One of the principles of the fourth industrial revolution is that we can share information and collaborate like never before. While this has brought about some very real unintended consequences, we have also opened the proverbial floodgates of incredible collaboration and network effects of shared knowledge.
Stop Reinventing Wheels
The businesses of the last industrial revolution found success by consolidating knowledge and capability. Brands and businesses consolidate value, known as brand value, by 'owning' this novel innovation and we see that in patents (as well as patent protection). This isn't limited to normal corporate branding as we think of it today, however. Universities drive value by having the most thought-provoking professors. Corporations may have patented business models, products, or offerings that they have protected. And this makes sense, as there are limits on both sides of the equation. A college can only have so many professors and so many students. Corporations can only produce so many widgets. However, at the end of the day, there are people and processes that know how these work. With the advent of technology (like the internet), we can now share information and innovate faster, better, and more cooperatively than any time in the history of man, fundamentally circumventing these traditional defensive and offensive frameworks.
Some may see this broad proliferation of knowledge as IP theft or stealing. I'd venture that those are the same individuals who hold the patents. Open-source information creates competition and innovation, which we can see in two very real examples. First, Tesla released their patents to proliferate everything that they had learned about EV vehicles in an attempt to bring about positive change. Second, we have seen a push from doctors and others to share and collaborate vaccine information as it relates to COVID-19 and its variants. Indeed, countries and companies (often in partnership, mind you) who have indexed controversial items like the human genome now have the ability to accurate map efficacy and even design specific treatments around genetic markers and disease mutations. We should be celebrating these companies, countries, and individuals who have taken a risk and now innovate faster and better during trying times.
To compete in the economy of the future, we must focus on two levers. First, GDP will always be a primary driver. As they say, money makes the world go 'round. However, businesses, individuals, and other market players and forces will begin to organize around causes that outsize them, innovating in ways like never before. The reality is that no single company or person can solve immensely complex, global issues like access to clean water or free education. We must collaborate while also being honest with ourselves about our true strengths and weaknesses. Why?
We are looking under the wrong rocks and these problems affect all of us. We all bleed red. Let's take water shortages in California as an example. California, the home of Silicon Valley, will rest on its technology and innovative roots to help solve this problem. However, if we think about this problem at a macro level, the individuals who are most versed in how to solve and manage water shortages are those already living with them, such as individuals in Africa. The breakdown of digital borders now means that we can have each group focus on their strengths. This means that a US company can focus on what they do well (innovation and engineering), working together with African people (who know how to efficiently use and source water) to help them solve water shortage problems in both places. Both sides end up with a solution to their problem with information and access to tools the other didn't possess. Both have moved the needle just a little bit in reducing water consumption positively. We could extend this even further, arguing that we could 3D print this innovation, now creating business opportunities in both countries.
Further, we have also introduced new areas for innovation and competition. Businesses can align to social causes they care about without having to worry (as much) about upsetting everyone. It's a way out in a society currently eager to take hostages. Introducing these metrics also gives businesses a new means to compete outside of price. While cost will always be a driving economic force, quantifiable metrics can help differentiate businesses from their competitors, especially in cutthroat industries like transportation. Further, this can help curb potential deception such as collusion as businesses can align to different social norms than their competitors.
Every day, we move one step closer to a brighter future. I personally am excited about what it holds. If we stop reinventing wheels, we can redirect that energy to bigger, better problems that outsize us all and create truly profound effects on the future for ourselves, our children, and our children's children. We have already started and the more we come together, the more we benefit.
So how can we help, or help you? What do you want to talk about? Drop us a message and let us know!
- The Restivus Team