Innovation Incubating in Emerging Economies
By Mike Anderson
I read an interesting blog post by Microsoft exec Fernando de Sousa about technology change in Africa and how it presents investment opportunities. A contention was that Africa is an incubator for innovation that will be a source for change affecting the rest of the world.
One great point was that the locus of power for best leveraging new technologies and creating innovation that charts new directions for others would come from emerging economies. In particular, those with an appetite for technology and access to it can rapidly transform business in those emerging environments. I see five key factors that together crate the potential for innovation not just for those emerging nations but also for the rest of the world.
Innovation Without Baggage
The emerging economies have an advantage in that they are just that – emerging with a lot of room to grow and foster innovation. Economic and business development are in early stages. As a result they have minimal if any heritage or outdated infrastructure, no installed base, and no previous paradigms for how to build out the new workplace, new business, and new economy. So while they have to build a lot of new infrastructure and new capabilities, they can do it all with new stuff.
Confluence of Technology Change is a Powerful Enabler
In concert with this demand is the current confluence of momentous technology shifts that each has far-reaching impact, and together enable those who are “have-nots” to catch up with those who “have” seemingly overnight. Cloud, mobile, social and analytics are now tools that change the infrastructure, connectivity and engagement of individuals and business. Additionally they require little up front CAPEX, are intuitively easy and can have transformational impact.
Building Not Rebuilding
There is no need for a transformation to occur in these economies. While the transformational impact of the collective technologies being used and the business processes being addressed offer great results, this is an implementation rather than a transformation in the emerging economy. They can just do it with a new model without a transition, migration or any patchwork integration.
Grassroots User Power
A large population in the countries is young, ambitious and not only technology savvy, they can adapt the approaches of developed economies with little friction. This ready accessibility to large numbers of users who can acquire and make the technology work is also new. It used to take experts to make the new technologies transformative, but that is no longer true. A voracious appetite and the widespread capability to have an impact with the new technologies can create very rapid advances in the economy and social environment in these emerging economies.
Innovation at High Speed
The confluence of cloud, mobile and social enables rapid implementation of things that previously took iterations to make work. Mixed with a big appetite for change, investments in advancing knowledge and education and fewer inhibitors to actualize new approaches the environment also becomes an incubator for ideas. The ability to stimulate new ideas and innovative approaches in ways that will be better faster than much of the rest of the world that has to overcome conventional wisdom and thinking and move through stages makes this a prime source for innovation. These emerging economies can leapfrog those have started before but who have to bring along the legacy of that success.