The Innovation Ultimatum: A book review by Bob Morris

The Innovation Ultimatum: Six strategic technologies that will reshape every business in the 2020s
Steve Brown
Wiley (February 2020)

These technologies can be your best friends or worst enemies. That’s up to you.

I agree with Steve Brown that the challenges C-level executives face today are occurring faster and in greater number than ever before.

“There is a massive and rapidly widening gulf between the capabilities of companies that invest in technology and those that don’t.

“It is a time of reckoning. Emerging technologies will empower brave innovators to make giant steps forward, while those without vision, courage, and agility will wither and perish. Winners will change the world.” Quite literally, here’s the imperative: “Innovate or die.”

Brown focuses on six technologies that intimately connect the digital and physical worlds. He devotes a separate chapter to each in Part 1:

1. Artificial intelligence (AI)
2. Sensors and the Internet of Things (IOT)
3. Autonomous Machines — robots, cobots, drones, and self-driving vehiclem
4. Distributed leaders and blockchains
5. Virtual, augmented, and mixed reality
6. Connecting everything and everyone: 5G networks and satellite constellations

Brown suggests that these technologies be viewed as primary colors on a palette on which innovators mix and match in appropriate combinations and configurations. The companies that thrive in months and years to come “will be the ones that never rest on their laurels. These companies will fully embrace every one of these six technologies and combine them in creative ways to leapfrog competition…Winners will create massive value in the digital domain and use the six technologies to bridge that value into the physical domain, streamlining operations, delighting customers, and creating exciting new products and services.”

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Brown’s coverage:

o Artificial intelligence (Pages 3-36)
o Internet of Things (39-56)
o New Business Models (44-47)
o Analytics in decision-making (50-53)
o Autonomous machines (57-66)

o Distributed Ledges and Blockchains (67-86, 89-91, and 178-180)
o Human-machine partnerships (69-71 and 139-148)
o Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality (93-94, 98-104,and 209-210)
o Connectivity (105-125)
o Automation strategy in alignment with corporate purpose (121-137)

o The Data Ultimatum: Fuel for Business Innovation (139-148)
o Elevating experiences to transformations (145-146
o The Future of Work (149-164)
o Post-automation economy (161-164 and 254-263)
o Keeping healthcare healthy with technology (167-181)

o Transforming Human Mobility (183-197)
o “Smart” manufacturing with augmented workers (225-242)
o Preparing for Post-Automation Economy (255-263)
o Disruptive technologies (258-262 and 265-276)
o Key Strategic Discussions You Must Drive to Determine Next Steps (270-275)

With innovation as with all other change initiatives, the most severe limits tend to be self-imposed. This is what Henry Ford had in mind long ago when suggesting, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.”

And this is perhaps what Steve Brown may also have had in mind when concluding, “You are limited only by your creativity and your ability to inspire others to drive change. The same is true of all your competitors. In a time of great possibility, those with the greatest sense of purpose and the greatest will to drive change will prevail. To sit at the nexus of extreme competitive pressure and powerful positive purpose is to be at the heart of The Innovation Ultimatum.”

I congratulate him on a brilliant achievement. Bravo!

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