There Has Never Been a Better Time for Innovation

Historians often point to The Renaissance many centuries ago as humankind’s most creatively prolific period. Indeed, timeless discoveries and masterpieces in art, literature and science burst forth from geniuses such as Leonardo de Vinci, Michelangelo, and Galileo.

I spend a lot of my spare time studying social and cultural change, and I respectfully disagree with such historians. I passionately believe that future historians will look back and agree that today – right now – stands as humankind’s most creatively prolific time.


There has never been a better time to innovate . . . to make the impossible possible. #NeverBetter


Today, however, ingenious entrepreneurs around the world, sculpting new technology solutions, are the ones accelerating innovation at an unprecedented pace. These tech-driven innovators are highly creative in their own right – business and social problems capture their mind’s eye, digital platforms become their canvas, and technology tools are their paints and brushes.


The unprecedented breadth, depth, and volume of today’s innovations stagger the imagination. And instead of creating breathtaking paintings, these innovators are creating new products, solutions, and services in every industry to improve efficiency and enrich experiences. Today, clouds can protect rhinos, trucks can drive themselves in dangerous moments, and doctors can treat children 6,000 miles away. The outcomes are seemingly limitless.


So why are we so fortunate today? Why are we living in a time when this technological renaissance – the biggest rebirth since the Industrial and Internet revolutions? – helps innovation to flourish like never before? There are many reasons, and below are three that I think are key drivers for accelerating and unleashing this version of 21st-century creativity:


1. The Digital Revolution. Clearly, the mass digitization of business and society is the primary force behind today’s innovation. Digitization provides innovators with new ways to transform business models, processes, software, and systems that make companies more competitive and citizens more healthy and happy. The near ubiquity of data and the growth of analytics on the Internet yield insights for innovations to proliferate. And digitization will only grow exponentially. According to Cap Gemini and MIT, 78 percent of businesses surveyed said that achieving digital transformation will become critical to their organization in the next two years.


2. Connection of Technologies, People, and Things. Today’s digital platform on the internet is architected as a network to integrate and capture value from a full portfolio of applications, data centers, clouds, security, collaboration, Internet of Things, analytics, and services. This convergence of technologies comes at the same time that more and more things are being connected. By 2020, Cisco predicts that more than 50 billion things with IP addresses will be connected to the Internet. IDC finds that one million devices will go online every hour until 2020, and 200,000 new apps and services will be available by 2018. All this creates a rich environment to inspire limitless innovations.


3. Cultural Transformation. A very broad topic, and one that’s not usually addressed in the technology arena. Most organizations – large and small – focus first on innovations and outcomes rather than on the innovators themselves. However, that is rapidly changing. Cisco and other innovation leaders who have built large ecosystems of innovators to help co-develop solutions are now bringing some of those lessons learned in-house – creating start-up-like cultures that encourage employees to think and act more like entrepreneurs. I will write more about how to ignite a start-up culture of entrepreneurs in future blogs, but I want to emphasize that such disruptive internal revolutions if you will, are breaking down barriers of business unit silos, bringing together employees across all functions, and creating more diverse teams brainstorming ideas that motivate them personally. We know that game-changing ideas can come from anywhere and anyone and entrepreneurial start-up practices at big and small companies alike are helping to unleash the full potential and talent of employees.


These creativity drivers are a few of the catalysts that I think are fueling so much amazing innovation around the world today. In an ironic twist, technology innovators are also helping to converge and connect with history. In recent years, engineers have used highly sophisticated spectral photography to scan the 500-year-old Mona Lisa painting. They discovered many multiple layers of slightly repositioned images painted underneath the surface, creating what may be the world’s first stereoscopic, 3-D effect. The painter, de Vinci, clearly applied science, math, and engineering principles to brush this 3-D perspective, creating one of history’s most valued works of art.


In today’s hyper-creative world — enriched by technological and cultural transformations — one can only wonder what our innovators will discover and create next for us. #NeverBetter


This article originally appeared in Cisco Blogs on May 5, 2016