Embracing the Future at the Reuters MOMENTUM Virtual Forum
Two days dedicated to reaching the future
This year has had no shortage of virtual events. Whether it be established tradeshows or new companies deciding to weigh in, the COVID-19 pandemic has produced enough change and challenge for numerous conversations. In an example of the latter, Reuters decided to launch a virtual forum, dubbed MOMENTUM. However, unlike many others, the focus of MOMENTUM was not on COVID-19 but rather what comes next. Innovation was the dominant theme as companies such as HP, Microsoft, UPS, Zoom, and others held panels discussing technological developments and refining decentralized work solutions.
Merriam-Webster defines innovation as “a new idea, method, or device” or “the introduction of something new.” With such vague guidelines, it is easy to see why this word is used so often. However, in the business space, innovation as just a thought concept is rarely useful. A CEO can declare that everybody at the company will use Hololens 2 going forward for the bulk of their work (a new method), but that doesn’t mean it’s going to revolutionize business or propel greater profits. Newness for the sake of newness can be as dangerous as standing still.
In an introductory panel, Jeff Wong, Global Chief Innovation Officer at Ernst & Young, spoke about the importance of innovation and how to make it actionable. In particular, he outlined the need for two components: the right skillsets and the right mindsets. The first is self-explanatory. In today’s increasingly digital world, computer literacy is a prized skill—to maximize the technology of the day, one must first understand it.
The second, however, is less clear-cut. According to Wong, it’s not enough to just want to innovate. That’s like wanting to eat healthy or wanting to go to the gym. Many of the people who set those goals fail to meet them. Instead, innovation must be treated as a capability. Everybody is capable of innovation, but different strategies produce different results. Just saying “I want to innovate!” will do little to move the needle.
Getting in the right mindsets starts at the top. Workers can try to pull forward all they want, but unless the CEO embraces change and allocates resources, it will be a long and frustrating road—one that will probably end in a lot of ambitious employees leaving the company. Leaders have to be serious, and that means being prepared to take risks. In some ways, this is easier during a challenge like COVID-19. No one feels safe right now, we are all just surviving the current economic and social landscape.
Once leadership is serious, thinking different can be helped by being different, and this means diversity. Now, Wong clarified that he wasn’t just talking about ethnic and cultural diversity (although both of these are important), he was talking about professional diversity. If print executive teams continue to just bring in longstanding experts from other giant print companies, there is likely to be some overlap.
By contract, bringing in a leader from an agile tech startup could very well inject a lot of new thinking and new ways to solve problems. This might require spending a little more time in the interview process, but the results are often worth it. People are more than their educational degrees, and different perspectives can open up avenues that people who have been existing in a space for 40 years just are not likely to see. That said, they are in prime position to provide insight and advice to the newcomers. It is together, in this blend of established thought and fresh examination, that powerful innovative strategies can develop. To paraphrase Wong, once these people stop talking past each other and start talking with each other, then the magic starts to happen.
If companies want to seize the opportunities of the future, they must first be aware of them. This often means a deep exploration and not a pleasant glance. Those who look at Pokémon Go, for instance, and see just another mobile game are not fully appreciating why that product succeeded when so many like-minded competitors failed.
MOMENTUM devoted two days toward this exploration and, in this analyst’s opinion, was well worth the time.
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