Driving Innovations is like turning ‘Fortune Tellers’ to ‘Angel investors’

posted by Ravi Arora December 13, 2015

Fortune tellers are quite popular in India and hopefully in many parts of the world. Most of us in India would have shown our hands (mostly the right one) to palmists. They are often visible in Malls, parks, temples, street side and other public places. Many people have a family palmist but there are professional palmists as well who claim to make the right predictions. Some of us may have seen a well-known fortune teller (including a palmist) during our bad times in our professional life or personal lives.

We usually don’t hesitate to show our palms to a fellow traveler during a long train or a bus journey or even to a friend who claims to have some knowledge of palmistry.

How often do we remember what the palmist had predicted for us? Do we even remember the predictions? How often do we compare the predictions made with the actual realty that happens to us in future? Do we celebrate the accuracy of the palmist? Do we go back to the palmist and tell that he or she was incorrect? Do we penalize or reward her for being accurate or inaccurate? We might now even remember the person who predicted the future for us? There is actually no upside for the palmist if his predictions come out true and no downside if he is proved incorrect.

Angel investor takes a stake in the future of an enterprise, which they feel are promising. Will the fortune teller ever take a stake in the future of the individuals who he feels would do extremely well?

Some people remember those predictions of palmists that come out to be true but I have never seen anyone talking about the misses. What could be the reason? It is usually believed that the misses have happened because of the lack of effort from the person who missed it and not that the palmist was wrong! Interesting, isn’t it!

There are many methods that people use for fortune-telling like tarot cards, astrology, palmistry etc. Each one of them claim to be more scientific and accurate than others. My debate today in this article is not to find and declare one better than the other. The idea is to reflect on our behaviour after we have heard the palmist. What do we do differently? How do we react when we arrive at the future time for which the predictions were made?

Now let us come to our professional life.  We have several experts and companies who specialize in analyzing and predicting future trends and mega-trends. We all love hearing them because it is exciting. Many companies call such people to create awareness among managers. Have you noticed the reaction of companies and their managers to these trends and mega-trends? Interestingly, most of us assume that the trends predicted would be correct. Unfortunately we also imagine as if we have arrived at the future state of predicted trends and start discussing our strategies around it. I have never seen a strategic discussion on what the company should do or not do to participate gainfully in the transition of trends and mega trends.

Similar to fortune-teller, has someone ever been challenged for wrongly predicting a future trend or mega-trend?

Use of Mega-trends:

While the mega trends are very broad and they describe the future end state, it is the responsibility of companies to use these as inputs to:

(a) Paint a picture of products and services that will change (in) their industry

(b) Make their own strategic plan of products and services to participate in actually making the trends or mega-trends true. Of course, they should do it only for those trends that they believe will come out true.

Improving Innovation Capability:

When the future arrives, the following behavior which we have exhibited in case of fortune-tellers should be strongly discouraged if we wish to continuously enhance our innovation capability.

  1. Forgetting to identify the predictions we missed about product and services and also those that we made wrongly: We should analyse the reasons for not being able to think of future innovations which our competitors or start-ups could think.  Similarly learning from the reasons for making wrong choices is equally important. Discussing these misses openly would help us in improving our capability to predict the future products and services of our industry more accurately and granularly.
  2. Forgetting to invest on accomplishing predictions: Most companies fail to invest resources on those innovations that are long term. Not making a detailed investment plan on these innovations and reporting deviations actually encourages this behavior further. As a result of under-investing in such innovations, we either delay them or are forced to hurriedly and shoddily execute them as soon as we get to know that competitors have almost done it.