PRISM Keynote: “Innovation is Everyone’s Business”

Last Wednesday in Scottsdale, I had the pleasure of hearing Soren Kaplan, an expert in disruptive innovation, deliver an inspiring keynote to kick off EDR’s PRISM conference. Here are my take-aways:

The pace of technology innovation is accelerating…big time.

If you look back over the past century, you’ll see how much shorter the adoption rate of new technologies has become. Consider the days that once-innovative technologies like the telephone, electricity, or car were first developed. It took 40-50 years before they reached mainstream adoption.

Contrast that with how quickly we’ve all gotten addicted to new technologies like smart phones or tablets to make us better, stronger, faster. Now mainstream adoption is more like 4 or 5 years than 4 or 5 decades (see graph).

What does that mean to all of us? It means “when you see new ones gaining traction, you’d better make sure they’re on your radar screen.”

Smart phones are now the platform to accelerate the adoption of the next round of hot technologies like augmented reality, the Internet of things, blockchain and artificial intelligence. Ubitquity is the example of a start-up using blockchain to execute the title search process faster and more efficiently. Others will follow—and fast.

We all have the ability to learn how to innovate.

Recently my business book discussion group read Carol Dweck’s Mindset, outlining her groundbreaking tenet that we can train ourselves and others to have a growth mindset. Meaning it’s not a world of have’s and have-not’s (i.e., your talents and abilities are set in stone, and you either have the IQ or athletic ability to succeed or you don’t).

Likewise, Kaplan believes that a culture of innovation doesn’t just exist at some companies and not others. It can be learned. You can train staff to adopt an innovative approach to business. You can establish an office environment that encourages—and champions—new ideas. As Kaplan writes about in his book, Invisible Advantage, your competitive advantage is temporary. And scary as it may sound, unless you continue to innovate, you risk your services or business models becoming commodities over time. Companies need to proactively invent (and reinvent) their competitive advantage, especially in today’s world of rapid technological change.

Kaplan shared three strategies for challenging your employees’ mindsets and innovating:

  1. “Identify your innovation intent”
    • Do you want to focus on the small incremental changes (easier, lower risk)?
    • Or the huge disruptive breakthroughs (harder, higher risk)?
  2. “Uncover unarticulated insights”
    • It’s all about your clients, but they won’t always tell you what they want.
    • Some of the coolest innovations have been by companies that launched a service their clients didn’t even know they wanted—and ended up disrupting industries and business models.
  3. “Fall in love with the client’s problem, not your solution”
    • Look to create something that you think creates value for clients
    • But then let them decide by reaching out early and often to open (and continue) a feedback loop so your clients are along for the ride.


If you need a jolt of inspiration, but aren’t quite sure where to start or what to do:

  • Take a look at Kaplan’s book The Invisible Advantage. Even the layout is innovative. Very easy on the eyes and very readable (even late at night).
  • Kaplan generously shared his link for resources which includes terrific examples of companies that adopted practices to encourage innovative thinking by employees—and don’t miss his series of funny videos involving card tricks and a clip from that old show Candid Camera.
  • Kaplan’s PRISM presentation, Innovation is Everyones Business


  • ABOUT SOREN KAPLAN:Soren Kaplan is the bestselling and award winning author of Leapfrogging and The Invisible Advantage, an Affiliated Professor at the Center for Effective Organizations at USC’s Marshall School of Business, a writer for FastCompany and Inc. Magazine, a globally recognized keynote speaker, and the Founder of InnovationPoint and upBOARD. He has been recognized by the Thinkers50 as one of the world’s top thought leaders in business strategy and innovation.