A light bulb is commonly used to illustrate inspiration, but we ignore to show where the current comes from. We all promote innovation as the core for the industry to remain strong and profitable. We discuss it in the boardroom, at conferences, over a coffee, during presentations almost everywhere. Given the amount of time and brainpower spent innovation seems to come from the outside and not from within the industry itself.
Is this a correct perception?
Is this good, bad or indifferent?
Is it an opportunity or a threat?
This industry may be viewed as dull, but it has played a fundamental part in changing peoples life, created more cash than most other industries and employed millions. It has over 3 decades transformed from being a civil servant oriented industry to become a highly competitive and professional industry. In the last 30 years we have gone from analogue to digital, from X.25 to ADSL, from fixed to mobile and now combined. My claim is: there is as much innovation in telecommunications as in most other industries, if not more. However, do we need to innovate in other areas and move up the value chain?
I think we can all agree that it is generally a bad business case to be “all things to all people”. Apple, Google, YouTube and Amazon are often looked at as the new competitors to CSPs (Communication Service Provider). While Web based, media based and communication based industries are coming together, does this means they need to fusion? Or should they work to better complement each other?
Is this an opportunity or a threat?
For argument sake: There are the types of Innovation
Product Innovation: Companies refining product innovation usually has short product lifecycle or well managed product life cycles i.e. Intel, Apple.
Process Innovation: Companies refining process innovation focus on low cost structure and high degree of atomisation and/or charging for human interaction i.e. budget airlines
Niche innovation: Companies innovating for niche can be both in product or process or even packaging i.e. Body Shop.
The question is; where do Communication Service Providers fit or where should they focus their innovation?
Without turning this into a book, I believe the focus should be on process innovation. The CSPs are brilliant at the process of delivering digital stuff to consumers and businesses. Where would Amazon, Google or App stores be without them?
However, the CSPs need to view the potential complementarities and consciously decide what to implement as a SERVICE (Twitter, Facebook etc.) and What to implement as a BUSINESS (Unified communication, re-sell on retail basis etc.).
The Business Processes supporting CSPs has plenty of room for innovation. Pre-requisite to innovate are:
· Building on work already undertaken or existing asset base in new ways.
· Doing away with blame culture
· Encouraging an “anything goes” culture
· Encouraging people to draw inspiration from their own and other business outside
· Doing away with management have better ideas because they know why (not necessarily how).