Create a free account to continue

Innovation Vertigo

In industries like manufacturing there is still trepidation in regards to the adoption of new technologies and the transformation of old business models. This uneasiness with the pace of change and confusion over the best path forward leads to innovation vertigo.

The First Mover Advantage

A new report entitled the Digital Dividend: First-Mover Advantage, by Harvard Business Review (HBR) and its corporate sponsor Verizon, sings the praises of early adoption of technologies like cloud computing as the quickest path to business success. However, in industries like manufacturing there is still trepidation in adopting new technologies and transforming old business models.

The study finds that the weight of legacy technologies continued to prevent businesses (34 percent of survey respondents) from exercising their first-mover advantage. “Change can be disruptive—and hard. It requires an increased level of collaboration between IT and marketing, operations, engineering,” the report stresses.

“The main reason given for not adopting new technologies was cultural resistance to change within the respondent’s organization. While legacy technology is an inhibitor for many established companies, entrenched ideas about how the organization works—legacy culture—can be just as limiting,” the authors added.

Skills Gap

While there is no question that there is a skilled labor shortage facing our nation's manufacturers, this post is meant to be thought provoking — putting less emphasis on skilled labor gap and more emphasis on how these businesses are going to transform in an information age in order to attract the right talent needed to build an innovative culture and thrive and compete for many more years to come.

IBM recently announced a new program to retrain veteran employees for cloud, data and mobile skills.  While some may view this as a means to get employees to move-on, retire, etc... I think this is a reality all established organizations are facing.

IBM, HP, Dell and other older hardware-oriented tech providers are all negotiating a tricky path to cloud and mobile. They’re all anchored by a lot of legacy systems while competing with lower cost and more nimble (and younger) competitors seeking to disrupt.  The same is very much true for most manufacturers.  Legacy ERP systems, antiquated processes and cultural resistance to change are creating innovation vertigo.

Innovation Vertigo

An uneasiness with the pace of change and confusion over the best path forward leads to innovation vertigo.  The status quo remains and innovation and change is put on the back burner to deal with daily operational issues.

"Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. Perhaps the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow. But any action is better than no action at all.” - Norman Vincent Peale

Speaking the Language of the Industry

I think GE's most recent marketing video The Boy Who Beeps is a great story demonstrating the reality what our world is moving towards — the Industrial Internet. Where software is connecting industrial machines with people and presenting meaningful data that can be shared and acted upon.

While GE's capital investments might be a far cry from the reality that most manufacturers face - this still shouldn't hold back manufacturing companies from putting a strategy in place. Laying out a roadmap to take calculated risks and incrementally improve on their vision.   Failing fast, and learning from their mistakes.

Development of integrated hardware and software products requires an approach that merges innovation strategies for both products and services. Machines and sensors will streaming data to the cloud and influencing almost every aspect of our lives.

What does your Factory of the Future look like?  How will technology and big data influence and transform your products and services? Are you creating an innovative culture?

About Author

Andrew Rieser is President of Mountain Point, a strategic technology and management consulting firm in Charlotte, NC focused on Digital Transformations in the Industrial and Manufacturing space. More information on Mountain Point can be found at