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Creating Value in an Era of Exponential Change

Written by Caitlin Struhs | on October 21, 2015 at 11:00 AM

Brian Vellmure, Principal/Founder of Innovantage, LLC, joined us for September’s Higher Logic Learning Series webinar. He discussed how organizations can compete to win in a world where access is available, automatic and constantly affected by new technology. Check out some of Brian’s key takeaways.

Higher Logic: You talked about upcoming and interesting technology, like virtual reality headsets and platforms that use brain waves to compose music. How does this technology affect the average organization?

Brian Vellmure: These are examples of how we’re becoming smarter about the tiny details of our world. The old business models focused on transactions and demographics; the digital realm means understanding the path to purchase and what customers’ attitudes are. The world is more complex—we’ve moved from a hunter-gatherer control structure, to a hybrid and networked civilization.

HL: What will happen to this organizational environment for businesses and individuals?

BV: We all need to recognize that we are nodes in a network, rather than silos of organizations and individuals. This creates interesting dynamics—it’s how a start-up company like WhatsApp can compete in the world and knock others down, and how individuals can move up and increase influence.

Technology is introducing more opportunity and shorter cycle times. Companies now act like bubbles—experiencing quick growth and then popping. Across industries, the average lifespan of a product went from 15 to three years. Now, we’re all competing against all markets, all at once.

Both fragmentation and consolidation are happening at the same time. Large companies are shifting to become platform providers, aggregators and intermediaries of content and services. The smaller players will take up the role of niche providers, who are specialized, focused and highly targeted on a specific product or service.

HL: What are some of your favorite technology disruptors—which companies are really succeeding?

BV: I mentioned WhatsApp—it’s a cross-platform mobile messaging app that allows you to exchange messages without paying for texts/SMS. WhatsApp created so much value for users by surpassing text usage and amassed about 400 million customers. Last year Facebook acquired WhatsApp for 22 billion. Both companies recognized the creation of something that mattered to the connected world.

Etsy is a strong example of technology helping on both organizational and individual levels. It’s grown to include over one million shops/artisans and over 1.5 billion annual transactions. Another company leveraging technology to provide relevance is Zara, the fashion apparel retailer. Zara has shortened the long-standing fashion to market timeline, by bringing new designs to shelves within 15 days and offering three to four times more product options than traditional retailers. This agile approach is dominating new business models.

Even Google’s recent announcement that it has restructured and is now a subsidiary of its new parent company, Alphabet, is proof that larger organizations are breaking up into smaller, more agile companies in order to remain innovative.

HL: A popular tech topic right now is how new technology will replace human jobs. What’s your take on it?

BV: We forget the first computers were actually people—it was computational processing. Rather than taking away jobs, it created new ones. We’re experiencing the same change here. Our current jobs will be disrupted, but new jobs will arise.

This is how humans will beat machines: creative endeavors, social interactions, physical dexterity/mobility and general ambiguity. Think about it—if you ask a vague question to Siri on iPhone, it struggles to provide a valid answer. Humans tolerate ambiguity, ask the hard questions and have the soft skills to continue innovating.

HL: What are the implications for organizations in a tech-focused environment?

BV: We don’t know the impact and speed at which technology is changing, so there are unprecedented opportunities. If we consider how to improve for customers and employees, we need to address what the new scarcities are: attention, loyalty, relevancy and privacy, to name a few. So how do we address these scarcities? I think it comes down to a few important qualities:

Trust. When trust goes down, then cost goes up (and speed goes down, too). We’re competing with shorter cycle times, so we can’t afford a lack of trust with customers to slow us down.

Context. Customers are willing to trade a little privacy, as long as an organization uses that to provide them with something that’s in context. Don’t offer me the subscription package if I’m already a subscriber, right?

Experience. This is the last bastion of competitive differentiation. It’s increasingly easy to check out a product and copy or reverse-engineer it. But experience is the new battle ground, because it focuses on giving customers what they want.

HL: Any advice for organizations who are afraid to invest in new technology, or really feel a barrier to change?

BV: Start small. Most organizations have some semblance of that, unless they’re brand new. Build consensus around a use case. Socializing stories is an effective way. Connect the dots on what could happen to you compared to others’ performance. A lot of it is education.


Brian Vellmure is the Principal & Founder of Innovantage LLC. Brian Vellmure helps organizations across a variety of industries and sizes accelerate growth through customer focused digital transformation initiatives. In addition, he often serves as an expert advisor for the world’s most successful and innovative technology vendors and their customers, providing market and product strategy guidance and thought leadership content. He is an accomplished business leader, management consultant, keynote speaker, and award winning syndicated blogger. Connect with Brian on Twitter via handle @BrianVellmure and on his website, www.brianvellmure.com.


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