#OBL12 : to create, you need to be patient and make enemies

The final speaker of the first day at Orange Business Live! was Magnus Lindkvist, a Swedish futurist. He did a great job of perking the audience up with some interesting asides, insights and jokes. As the author of a number of books, including Everything You Know is Wrong you knew that he was going to have a different perspective and you wouldn’t have been wrong. I’ll outline some of his ideas below.

The first subject he tackled was one of information overload, which he dubbed it “infobesity”. The problem with infobesity is that it made it difficult to predict the future. In fact he said that his eight-week course on trend spotting could be summarized in just three words: “Don’t read newspapers. They are fun, but they don’t give you an accurate portrait of what is happening in the world.”

The media obsession with 24 hour news coverage has made the majority of the population believe that very unlikely things are actually likely. Murders for example get massive coverage in the press, despite having been virtually eliminated. In fact he claims that major change frequently happens too slowly for the media to even notice.

Addressing the massive changes driven by technology development, Lindkvist said that the best innovation happens exponentially, which makes it difficult to predict or even conceptualize. “People are familiar with linear development and don’t really like it when it is exponential.”

In fact, one thing is fairly certain is that we will be surprised by what is successful, for example the success of Angry Birds. He says that the next innovation will probably be dreamt up by a teenager in a shower while we are all sitting in this conference.

The most important question we all have to answer is whether we want to compete or create? He says that although the two sound like they are similar, they are not. “Competing is looking at your competitors and doing what they do better in some way. This way you will be liked and win awards. However, creating is quite different. It is about coming up with something that people probably won’t like. They might even get angry and ridicule you.”

He said that most companies are very good a competing, but they are not good at creating. Why should we care – well the median age of businesses is just 12.5 years, so maybe they should look at creating instead. To help companies become more creative, he had the following four pieces of advice:

  1. experiment: we don’t really know what will happen in the future so we need to experiment. The problem is that the experimental mindset is being designed out of companies, often by managers who have “experience chauvinism”.
  2. recycle the failures: You need to take risks and don’t see failure as the end of the road for an idea. Perhaps the timing or execution wasn’t quite right. Many companies just work around success. A failure is nothing to be ashamed of: in fact to discover the future you need to study the failures. “One of the most stupid things you could say is that we have tried that before – that doesn’t mean it won’t work.”
  3. be patient: Look at the experience of Odeo which was set up initially to sell podcasts online. It wasn’t very successful so they launched a sideline service called twitter. Although it is very successful now, twitter took several years to take off.
  4. make enemies: If people dislike what you are doing, that is a good sign that you are doing something new. We are biologically resistant to doing something risky.

image © ashumskiy - Fotolia.com

Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.