Too often we work hard to discover something new, and then grab hold and refuse to let go of it. In exploring the future, you might latch onto a big emerging trend or a new technology. But the world doesn’t “arrive” at a new place and stay there. The future is always in the future, so it’s never enough to just figure out what’s going on, take action, and relax.
In business, what’s leading edge and innovative today, can become ordinary and then a commodity, before long. A product or service that wows people right now, in a few years will be commonplace or possibly obsolete.
Starbucks reinvented coffee a decade or so ago. They’ve had a great run, but now the company is foundering. They’ve brought back the genius that started it all, and he’s has reported his dismay at how ordinary the chain, the product, and the experience have become. He notes that even the smell of Starbucks stores has faded.
What happened? Starbucks rode the wave they created too long, and, in the meantime, automated and commoditized their product and their stores. Baristas no longer made that loud Whack! To tap the espresso grounds out of their holder. Espresso is at the touch of a button. The multi-sensory experience that was Starbucks has faded.
Most companies have suffered this cycle. They discover, after a while, even sometimes after they’ve pioneered in developing a new technology or service, that they are in a commodity, market-share-driven business now. They’ve lost their competitive advantage.
The lesson in all this is to never, never let your thinking “arrive” somewhere, thinking innovation is complete. You have to explore the future without let-up, innovate for the changing world, without let-up. A foresight culture–an organizational culture that keeps foresight at the forefront, is huge step in the direction you need to go. Someone in the organization should always be asking “what’s next?”