Innovation: Why the future starts today

Innovation: Why the future starts today

“The future doesn't fit the containers of the present” and “Replace fear of the future with curiosity” are two of my favorite quotes. Ever since I started working in the digital industry, I’ve been fascinated by the opportunities of all things new and upcoming. Before joining aFrogleap, I worked at a news organization. There, we experimented with the interaction between news media and emerging platforms like mobile (before it was a well-defined space as it is today), connected TVs, and connected cars.

We often cooperated with manufacturers’ R&D departments, always conceiving a world that had yet to come into being. How would people integrate our envisioned news services into their daily lives? Some of our projects were a home run. Others didn’t work out because of factors we hadn’t anticipated. These experiences taught me why planning for the future is so difficult.

The future, as imagined in the 1950s.

Digital is always in flux. For an agency, this brings about an interesting challenge. If you don’t make progress in how you think and work, or in what you offer, the future will slowly render you obsolete. To secure your raison d’être, you need to start earning your spot in the future today.

Great theory, but what about practice?

At our agency, we constantly balance two questions: “Are we doing the right thing?” and “Are we doing the thing right?“. My job as an innovation manager is to make sure that we can continue to do the right thing. That means I’m always preparing for the next right thing. History is saturated with companies that got lost in optimizing what they were already doing right. They focused only on their how, but forgot to pay attention to what would be needed by the changing world around them.

Thinking ahead is a crucial part of our work. That’s why innovation has a major role in our company objectives and key results (OKRs). At aFrogleap, we continually focus on learning skills outside our comfort zone. That’s how we discover what new developments like computer vision or machine learning could mean for our clients.

Knight Rider Kitt Dashboard

The future, as imagined in the 1980s.

I am convinced that having hands-on experience in these new domains is essential. It allows us to develop a toolset that will help us solve future client issues in smarter ways. Our expertise in these fields will teach us which innovations will benefit our clients, and which ones are just hot air. Knowledge through experience. That’s how we future-proof ourselves.

So, what domains do we consider interesting? How do we make sure we gain the right skills to apply these innovations in our day-to-day work? In a follow-up post, I will detail our practical approach to innovation. You’ll see the domains that we’re paying close attention to. I’ll also share how we foster a culture that facilitates constant learning and knowledge sharing between colleagues.

In short: I’ll let you in on the secret of how to replace your fear of the future with curiosity.

Exploring new innovation domains is easier said than done. To get you started, we've outlined our 4-step approach to systematic innovation.