Stop Competing – Start Winning By Innovating
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurists on global trends and innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus in the highest demand as a speaker.
He is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies, helping them to develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. His client list includes companies such as Microsoft, GE, American Express, Google, Toshiba, Procter & Gamble, Honda, and IBM.
He is the author of six books, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller Flash Foresight: How To See The Invisible and Do The Impossible, as well as the international best-seller Technotrends.
He has been the featured subject of several PBS television specials and has appeared on programs such as CNN, Fox Business, and Bloomberg, and is quoted in a variety of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Fortune, and Forbes.
He has founded six businesses, three of which were national leaders in the United States in the first year. He is the CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients profit from technological, social and business forces that are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities.
His accurate predictions date back to the early 1980s where he became the first and only futurist to accurately identify the twenty technologies that would become the driving force of business and economic change for decades to come. Since then, he has continued to establish a worldwide reputation for his exceptional record of predicting the future of technology driven change and its direct impact on the business world.
Contrary to popular belief, competing with other individuals or companies is counterproductive. From a business perspective, focusing on your competition instead of focusing on continuous innovation by creating new, must have products, and services, will over time result in you looking and acting more like your competitors, not to mention fighting an escalating battle over shrinking margins. So even when you’re in the lead, eventually someone else will copy what you are doing, which makes you compete with them even more. Unfortunately, the majority of companies are so focused on competing that they’re locked in a losing battle – a vicious cycle of one-upmanship.
A better idea is to seek advantage. That means using Hard Trends (trends that will happen) to redefine and reinvent your company, your products, or your services so you can jump ahead and stay ahead. It’s about moving beyond your competition by nurturing, promoting, and enhancing innovation and original thinking – both individually and within your organization. In other words, you want to become an innovator not an imitator, and go beyond the competers.
What’s the difference between competers and innovators? No, competers is not a misprint. It’s an original term for those who reflexively compete rather than seek to gain a strategic advantage through innovation. Here are some of the distinctions between competers and innovators:
Copy what others are doing
Look for better ways of thinking and acting
Get locked into set patterns
Cultivate a creative mindset, create new patterns
Believe the future will take care of itself if they take care of the present
Focus on their future goals and building a path to get there
See scientific and technological developments as threats to their status quo
Focus on how they can apply new technologies to open up new opportunities
Collect and swim around massive amounts of raw data
Look for ways to translate raw data into actionable knowledge and insights
React to trends
Use Hard Trends (trends that will happen) to predict and even create new trends and profit from them
Have a short-range view of planning and consider it a necessary evil
Take a strategic view of planning and know the value of building change into the plan
Dread change and resist it as long as they can
Seek to remain adaptive and to use change to their advantage
Avoid anything that would cast them as being significantly different from their competitors
Maximize their differential advantage
Try to control and direct their people
Empower their people for positive action
Complain about how unproductive their people are
Realize that people are their most upgradable resource and look for ways to help them be more productive and innovative
Think about how they can use high-technology to cut their work forces and save money
Integrate strategy, technology, and people to create new products and services
Believe in standardized operations that force people to act in predictable ways
Encourage creativity in their people to rapidly solve problems and grow their business
Are annoyed by problems and see them as enemies to progress
Go looking for problems they can turn into opportunities
In short, competers are usually so caught up in meeting their day-to-day challenges and fighting the competition that they fail to see and act on new game-changing opportunities, while innovators see the present only as a stepping-stone they can use to create a bigger and better future.
Which would you rather be?
How to Innovate
If you’re ready to stop being a competer and start being an innovator, here are a few tips that will help.
• Be Future-Oriented
Since you’ll be spending the rest of your life in the future, doesn’t it make sense to think about it and plan it rather than just let it happen? Identify the Hard Trends that will impact your business and industry and then list the opportunities that create the new advantage each represents. Identify the soft trends that might happen and list how you could change them into opportunities to gain new advantage. As you plan your future innovative path, ask yourself these five questions based on the Hard Trends and opportunities you have identified:
1. What path are my competitors on right now?
2. Where are the successful companies most likely to evolve to?
3. What’s the logical progression of the industry?
4. How are my customers changing?
5. What are my customers greatest unmet needs both now and in the near future?
Your answers will enable you to stop competing and start creating by thinking in terms of innovation. They’ll help you open your eyes to the future possibilities so you can stay ahead of the curve rather than simply keep up. Remember: If you want real advantage and innovation, you have to think beyond what you’re doing now and plan your future wisely.
• Do What the Masses Don’t Do
Most businesses copy successful competitors and then wonder why they aren’t further ahead. For example, chances are that in your business you use a word processing program, and if you’re like the majority of people, you use Microsoft Word. Did you know that there are over four thousand features in Microsoft Word? How many of those four thousand features do you use on a regular basis? Probably less than ten. How many did you pay for? All four-thousand! Do you think your competitors are using Word the same way you do? Most likely, yes.
Taking it a step further, when a new version of Word comes out, your competitors purchase it, just like you. They even use the same features in the new Word program as they did in the old version – again, just like you. As you might guess, you could easily substitute Word for all of the different software programs you use. Few people are going beyond what everyone else does in a way that produces any real advantage or leads to innovation.
The key is to dedicate yourself to finding advantage and using it to innovate. Using the word processing program example, ask yourself, “What are the features in Word that my competitors are not using that can give me an edge?” In other words, don’t just copy what the competition does; rather, look at what they’re doing and then do what they don’t do.
• Change Your Customer
If you truly can’t find ways to innovate, then ask yourself if there’s a better customer you can go after – one that’s better and different than what everyone else is going after. Can you innovate by customizing your product or service for the better customer so that the better customer would want what you offer and not what the competitor offers? This is the process that gives you the advantage, and it all boils down to simply being more innovative on an ongoing basis.
Shaping Your Future
One thing is certain about the future: competition will intensify. So why play that game when you can own the game? Standing out by innovating again and again! Granted, keeping track of what your competitors are doing is a good idea; however, letting what they’re doing dictate your next move is not the best strategy. Instead, focusing on innovation based on the direction Hard Trends are taking all of us in, is the way to go for long-term profits. In fact, when you become an innovator rather than a competer, you’ll be the company that is taking the industry into the future – the company all the others strive to imitate. That’s when you’ll truly be a leader and have the upper hand and the innovative outlook that enables you to turn tomorrow’s opportunities into today’s profits.
DANIEL BURRUS is considered one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and innovation experts, and is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous untapped opportunities. He is the author of six books including The New York Times best seller Flash Foresight.
Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.
- The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
- You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
- This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.
Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.
Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.
The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.
Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv
Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.
The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.
While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.
One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.
"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"
Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.
The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.
Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.
Scientists think constructing a miles-long wall along an ice shelf in Antarctica could help protect the world's largest glacier from melting.
- Rising ocean levels are a serious threat to coastal regions around the globe.
- Scientists have proposed large-scale geoengineering projects that would prevent ice shelves from melting.
- The most successful solution proposed would be a miles-long, incredibly tall underwater wall at the edge of the ice shelves.
The world's oceans will rise significantly over the next century if the massive ice shelves connected to Antarctica begin to fail as a result of global warming.
To prevent or hold off such a catastrophe, a team of scientists recently proposed a radical plan: build underwater walls that would either support the ice or protect it from warm waters.
In a paper published in The Cryosphere, Michael Wolovick and John Moore from Princeton and the Beijing Normal University, respectively, outlined several "targeted geoengineering" solutions that could help prevent the melting of western Antarctica's Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier, whose melting waters are projected to be the largest source of sea-level rise in the foreseeable future.
An "unthinkable" engineering project
"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.
One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.
The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.
Source: Wolovick et al.
An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.
But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.
Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.
"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.
"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."
A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.
"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."
The world's getting hotter, and it's getting more volatile. We need to start thinking about how climate change encourages conflict.
- Climate change is usually discussed in terms of how it impacts the weather, but this fails to emphasize how climate change is a "threat multiplier."
- As a threat multiplier, climate change makes already dangerous social and political situations even worse.
- Not only do we have to work to minimize the impact of climate change on our environment, but we also have to deal with how it affects human issues today.
Human beings are great at responding to imminent and visible threats. Climate change, while dire, is almost entirely the opposite: it's slow, it's pervasive, it's vague, and it's invisible. Researchers and policymakers have been trying to package climate change in a way that conveys its severity. Usually, they do so by talking about its immediate effects: rising temperature, rising sea levels, and increasingly dangerous weather.
These things are bad, make no mistake about it. But the thing that makes climate change truly dire isn't that Cape Cod will be underwater next century, that polar bears will go extinct, or that we'll have to invent new categories for future hurricanes. It's the thousands of ancillary effects — the indirect pressure that climate change puts on every person on the planet.
How a drought in the Middle East contributed to extremism in Europe
(DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Nigel Farage in front of a billboard that leverages the immigration crisis to support Brexit.
Because climate change is too big for the mind to grasp, we'll have to use a case study to talk about this. The Syrian civil war is a horrific tangle of senseless violence, but there are some primary causes we can point to. There is the longstanding conflicts between different religious sects in that country. Additionally, the Arab Spring swept Syria up in a wave of resistance against authoritarian leaders in the Middle East — unfortunately, Syrian protests were brutally squashed by Bashar Al-Assad. These, and many other factors, contributed to the start of the Syrian civil war.
One of these other factors was drought. In fact, the drought in that region — it started in 2006 — has been described as the "worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilization began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago." Because of this drought, many rural Syrians could no longer support themselves. Between 2006 and 2009, an estimated 1.5 million Syrians — many of them agricultural workers and farmers — moved into the country's major cities. With this sudden mixing of different social groups in a country where classes and religious sects were already at odds with one another, tensions rose, and the increased economic instability encouraged chaos. Again, the drought didn't cause the civil war — but it sure as hell helped it along.
The ensuing flood of refugees to Europe is already a well-known story. The immigration crisis was used as a talking point in the Brexit movement to encourage Britain to leave the EU. Authoritarian or extreme-right governments and political parties have sprung up in France, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Slovenia, and other European countries, all of which have capitalized on fears of the immigration crisis.
Why climate change is a "threat multiplier"
This is why both NATO and the Pentagon have labeled climate change as a "threat multiplier." On its own, climate change doesn't cause these issues — rather, it exacerbates underlying problems in societies around the world. Think of having a heated discussion inside a slowly heating-up car.
Climate change is often discussed in terms of its domino effect: for example, higher temperatures around the world melt the icecaps, releasing methane stored in the polar ice that contributes to the rise in temperature, which both reduces available land for agriculture due to drought and makes parts of the ocean uninhabitable for different animal species, wreaking havoc on the food chain, and ultimately making food more scarce.
Maybe we should start to consider climate change's domino effect in more human and political terms. That is, in terms of the dominoes of sociopolitical events spurred on by climate change and the missing resources it gobbles up.
What the future may hold
(NASA via Getty Images)
Increasingly severe weather events will make it more difficult for nations to avoid conflict.
Part of why this is difficult to see is because climate change does not affect all countries proportionally — at least, not in a direct sense. Germanwatch, a German NGO, releases a climate change index every year to analyze exactly how badly different countries have been affected by climate change. The top five most at-risk countries are Haiti, Zimbabwe, Fiji, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. Notice that many of these places are islands, which are at the greatest risk for major storms and rising sea levels. Some island nations are even expected to literally disappear — the leaders of these nations are actively making plans to move their citizens to other countries.
But Germanwatch's climate change index is based on weather events. It does not account for the political and social instability that will likely result. The U.S. and many parts of Europe are relatively low on the index, but that is precisely why these countries will most likely need to deal with the human cost of climate change. Refugees won't go from the frying pan into the fire: they'll go to the closest, safest place available.
Many people's instinctive response to floods of immigrants is to simply make borders more restrictive. This makes sense — a nation's first duty is to its own citizens, after all. Unfortunately, people who support stronger immigration policies tend to have right-wing authoritarian tendencies. This isn't always the case, of course, but anecdotally, we can look at the governments in Europe that have stricter immigration policies. Hungary, for example, has extremely strict policies against Muslim immigrants. It's also rapidly turning into a dictatorship. The country has cracked down on media organizations and NGOs, eroded its judicial system's independence, illegalized homelessness, and banned gender studies courses.
Climate change and its sociopolitical effects, such as refugee migration, aren't some poorer country's problem. It's everyone's problem. Whether it's our food, our homes, or our rights, climate change will exact a toll on every nation on Earth. Stopping climate change, or at least reducing its impact, is vitally important. Equally important is contending with the multifaceted threats its going to throw our way.
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