Connectivity: Beyond the Buzzword


Doreen Lorenzo, president of frog (a company of the Aricent Group) sums up the impact of "Summer Davos," the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of the New Champions in China.

We've gathered in Dalian to connect. To establish new partnerships and collaborations, to strengthen the valuable, diverse network of the World Economic Forum, to share our ideas and accomplishments, and ultimately to connect the dots between this all. We're doing all of this to figure out how to innovate as companies, as nations, as global citizens, and as individual human beings, to keep our world pushing forward and progressing.

Connectivity is definitely the buzzword at this year's Annual Meeting of New Champions. We all know that connectivity is the key to effective innovation in the early 21st century. Perhaps one of the most efficient routes to practical, scalable, and successful businesses and governance alike is to take our concepts of connectivity and our ideas about innovation and marry them into an emerging and powerful practice that I call connected innovation.

What do I mean by "connected innovation"? Think of today's most successful companies. From Amazon to Apple, from Google to Weibo to Facebook—these companies are enviable because they not only enable consumers to connect with each other, but also offer ways for other companies and organizations to connect with each other. They encourage commerce, yes, but more importantly, conversations, via new communications software.

We're starting to see connected-innovation companies in many different industries as communications technology is becoming a required capability. Every company, whether in retail, healthcare, or even packaged goods, is now becoming a communications-software company, in some respect, in terms of developing technology to manage logistics, or customer records, or even a unique online presence, even if a company is not in the business of creating software that fuels a useful gadget, a popular toy, or a hospital device.

A characteristic that the most successful connected-innovation companies have in common is that they treat strategy, marketing, user research, and engineering as “connected tracks,” instead of managing them in silos as most companies did in the past. Getting these disciplines to collaborate closely as part of a single system encourages a mindset that is more likely to produce an external ecosystem for consumers such as Apple’s phones, tablets, laptops, and the iTunes and the App Store; Facebook’s platforms for games and other services; Amazon’s range of outside products, branded e-readers, and cloud servers; Google’s ever-growing spectrum of offerings, from Android to Google Plus to its recent acquisition of restaurant review publisher Zagat’s.

This connected-innovation, ecosystem-producing mindset can also work in the public sector. For example, there are numerous app-development initiatives that mirror Apple's App Store in local, state, and federal governments in the United States, which offer public data for software developers to design unlimited useful mobile-phone programs to alert authorities of trouble in real time or other goals.

I’m busy here in Dalian sharing frog’s own experience in developing our own path of connected innovation, which we have achieved in both the commercial and non-profit sectors across the globe, having expanded our roster of studios this year from the United States, Europe and China to include locations in India, South Africa, and Ukraine, among other regions.

And we've evolved our business to create an environment where software engineers work side-by side with industrial designers, and alongside strategists and industry experts. Having such an international and diverse team is in some ways parallel to a gathering like the AMNC. The idea is to bring thinkers—and equally important, doers—together to collaborate on ideas that are not only new and exciting, but also of enduring and broad value. That, after all, is the goal of connected innovation.


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