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Use your Past as a Springboard to the Future

Everyone talks about the accelerated rate of change and the overwhelming complexity of the world today: how to make sense of it, effectively adapt and avoid being left behind. But the focus should really lie on how to create change by constantly innovating rather than always feeling the need to catch up; the new landscape is just too brutal for stop-start innovation. Making change is about creating an effective link between past, present and future – it is a mindset shift – and a sure way to powerful, sustained innovation.

Looking at businesses that have been around for a while versus those that have recently sprung up gives a useful sense of how attitude to change is regulated and where both the trouble and opportunity may lie. It shows up two modes of thinking: one caught up in the ways of the past, the other betting heavily on future unknown.

Established businesses tend to be good at operating in the ‘here and now’ with a clear focus on sustaining market share and momentum. But the processes and ways of working that may have contributed to previous success can also hold them back; they can lack the agility to strive forward and rarely positively capitalize on the past.

Startups, on the other hand, are great at spotting unmet needs and opportunities, taking the changing marketplace head on. However, a lack of planning and clear identity can often let them down, showing up ineffective business models, unrealistic goals or unclear positioning; they miss an anchoring that can help build structure and strategy.

Some of the most innovative companies have, of course, managed to effectively integrate the two, solidifying a way of working that makes sense for continued innovation. Think Apple. But the companies that excite us the most demonstrate this ‘joined up’ thinking to the outside world, establishing their innovation ‘turf’ through a vision of the future.

Dyson boldly celebrated its 21st anniversary by sharing its failures of the past: augmented reality goggles, a fuel cell to create electrical energy, a diesel trap to purify air – point to a level of ingenuity that clearly places them ahead of the game.

Peroni Nastro Azzurro uses its heritage rooted in Italian design as a platform to celebrate contemporary Italian culture, annually playing host to House of Peroni, and recently launching its new 25cl bottle design alongside 25 artistic creations inspired by the past, reinterpreted via 3D printing.

How can you empower your business to create change by linking up the past, present and future? What signal can you give to your competitors and consumers about your innovation intentions? If, like us, you believe the future is out there, let the world know and it may help you on your way to creating it.

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