We are all living longer than we used to but the companies we work for are not. Corporate life expectancy is at a serious decline. Our life expectancy has increased by almost 30% in the last 80 years but corporate life expectancy has fallen by almost 500% in the same period. This rapid rate of decline started in the 60s and has continued on a downward trend since the 90s (see diagram below: “The Evolution of Corporate Versus Human Life Spans”). The forecast shows more of the same well beyond 2020. In short, business as usual is no longer an option.

human-being-companies-lifespan

In the Age of Information, organizations discovered the need to implement an ERP system to help establish a system of record for financial information to bring order to chaos. In the Age of the Customer, organizations adopted powerful CRM solutions as a system of record for customer information. Despite these important investments the rate of corporate life expectancy decline has been persistent (see diagram below: “Average Company Lifespan on S&P 500 Index “) as organizations continue to look to find a solution to the root cause and find the path to sustainable repeatable success. It’s time for business as unusual.

average-lifespan-company-sp500

In this Age of Innovation, organizations have to think long and hard about how they can build an engine to continue to grow and transform their business to solicit creative ideas and turn them into winning projects. Organizations need to embrace a system of record for work and innovation. The new market realties also dictate a stronger focus on a versatile system of engagement to help inspire, involve, retain and amaze those we interact with inside or outside the organization.

system-of-record-ages

Replacing the proverbial suggestion box is not the answer and collaboration solutions that do not create structure or purpose will not yield enduring results. There is a real opportunity for organizations to create a distinct competitive advantage by making the appropriate investment to bring the right discipline and structure that allows them to tap the collective knowledge of their employees, partners, suppliers and community.

This new system of record and engagement should support a wide range of innovation activities and work management. To support innovation activities including open innovation, crowdsourcing and challenge-driven events which can involve large communities of users to more targeted innovation activities that focus on a particular segments or demographics. Experimentation must also be facilitated through an agile work management approach to quickly test and appraise retained ideas.

Some organizations get overly obsessed with unrealistic participation targets. Much like other enterprise systems such an ERP or CRM system are not necessarily used by everyone all the time what matters is how you are able to leverage an innovation management system to consistently target the various audiences to help create the right innovation conversations, engagement and connections.

Benjamin Franklin notable quote “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” is spot on but for many corporations their tomorrow is uncertain and although it is a dark observation the reality is many may be living on borrowed time unless they fundamentally change their innovation trajectory.

I agree with Disney CEO Bob Iger’s view that “The riskiest thing we can do is just maintain the status quo.” What is your organization doing to pave the way for a better tomorrow?

References: