🌀 The four types of corporate innovators
Every major corporation has four types of innovators: those who await, those who bite, those who act, and those who alarm.
The Singularity Passage Framework (SPF) has many applications beyond exploring the futures per se. One example is understanding the nature of corporate innovations and the personal drivers behind them.
As a quick recap, SPF introduces four camps of actors:
- Recombination Factory. Open-market competition with legacy in mind.
- Control Bureau. Closed-market/monopoly preserving the power.
- Anti-Pain Laboratory. No-market innovation focused on narrow pain-point.
- Nonconformism Spark. Whole-market opposition to set the new order.
Let's explore how these behaviors map to an imaginary corporation. Imagine a software company "Blue & White Whales" (BWW, I just made this name), they have 1000+ employees, 15+ years on the market building best-class tools for trends-watching, minimum 5 layers of hierarchy from the board of directors to CEO to managers to ICs.
Such a company has a lot of legacy in software, processes, market reputation, brand, and relationships with suppliers, partners, and customers. And, most importantly, in employees and their minds.
Then a disruption comes. It might be another global pandemic like COVID-19, the era of AI, or another factor that you as a trend-watching company predicted as a possibility but never really planned for.
So what happens next?
In such a big corporation you will face a diversity of reactions, but at the end of the day we might sort them into four buckets:
- Recombination Factory: let's do nothing dramatic, the hype is overestimated, we already have our plans in place, our roadmap is holistic, and we can't break our commitments, BUT... Let's watch what our competitors do, and what startups do, learn from their failures, and once the consequences are clear (probably by the following year) we will update our roadmap during the planning timeframe. And also... we already have many features in place so we might probably recolor them in whatever the new agenda is and it will be enough for our customers. We will make it when the time comes.
The BWW product team focused on crawling over the internet and supporting collaborative efforts of the global trend-watching community considers the hype around Generative AI as yet another trend. It does not directly impact automated or crowd-sourced signal spotting but if implemented in a harry might introduce additional noise to the system. So they prefer to keep watching over it, collect best practices across other competitive and complimentary tools, and only then systematically and thoughfully introduce such features into the product.
- Control Bureau: we should push back, it is dangerous for us and our ecosystem. The risks are underestimated and unknown so we should make it clear to everyone, but let's help others be our denial voice. If it is just a fluctuation we will be right, but if it is true then let's hire somebody externally to build it for us and on top of us. We should not sacrifice our system and order but show that we are on track and preparing, so let's cooperate with some startups or academics to pursue the topic.
As trend-watching company leaders, BWW's CEO and key public strategists participate in a series of discussions across the globe highlighting the dangers of biased and hallucinating Generative AI. The company also just released a public report on various use cases for GenAI. Among other things, it emphasizes ethical risks, safety issues, and other concerns. Behind-the-scenes company invests in a small domestic startup building ideas-generator using the creative power of the latest LLMs and runs a series of student hackathons exploring the predictive power of GPT4 and other models.
- Anti-Pain Laboratory: let's try and see what happens, we should set up a constrains-free zone, bring together all the enthusiasts, and do experiments. Running a hackathon will be nice, digging into pitfalls would be great. The challenge should be accepted, the true source of the pain explored, and a new solution found and proposed. We should switch again into the market-making mode but let's start small, we will do it from the first principles going back to where it all started when we were young.
The BWW' CDO, also known as the Chief Data Whale, brings together a small war-room of enthusistic data-scientists and analytics to setup the Genetative Garage. A small team tasked with one particular ambition and challenge: spotting events, thoughts and concepts preceding the signals captured by the crawling and crowd teams. They hypothesize that before somebody builds something that is later recognized as a signal there should be fluctuations and some density around that topic.
- Nonconformism Spark: we should embrace the disruption, the change is inevitable and the more we complain and deny the further behind the marker we will end up. We should be all-in to change and reinvent ourselves from scratch, lead the market not follow it, and shape the opportunity not adapt to it. We might need to fire some rednecks and retrogrades, but it is ok. We will build a company and products that would eat and overwrite our present essence. So let's start with a new system of rules and priorities.
On the other side of the BWW a group of three prepares a cognitive revolution. These rebels have become disillusioned with the concept of trend spotting and now consider it as something in between of modern media and speculative consulting. But they found a new North Star: the Gen AI prompt-based interface that operates as a human-based reinforcement loop. Their idea is to build a "personal" foreseer chat that will use LLMs to explore human desires but also will capture such desires as an alternative to signals. "When we help people to imagine the future we impact the future."
That leads us to the four types of corporate innovators:
- Don't-worriers and Continuators. These guys prefer predictable and planned ahead changes and innovations. They don't have a lot of options to try and fail, they would choose to wait for the market, implement what works and not fail at all. They stabilize the system and ensure the business goes on, but seem slow and lazy to the rest.
- Order-protectors and Workaroundeers. These guys recognize the risks to the system and choose to beat ahead. Their tactic is two-sided: bite those disruptors and challengers outside while ensuring there is a Plan B in place inside. They will augment external speculations on the coming dangers, and put their hands on the most promising teams to either shut them down or use them as a trampoline. But internally they will keep the system in its status quo as much as possible.
- Triers, Solvers & Experimentalists. These guys will be the first in trying and adopting new trends, features, and disruptions, even if it contradicts internal rules. It is strictly prohibited on the corporate devices? Ha-ha, I will try it at home or on my mobile phone. By the time the leadership team decides that it is time to change and do something they already know what to do, how it should be done, and why it will not work in the current environment and set of rules.
- Embracers, Chargers & Nullificators. These guys are looking for radical changes and are sick of the present way of doing business. They will give the organization the last chance to be reborn as a phoenix in the fire of disruption. But they see system constraints as a barrier to be destructed rather than a construction that prevents the system from failing. They might lead transformation, ignite change and evangelize other employees because they truly believe in the new coming order of things (even if they are mistaken).
True and successful pathfinders know how to combine all four types of innovators in one organization.