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Innovation

We believe innovation is an organic process. David Forrest started using the term ‘enterprise ecology’ to draw parallels between the economic system and natural ecological systems in the late 1980s. Competition and adaptation drive evolution in nature — competition and innovation in the economy. Both systems are changing continuously due to the interplay of actors and a dynamic environment. Strategy – ecological or economic – is a way for the players in either system to find a niche that creates a competitive advantage. If we use ‘economy’ to broadly describe the way we humans make our way in the world, innovation and evolution also apply to our institutions and the way we organize ourselves, enhancing our ability to succeed as a species.

Innovation Watch scans continuously for answers to the following questions:

  • What is happening in the world?
  • What opportunities and challenges are emerging?
  • How are actors in the system responding with new innovations?
  • Is the system moving to a new state?
  • What wildcards could change everything?

The results are offered on this website as ‘signals of change’ – indicators of an emerging future that can be used to inform business strategy, policy decisions, and personal choices.

Changes Big and Small

Many phenomena follow a power-law distribution based on their size — including the severity of power blackouts, the magnitude of earthquakes, and the intensity of wars. We can think of the ‘future’ as the state of a system of complex systems (the world) at some future point in time. Events that change the state of this system (change the ‘future’) conceptually follow the same power law. Common events have a very small impact, rarer ones a larger impact, and the very rarest transform the world.

We report on the whole spectrum of ‘signals of change’ – from subtle shifts in behavior to deeper forces that have the potential to create revolutions. These signals are often obscure and complex, and the future is a moving target. There is no way to predict it, but like a swimmer in a fast-flowing stream we can learn to read the currents. Paying attention to these signals helps us to see things others don’t see — or to see them sooner — revealing opportunities for new strategies and innovations.

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