I'm not sure when I first heard the term "The New Normal". With the internet, it was easy enough to Google the term and, to my surprise, books, articles, and blogs have all laid claim to the phrase for some time. In fact, some declared the New Normal immediately after Y2K as a reflection of the connectedness of technology, markets, and people. Then again after the internet bubble burst, the term was brought back and now again referring to the new realities resulting from the Global Financial Crisis.
The Economic Crisis is heralding a New Normal for Innovation that represents enormous opportunity for 21st century businesses, governments and society. This New Normal is powered by what some call Crowdsourcing and captured more broadly by the term Open Innovation.
Is the Lab your World or the World your Lab?
These terms embody the notion that here in the new economy, marketplaces are emerging that will fundamentally challenge the conventional thinking in areas that include ideation, research, product development, collaboration, and even intellectual property.
This model doesn't seek to limit the number of minds focused on a problem to a select few, instead it enlists thousands or millions of individuals or groups with a drive to solve problems and to make a difference. Diversity of thought and access to vast networks of qualified minds will become the valuable currency to replace the closed monolithic approaches that literally define most organizations today.
This "Open Innovation" model reaches outside of the four walls and literally attracts, like a powerful magnet, everyone eager to participate in advancing the cause - solving the problem.
This approach will power rapid change in every segment of the economy:
* Businesses will improve product development life cycles, production methods, and even evolve their own business model
* Academia, Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Foundations will harness a tremendous diversity of thinking and focus it toward problems of global impact; and
* Governments will enlist thousands or millions of citizens in everything from disaster relief to reinventing government
Imagine FEMA seeking immediately implementable solutions for housing after Hurricane Katrina; or Los Angeles seeking new approaches to reducing traffic congestion; or a corporation undertaking to design and deliver to market better products designed by scientists, entrepreneurs, and even their existing customers - none of whom may work for them.
In this new world, Open Innovation Marketplaces will literally be the clearing houses for connecting myriads of needs to literally millions of creative, inventive, and "uniquely prepared" minds and organizations from all over the world.
This evolution is being driven not just by organizations, but also by workers and their preferences for engaging in the digital economy. A new workscape is also evolving.
The Changing Nature of Work
I am talking about the positive and empowering impact on real people and their work made possible by the increasing trend toward project-based work on a global scale.
Now this is important: when people are both passionate and good at what they do, productivity is extraordinary - not just a little better, but a LOT better.
There are millions of people who now work when they want, where they want, and on projects for which they are passionate and energized. We know them as self employed, freelancers, independent contractors. But it is only the start. The increasingly outdated model of job postings, internal transfers, and employment agreements is disintegrating and being replaced by a new work model of the future that has enormous implications for both the individual and the economy.
And it's not just the younger generations. People I know are increasingly working their own hours, on their own terms. Most love the lifestyle (although this economy does have its challenges) and tell me the work life balance and the fact that they are doing what they love easily trumps the old model.
So what does this mean? It means that Crowdsourcing is both enabling AND being enabled by a powerful trend in the workplace. People all over the world, plugging into work they love to do, on terms they decide, and in ways that allow them to have it all. They still need to be great at what they do, but the tools and engagement models are all developing at a rapid pace.
The profound implication is this: I believe an enormous increase in national and global productivity comes from getting this model right in the next 10 to 20 years. People work on projects for which they are passionate and capable (driving up productivity many fold) and maintain a work/life balance never before possible and organizations achieve their goals better, faster, and more cost effectively than ever before possible.
I have to confess that I also find certain poetry in the idea that what is good for us individually may also be what is good for us all. I believe this is the proverbial "win-win".
But make no mistake; the individual has more leverage and flexibility in this equation than ever before. This is the Working Man's Mega Trend. So how can organizations change and capitalize on these trends?
Driving Change: A Crisis is a Terrible Thing to Waste
Forward-thinking organizations that embraced open innovation in the good economic times have created sustainable competitive advantage in their markets. What about the other organizations that are just trying to survive and ride out the current economic storm? Or those that boldly seek to capitalize on the economy's rebound? These organizations need open innovation more than ever and must recognize the unique opportunity to enable this change.
As we all know, the unfortunate truth is that that most companies do not change until they are forced to do so. Until they have no other choice. This can come from the top down and is generally driven by new existential realities facing the organization.
21st Century Leaders have an unparalleled opportunity to rethink and reengineer the fundamentals of their innovation capabilities utilizing the economic crisis as a catalyst - a burning platform. Businesses that act now will emerge stronger in more ways than one.
As 21st century leaders you may well be faced with challenges that have never been witnessed before. As open innovation continues to evolve within and outside the organization, it will have profound effects on your organizations, society, and all of us as individuals. Oh brave new world. Embrace it!
I am proud to be part of this movement and welcome its evolution from every corner of the world and from every walk of life.
This post originally appeared on the JustMeans web site.