Innovators and Leaders to watch in 2014.

Since the, inception of social media and smart phones, innovators and industries across the world were destined to evolve, as consumer behaviour shifts dramatically. So we as a society divorce ourselves of the notion of physicality (having to go somewhere to do something). So on the start of a new year we face a natural point for; reflection of evolution, innovation, thinking ahead and planning for the future. Just before 2013 ended, I wrote two pieces, firstly my annual reflection piece ‘A year in review‘ and the forward looking ‘Through the looking glass‘, continuing a dialogue with the digital shift that I have been following since 2009. A story often brought to light through my characters Isaac, Ethan, Timmy and Isabelle.  While these pieces, I talked not only about the successes, failures and changes of last year, but also the trends that I’ve observed, trends I see emerging in 2014 and beyond. Shaping industries, nations and society.

Accelerated Leadership

Successful evolution requires strong innovators and creative leaders, particularly in the face of the rapid evolution of marketplaces, consumers and technology. When Moore’s Law was published, its model of exponential rates of change seemed unbelievable. Today, today it still guides the semiconductor sector, the core industry in today’s digital world. The accelerating global pace of change today is comparable in certain respects, to Moore’s law. Since the turn of the century, emerging markets have become hotbeds of innovation, the digital revolution has arrived(along with digital natives), social networks have become ubiquitous, a collaborative economy has been born, and the voice of the people has reinvented markets and overturned governments through accelerated causal scale. So it comes as no surprise that the innovators and leaders that have shaped the past ten years have been increasingly tech savvy, a skill that true masters can use as a way to ‘see into the crystal ball’:

Innovators and leaders of the past decade

    Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com

    Richard Branson, Virgin Group

    Sergey Brin/Larry Page, Google

    Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway

    Bill Gates, Microsoft

    Naveen Jindal, Jindal Steel and Power

    Steve Jobs, Apple

    Oprah Winfrey, Harpo Productions

    Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook

When we think of innovators and leaders to watch in 2014, we will tend to expect leaders who will be capturing the headlines and generating success for their business or organisation, and to some degree that will be true. However, we need to look deeper, for the qualities that make up these innovators. Thus preparing us with the correct lens to recognize true innovators and leaders, even before they reach fame. The challenge for today’s leaders is not accurately predicting the future, or inventing the what comes after Facebook, or even crowd funding green energy (all of which were hot topics for 2013). Rather it is about first having a broad and open understanding of the trends reshaping the world, coupled with an informed point of view on the future and what it means for our world. The final and definitely the most important quality is laying the foundations today to begin to prepare. Business (and to some degree political) Leaders and innovators who continue to act as if the old rules apply will find their organisations left behind, as Borders, Blockbuster, Kodak and Nokia have so elegantly shown.

innovators; Elon Musk

Who lead in 2013?

The leaders and innovators that have shown a natural fit in the new world are driven, creative, intelligent and young. These leaders appear wise beyond their years, have risen up in their industries and on their missions to become voices of their generation. From entrepreneurs to actresses and activists. 2013 came to life through the leadership of names like Snowden, Spiegel, Bezos, Zuckerburg, Dorsey, Pope Francis (yes, the Pope is young), Musk and Hoffman. All leaders that have created amazing machines around themselves that enables them to essentially see the future, and move to where the people are going. This is a tough act to replicate without the right preparation. Now some might argue against the inclusion of the name Snowden, but his impact on the world will be felt for decades, even if he never surfaces again. Time’s, James Traub even went as far to call Snowden, ‘Man of the Year.’ I sentiment I can relate to, given his single handed drive for transparency, a key cultural value of generation Z, the millennials.

Now think for a second, how long does to take to build new capabilities or business models? To change mindsets about consumers and building relationships with them? To change organisational culture? In a world of accelerating change, the biggest risk for leaders is not being wrong in their point of view about the future, but beginning to take action too late. Today’s leaders must learn to be ‘at one’ with people, to quickly spot patterns and take action. So something that has been pivotal to leaders ability to create a following is they’re ability to build a business, cause or ideal that tells a compelling story, one that a hyper connected world understands, believes and can verify. All of the leaders above took actions years ago in preparation of trends they were observing. Building a wealth of knowledge and accumulated learning on ideas, concepts and patterns very few traditional leaders would ever pay attention to. This is why the new leaders are so disruptive; they change the rules of the game, creating new niches that are so beyond the reach of incumbents they can never mobilize enough resources to pivot. Dozens of industry leaders are facing this very challenge, NOW.

Leadership & Innovation to watch in 2014

So the leaders to watch in 2014 are naturally self-starters, either entrepreneurs or one of the new intrapreneur breeds, innovators that can affect adaptation and evolution from within an established organisation. They are defined by their natural, yet almost obsessive desire to observe people first hand, building empathy and connection will real world people and contexts. They are increasingly of ‘digital nativity’ which is so important as more and more industries face digital disruption. A skill that I so heavily push in my latest book MOBILE READY, and doubly endorsed by the innovative publishing approach I embarked on with Publishizer’s CEO, Guy Vincent. The technology or invention these leaders create is not the focus; instead it’s the impact they have on empowering humanity.

In a poor attempt to bring this all back to a traditional skills mix, this year’s leaders to watch will be a savvy mix of marketing, technology and business development, coupled with deep empathy for people. People of this nature will start to gain confidence and momentum as their efforts start to create success. Traditional leaders will be bi-polar on these types, which are somewhat unexplainable but show moments of sheer brilliance.

So next time you have a quiet moment in the train, park or mall. Take a few moments to observe those around you. What they are doing, and look for other observers, yes they may just be a perv, but they may also be tomorrow’s innovators.

© Scott Bales 2014. All Rights Reserved.