Making what life needs next

The Three Horizons model for innovation, often attributed to Mckinsey, is now more than two decades old, an artifact from the final years of the 20th century together with Design Thinking. Disruptive, adjacent or core innovation can happen at any time and is no longer driven solely by empathizing with your customers. In fact, it’s now often the speed of deployment of breakthrough innovations or the innovations to the business model that have the most devastating impact on the status quo (AirBnB, Amazon, Ant Group, Grab,, Reliance Jio, Revolut, SpaceX, Spotify, Tesla, Uber, UIPath). 

At the same time, the most productive innovation strategies and business designs are all often now more systemic rather than narrowly focused, with more and more opportunities beyond myopic category or industry views. For example, SpaceX has found profitability in the near-term making delivery trips to earth’s upper atmosphere, but that business plan emerged out of more (literally systemic) ambitions to make human life multi-planetary. Across our own planet, industries have new business designs to support energy transitions that are intended to sustain both companies and life on this planet into the next century.

Time is still important for innovation planning and strategy and business design, because companies still have to have a pipeline that takes them into the future and they always need to be aspiring to something that is currently out of reach. Their leaders still have to think about the long view as well as the short view. But we can help them think about how to map timelines differently and, as part of that mapping, see how core, adjacent and disruptive innovations can happen at the same time. 

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