One reason for the emphasis on agility and iteration in recent decades is that technology has been fairly stable. Every new generation of computer chips has offered more power and capability but works exactly like earlier generations. In much the same way, advancements in lithium-ion batteries meant that our devices could shrink, but little else had to change. Today, though, those comfortable old paradigms are running out of steam. Moore’s law will soon end, and lithium-ion batteries will approach theoretical limits in five to 10 years. These will be replaced with technologies that aren’t nearly as well understood . . .
In the coming years we are likely to see a new era of innovation that will look more like the 1950s and 1960s (which were about solving fundamental problems, like space flight and the development of mainframe computers) than it will the 1990s or 2000s (which were more about improving on earlier technology to create applications). In the next few decades, I predict, much of innovation’s value will shift away from applications and back to fundamental problems. That will require greater focus on sustaining efforts to solve grand challenges.
. . . today’s technology makes the pursuit of ambitious projects far more accessible to smaller organizations: “In the current environment of cloud computing, software as a service, and open data, the opportunities for organizations of any size to pursue grand challenges with minimal capital expenditures is unprecedented.”
No matter what form innovation takes — short, agile sprints or long-term, grand-challenge investments — innovation is fundamentally about solving problems. And the bigger the problems you choose to tackle, the larger the potential payoff. Pursuing a grand challenge won’t improve your results next quarter, but it might just take your enterprise to a whole new level.
Greg Satell, “Why the Rewards for Ambitious Problem Solving Are About to Get Bigger”, in HBR.org ; Boston : Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, January 8, 2018 (excerpt La Litera información)