We have had them all from generation x to generation y (millennials) but positioning ourselves to be ready to innovate for generation ‘z’ might just be our toughest challenge yet.
While it can be said that the millennials were tech savvy, the generation that followed is obviously even more so. Today’s kids have grown up connected, with a mobile phone the centre of their existence, a generation used to living in a world where social media and sharing their everyday existence does not faze or frighten them. If this new generation is learning and growing differently than previous generations how can we prepare ourselves to be in a position to innovate for them.
Today’s businesses and marketing teams concentrate on delivering product for the millennial generation; while the smart few are already positioning themselves to meet the demands of generation z. Many disruptive innovations will be required to satisfy this generation and future generations, their expectations and demands.
Tech start-ups and young entrepreneurs continue to be best positioned to deliver new types of disruptive innovation and able to challenge the incumbents. Disruptive innovation as described by Christensen, Raynor, and McDonald (2015) can be seen as the process whereby companies with fewer resources can challenge established incumbents. This is mainly due to the fact that the incumbents continue to focus on improving their products and services for their most demanding and usually most profitable customers i.e. generations x, y.
While concentrating on a particular customer segment the incumbents are ignoring the needs of others i.e. generation z, allowing for the opportunity for tech start-ups and young entrepreneurs to strike. The right disrupters need to start targeting generation z now so as to gain that foothold. Planting the seeds to be the next Facebook or Uber.
Besides disruptive innovations, ‘open’ innovation will be just as important in preparing us to be in a position to innovate for the generations to come. Companies like Apple will no longer be able to continue in their current form; they like Google (and more recently Microsoft) will need to embrace open source technologies, open innovation. Companies will need to be open and share their ideas similar to the way generation z are open and willing to ‘share’ their lives. As Zynga (2013) suggests the days of celebrating only the inventor-genius who gets the patent should really be over. As companies start sharing their ideas we will see further crossovers between products and organisations. This type of crossover as described by Comstock (2016) allows for inventions, ideas, or bodies of knowledge in one field to jump into others resulting in a quantum leap of progress. It’s time to fully embrace the word “open” so we can continue to innovate.