Create It or Break It: Innovate, or Go Extinct

The Uber Economy

It was when I saw a person – whose friends, I’m sure, least expected it from – share a post on Facebook about the digital reality in 2015 that I knew ‘the world’s largest taxi company owns no taxis, the world’s largest accommodation provider owns no real estate’ singsong had gone full circle.

Suffice to say that unless you haven’t picked up that computer-in-your-pocket lately (which could only mean you’re dead or trapped in a melting iceberg), you’ll be well on your way to realising that the world ain’t what it used to be, and it won’t ever be going back. The past is the past and all it’s good for these days is sharing nostalgic ‘Remember when’ or ‘You know you’re a child of the [insert decade] if …’ posts on social media.

Technology has seen our world revolutionised and, best of all, it’s continuously turning itself upside down all over again with the dawn of each new day. We are no longer merely human; instead, our behaviours, motives, and thinking patterns have evolved us into virtual beings. 

Case in point: While writing this on a smartphone that’s as big as those first heyday commercially available cellphones (yet about 49 million times as functional, lightweight, and thin) I unwittingly direct my son to wait for the hot water to “load” – a verb our devices have us well-versed in – instead of immediately declaring that he’s unable to shower but should, instead, go back to constructing a world in which he’s in complete control of his construed reality, playing a game that recently sold for $2.5 billion and in the process making a few really cool nerds very, very rich.

The Tumblr Generation

Yet it’s an ironic fact that, since modern technology is the great equaliser for business and financial success in the same way that the French guillotine was to democracy, it is the entrepreneurs and appreneurs, software geniuses, hackers and makerspace-goers who are embracing tech on as limited a budget as most of them may possess. And they’re making a killing, or working towards it as we speak.

Tumblr, a company bought by Yahoo! in 2013 for $1.1 billion, was started by David Karp when he was only 21. What were you doing when you were that age? What will your kids be up to when they reach said proverbial marker of adulthood? Chances are, more than you were.

When most of us were growing up, the white-picket-fence dream was to make it big at – or at the very least be part of – a big corporation that proffered stability and shiny lights. The new generation’s idea of success has shifted to reflect venture capital acquisition afterparties at workplaces that offer unlimited annual leave and skateboarding lanes stretching from the bicycle parkings to the organic vegan canteens situated next to the in-house yoga studio. 

The Lion and the Mouse

Which leads us back to an innocent turn of phrase used earlier in this post … that relentless innovation is a positive thing.

  • As an innovator, absolutely – it’s the meaning of life.
  • As a savvy small- to medium-sized business owner, a blessing – how would you stay current if not through differentiating yourself in today’s competitive marketplace?
  • As a corporation? Debatable. Highly so.

Challenging the status quo is a luxury to be indulged in by those who do not form part of it. King Midas, however, feels there’s no need to learn to mine for BitCoins, since he sits atop the gold, and those pretty shiny things are rolling in nonstop. What Midas fails to realise – and in the process proving himself to be a worthy mythological fool, as those are the ones we retrospectively learn the most from – is that, much like the Queen could only exclaim “Let them eat cake!” for so long before her head would never again partake in tasting Black Forest, the gold is bound to run out. This will happen once the critical mass has embraced the concept of an alternative to gold. Just ask all those crash ‘n burn veteran CEOs of long-forgotten fax machine companies. And so, today more than ever, it’s the underdogs we look to for guidance on the next big thing in tech, the next best trend in marketing, the next built-to-evolve business model.

Big corps are catching on … albeit slowly and, one might argue, with naggingly bedraggled necessity. In a world where we find ourselves more surprised by the announcement of a multi-billion-dollar multinational such as Novartis developing an over-the-GP’s-desk instant diagnostic blood test for patient suitability of their products than the fact that unknown nobodies are producing 3D printed human organs for use in human bodies, you won’t find your Aha! moment through me highlighting that said technology acquired by a financial powerhouse like Novartis was originally developed by unknown nobodies.

A lion threatens a mouse that wakes him from sleep. The mouse begs forgiveness and makes the point that such unworthy prey would bring the lion no honour. The lion then agrees and sets the mouse free. Later, the lion is netted by hunters. Hearing it roaring, the mouse remembers its clemency and frees it by gnawing through the ropes.

Where does your business, your organisation, your mindset find itself on the innovate or go extinct-scale? It’s not too late … but it might very well soon be. Get moving. There’s a crowd of innovators way ahead of you, actively working on projects, businesses, and technological advancements that could soon make your monthly bill-paying income go poof! You’ve a lot to catch up to before you can start surpassing.

P.S. Chuck Hall. That’s who you should be thanking. You might get to wear him one day.