If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got

April 20, 2022

What do Kodak, Nokia, Xero, Myspace, Yahoo, Sear, Toshiba, RadioShack, Motorola, Tyrus, Ask Jeeves, BlackBerry Motion, Polaroid, Commodore, and AOL all have in common?

They are well known companies which either failed, sold, or went bankrupt. And even whilst they accomplished great things, the unfortunate fact remains; they will also be remembered for their demise. And the primary causality was their failure to innovate at the correct time and/or in the correct way.

What is Innovation?

“Innovation is, at its core, about solving problems.” ~ Greg Satell, Global Transformation & Change Expert, International Keynote Speaker & Bestselling Author on Innovation, Transformation and Change.

Types of innovation

“Sustained” innovation generally happens most frequently within business because we’re usually seeking to improve or evolve what’s currently being done. We want to update existing capabilities within existing markets, and we have a relatively precise idea of what requires resolution and what skill domains are required to solve them.

Conventional strategies like strategic road mapping, traditional Research & Development and bringing in new resources and skill sets are usually the most effective in this situation. Design Thinking methods and feasibility of implementation studies are also enormously helpful if both the problem, and the skills needed to solve it, are understood well.

But prior to any process of innovation is the acceptance of change…and as a species we can voluntarily or involuntarily create barriers, misconceptions, and resistance to that.

What does all this have to do with Public Safety and our Emergency Number Network? Because if we are honest, Government, in whatever country you reside, has historically always been risk (perceived risk) averse and so slow to change and innovate.

Why does this matter?

In nature adaptation (change over time) to an environment ensures the survival of a species. Look at the Giant Panda. Cute right? …but from an evolutionary perspective many argue Panda’s are unsuspectingly heading down an evolutionary cul-de-sac. A specialized bamboo diet with low nutrition value, shrinking habitat, low conception, and cub survival rates…this points towards a species that’s doomed in the wild and struggling in captivity. 

Hyenas on the other hand…that’s a different cup of tea altogether. Not Canidae, or Felidae, but Hyaenidae. Both hunters and scavengers. A perfect dinner guest, they eat pretty much everything, including being able to digest bone. They operate in effective, well-organized clans (with a larger female as leader and matriarch). Fast, strong, muscular, intelligent, and great parents. They survive the odds by being well-rounded, flexible, adaptive.

A failure to “keep up” in areas such as location technology, could mean a real struggle to survive and prosper, and as a result, the consequences of failure.

"There's a way to do it better - find it." ~ Thomas Edison

How do we overcome the fear of change? How do we succeed and innovate?

There are multiple factors involved in minimizing the “pain” associated with change. If we address some of these in our quest for innovation, maybe we ensure we keep moving in the best direction for success.

  • What’s the advantage? Is it easily identifiable? Advantage is different to benefit, which is what you would “hope” to gain. Advantages are “things” which enable benefits to exist from the features and functionality offered.
  • What’s the cost? Time, money, power…these are factors “consumed” whilst going through any change. They should be perceived as “less” than the original state, to ensure barriers are easily overcome.
  • Are they credible? Does the innovating party have your trust? Who are they aligned or partnered with?
  • Is there compatibility? Does this change closely fit to what is already being done? Is it a natural step? Making it easier to move towards.
  • Is it simple? Is it straightforward…easy to accept?
  • And finally…Failure of consequence: This is the most crucial. What happens should you choose to NOT innovate?

The personality and design of the Emergency Number Network makes it highly risk averse to adopting new technologies and infrastructures. So, what is the failure consequence of not innovating?

At the grass roots of it, without implementing effective location technologies to find mobile callers, it’s people who are ultimately going to suffer; according to the FCC over 10,000 lives lost EACH YEAR. But it’s more than just that. There are other stakeholders involved in a 9-1-1 call not just the caller, but the call taker/emergency communications center and all the Responders too.

PTSD and job resilience are on the climb, alongside understaffing, underfunding and failure to adopt new technologies. These are the consequences we face today, and will continue to face, if our industry does not adapt.

"Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goals." ~ Henry Ford.