In IBM's "The Enterprise of the Future" there is a profile of "financial outperformers" and "underperformers" driven by research from the Global CEO Study series. This is accompanied by the statement "financial outperformers are making bolder plays".

Thus the piece defines the "Enterprise of the Future" as:

  • Hungry for change
  • Innovative beyond customer imagination
  • Globally Integrated
  • Disruptive by nature
  • Genuine, not just generous

This got me thinking: most of these are risky pursuits. Certainly innovating beyond your customer's imagination carries the risk that you innovate beyond your customer's needs and end up with rather arbitrary products.

Statistically, however, it would seem that the most successful companies are the ones who thrust themselves into those risks.

Einstein is quoted as saying that ideas are "1% inspiration, 99% perspiration". We can liken this to modern innovation and maintaining competitive edge - "1% inspiration, 99% waste and junk". Most investors would probably bet against those odds, but it's just those odds that are separating the successful with the not-so-successful.

Most of this is driven by an industrial-era view of manufacturing. Customers are asked for their requirements, products and services are designed and defined both those requirements and then the product is built.

That's not fast enough in the digital age.

Products need to be "innovative beyond customer imagination".

There maybe some salvation for the risk-wary, particularly in the treacherous economic waters that lay ahead.

Customers are keener than ever, and - thanks to the web - more able than ever to be involved in defining and expressing their preferences. This ranges from broad and far-reaching reviews of what they like and do not like (read blogs, Amazon reviews, community sites - Apple iPhone?) to actual collaborating with their vendors in the innovation process.

Many pharmaceutical companies now take an "open source" approach to drugs manufacturing. Pools of global talent are wielded into the design process. The Nintendo Wii console is cited as being designed with just this sort of open approach. Communities of gamers were involved in the development, tantalized by early releases and other incentives into offering "sage" like advice to Nintendo.

This de-risks everything. Although we still need to be "disruptive", "hungry for change" and "innovating beyond customer imagination" we can do so iteratively. We can involve customers every step of the way, offering them the chance to define their products. This transparency also brings customers closer to your brand.

So what does any of this have to do with BPI?

In order to manage all this effort, organizations need to have visibility into this process. Employees need to have a view and be made aware of how well their "innovations" are performing in real-time. Then they need to communicate and collaborate quickly and effectively between themselves, partners and engage with customer communities.

BPI is the infrastructure for enabling the rapid reactions and change that the Enterprise of the Future will need.