Innovation and Social Enterprise Steer Business-as-usual

Innovation in technology has sparked some creative thinking around traditional business models and corporate values. In the 20th century consumers were groomed to do just that: consume. Today, connectivity and a greater number of competitors mean the scales are increasingly tipping in favor of consumers: consumers are now doing the grooming.

Whilst researching speakers for a Speaker Series I am coordinating in New York City, I came across this Mashable article about the new Harvard Innovation Center, a startup incubator program. It’s encouraging to see the Ivy Leagues invest in this budding area of disruption in business.

The effect of disruptive technology companies, like the Apples, Googles and Facebooks, who have highly publicized their social ethos (remember Google’s “Don’t be evil”?), seems to be rubbing off. They’ve raised the stakes in traditional “business-as-usual” organizations by catering to the consumers’ conscience. A new way to carve a niche and a matured vision of Corporate Social Responsibility.

Why the techies?

Well, I’d say there are several reasons for this, but the three most pertinent are: technology’s ability to capture people’s imagination and respond to their curiosities; the emergence of a tech-literate Gen Y (aka Millennials) as self-sufficient consumers; and finally a little something called The Conscience of a Hacker (aka The Hacker Manifesto).

The first point is given. This sector has delivered so many incredible moments previously only accessible in science fiction!

The second point of Gen Y as consumers is a thesis and a blog article in itself. Put briefly, Gen Y grew up with video games, computers and most recently the internet. The dazzle and effectiveness of technology coupled with constant connectivity have compelled Gen Y to continue expecting these positive sensations, and we’re willing to pay for it or produce it ourselves. Hedonistic? Slightly. But the global community has never been as well-connected (we’ve even become that much closer to Kevin Bacon) and just about anyone with access to a computer is now a media producer.

Lastly, consider the thematic similarities between Google’s Philosophy released around it’s first IPO and The Mentor’s 1986 Hacker Manifesto (much has matured since then). Now, look around at the extensive number of web-tech companies specifically looking to attract hackers to develop their products. By the way, how old is your typical hacker? Yep, Gen-Y strikes again.

So, if tech companies are exhibiting themselves as innovators of interaction and human relationships, then perhaps all other areas of our lives facilitated by “business-as-usual” should fall into the same line.