Few current social and economic trends are more divisive than the “Sharing Economy.” A quick online search will bring up legions of articles alternately praising the freedom it has created for a new class of workers and decrying it as the death knell of traditional business. Regardless of which perspective you take, the massive potential that innovators unleashed with the dawning of this new, rapidly growing, peer-to-peer-driven subset of our economy is astounding. By examining the history and development of this particular innovation, what can today’s entrepreneurs learn and put into practice to augment their own success?
Of the many incredible innovations that have impacted our lives over the past few decades, one in particular stands out to me as an example of how technology can change the way we relate to each other on a fundamental level – social networking. Whether you take an optimistic or pessimistic view of this evolution, the change is undeniable. Technology and social networking have given us the ability to connect with friends or strangers (both near and far) for business or for recreation, all at the touch of a button.
The story of innovation behind social networking and the internet is a complex one, full of give and take. At times, social networking drove the development of the online experience, at other times it struggled to keep up with technological advances. This is a look at the innovators who changed our lives by connecting us (and our data) online.
One of the questions that I find consistently fascinating and informative is “How do entrepreneurs find world-changing insights?” For those with active, searching minds, inspiration can be found in many places, but the insights that have shaped product development and consumer behavior over the last several decades often came from where we might least expect them. By studying innovative minds and their sometimes surprising influences, we can learn a lot about how to create vital, transformative products ourselves. Continue Reading
The online mattress brand Casper has emerged over the last two years as a force in social media marketing, disrupting the department store mattress racket and building its success on an unlikely target market. Casper’s novel approach bears examination; their path to market, product development, and audience outreach each contain valuable lessons for today’s entrepreneurs.
I recently read an inspirational, deeply honest commencement address that has really stuck with me in a way that few such speeches do. It was delivered at the graduation ceremony at the University of Illinois in May by a man named Jeff Huber, a lifelong entrepreneur who previously worked at eBay and Google and is now the CEO of a company called GRAIL. I believe it contains an important message of hope and also a challenge for those of us who consider ourselves to be innovators.
Huber uses stories from his own life to reveal a larger experience and exhort these young graduates (and, by extension, all of us who hear or read his words) to “find a better way.” His speech still resonates with me weeks later, and I’d like to share some of the thoughts it has stirred with you.
Ambition and audacity are two of the strongest qualities an innovator can possess. Looking across time, these two ideals are common characteristics shared by those who have changed our world forever. These leaders had a vision, and they let nothing prevent them from realizing it.
Last week, the world lost one of these truly great innovators: Zaha Hadid. An Iraqi-born architect, Hadid was arguably one the most distinguished architects of our time. She was the first woman ever to win both receive the Pritzker Prize (2004) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Gold Medal (2014). It goes without saying that Hadid was a pioneer in her field, opening the door for women in her profession across the globe. In a speech last February, Hadid explained:
“We now see more established female architects all the time … That doesn't mean it's easy. Sometimes the challenges are immense. There has been tremendous change over recent years and we will continue this progress.”
In remembrance of Hadid's contributions to her field, I'd like to highlight some of her amazing achievements.
We've now spent the last four weeks discussing the results of the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, and the global impacts those findings may have on a series of institutions—mainly the government, big business and the media. If you're just joining us, a marked divide is emerging between what Edelman has coined the “elite” population and the rest of the general public. The elite or informed public – those possessing at least a college degree – express far higher levels of support and confidence in the government, media and industry when compared to the rest of the “mass population.”
And while these gaps are significant in all areas across the globe, the largest disparity in trust is observed in the business sector in general. Richard Edelman elaborates:
“The most profound difference between elite and the broader populations is found in their attitudes toward business. There are double-digit gaps in half of the countries surveyed, the most significant being in the U.S., where 70 percent of the elite population express trust in business in contrast to 51 percent of the general population, a 19-point difference.”
Altering these opinions will neither be easy or immediate, but if we're armed with an understanding of why trust levels have changed – coupled with strategies to change how every citizen views business leaders – we can start cultivating trust in our own companies.
There's no mistaking the impact some innovations have had on our world. The smartphone has revolutionized the manner and speed at which we communicate. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have created a sort of radical connectivity most thought impossible two decades ago. And, with the hyper-development of the new “sharing economy,” transportation and hospitality will never look the same again.
However, regardless of the impact these developments have on society, I hesitate to call them life-saving. Our lives wouldn't end without our smartphone (although I know some Millennials and my grandchildren might think otherwise). Without Uber and Airbnb, the world wouldn't crumble beneath our feet.
While many of these new innovations we interact with daily are certainly life-altering, I do believe some innovating businesses and platforms really are actually life-saving. What if every entrepreneur had access to capital – however small – allowing them to follow their dreams and end the cycle of poverty? What about a world with a fully stocked pharmacy around every corner, or a refrigerator in every household?
When you think about disruptive innovation, you might envision a team of developers huddled around laptops in a pizza-laden, dimly lit garage. Or maybe a vibrant, passionate group of young professionals marking up the walls and windows of their tiny corner of a busy co-working space. Whether they include developers, engineers or marketers, these pictures seem to share one commonality: small teams.
Let's face it: If lean startups are viewed as a bastion for innovation, larger and established corporations are usually regarded as the barren wasteland for it. Their workdays are often portrayed as highly structured and restricting, and their processes as often stringent and stifling. They're simply not viewed as innovative.
It's time! The millions of bright, flashy lights and the crazed shoppers dashing through store aisles only mean one thing: It’s the holiday season. And as the year draws to an end, we here at Eidson & Partners want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have made our year (and this blog) a big success.
As the year winds down, it’s easy to get lost in all the haste and hustle the holiday season brings. However, I really strive to take the opportunity to step back, examine where we've come over the last 12 months and, along the way, remember those who have helped us grow into what we are today.