something genuinely unique, rather than simply trying to compete with the array of business intelligence and big-data related vendors out there.
"The opportunities that will make a big difference are the ones that will follow from being creative, " Farrington says. "And the speed of creativity is magnified, and quicker, in smaller partners with about 10-15 staff."
For this reason, he noted, QlikTech is committed to its channel partners and looking only to reinforce that in years to come. For survival, true innovation is and will continue to be required – and this means developing and partnering with agile companies that can generate fresh ideas and then move quickly to take a chance.
"[For example] we have partner advisory councils, where we get our elite partners together in the UK to talk, discuss the go-to-market model and the messaging," Farrington (pictured, right) says. "Fifty per cent of our revenue is through our partner channel."
Dave Stevinson, director of Differentia Consulting and vice president of sales and marketing for business intelligence and analytics at GNR Corporation, was also at the VAR event. His company sells QlikTech's QlikView software, focusing on retail and distribution channel customers that use it to help them segment and analyse their own customer base.
"We're growing very quickly – we now have 40 people and turn over £3m-£5m a year," Stevinson says. "Customers include Micro-P, which is using it for reporting and visual dashboards, and [Apple reseller] Jigsaw24."
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