IN the past, storytelling took the form of puppet shows. Then came radio, followed by black and white TV, and then colour TV. Later CDs, VCDs, Laser Discs and DVDs hit the market. Cinemas had gone from screening silent films to 3D, 4D, surround sound, HD films and so on which further revolutionised film viewing. Today even giant pay television operator Astro has to contend with Over-The-Top players like Netflix and iFlix that allows its subscribers to download films through the Internet and watch them on any screen, big or small and anywhere, fixed or mobile.
What is the common denominator of all these products? It is the fact that they are all manmade. And all manmade products will never attain perfection, although that is the aspiration. The DNA or the natural state of manmade products is that they are all ‘waiting’ for the next phase of innovation or change. Based on this, I wrote and introduced a concept for entrepreneurs and innovators in my 1st book Non- Conforming - “If it’s manmade, it’s meant to be improved.”
This to me is a poignant entrepreneurial statement. The operative word here is ‘meant’. Its not ‘will’ or ‘can’ or ‘shall’ but ‘meant’ which denotes destiny or purpose. Anything that’s made by man, either tangible or intangible, is meant to be improved. If we fully grasp that as a concept, we would understand that there are still many products waiting to be found, and many industries waiting to be born.
If we don’t innovate, we will remain status quo, or worse, we’ll become irrelevant and extinct. Imagine, had change not taken place in storytelling, we would still be watching puppet shows like in the old days.
The nature of a product that’s ‘meant to be improved’ can be linked to entrepreneurial acumen in recognising the importance of innovation. It starts with the thought of how to innovate a product or service further. This thought process also entails empowerment in people to bring about the change, to reinvent, as well as learn, unlearn and re-learn. Every product or service is just waiting for someone to come and change it – it could be you to find the next version of a manmade product. If you are not the one improving it then somebody else will. It could be your competitor, which could kill your business.
Today we hear of the term disruption, that is, to disrupt the incumbent or established business. Rather than let your competitor to disrupt your product by out-innovating you, isn’t it more prudent to disrupt it yourself by moving ahead much faster than your external disruptors?
Remember the story of Kodak? Its core money-making business was selling camera films. It was the market leader. But it went bankrupt in 2012. What happened? Cameras went digital and then mobile phone came with cameras. People went from printing pictures to sharing them online. Kodak was blinded by the success of its legacy business that it completely missed the shift in consumer behaviour. Though Kodak pioneered digital photography technology, the company’s top leaders did not give it the support and capital needed to grow, as they were still pinning on their core business of selling camera films. Kodak ended up the victim of a disruptive change. If we take this as a lesson, we can avoid similar fate.
What’s the key factor in bringing about change and innovation? The answer lies in knowledge
acquisition. The question to ask is this: what is the knowledge that you need to improve on a product or service? This brings me to the prequel to the concept of ‘if it’s manmade, it’s meant to be improved’, which is: if all the knowledge of man is pooled together, it’s only like a drop in the ocean. It means there’s a lot more that we humans do not know and have yet to explore. Collectively, man’s current knowledge is only like a drop and the rest of the ocean is still untapped. If you believe this, you can choose to fight within that small drop or you can try and swim outside it and explore the rest of the ocean. This translates to seeking opportunities. Successful people are made from that drop of knowledge. Can you imagine the possibilities if you dare to dream outside that drop in the ocean?
What’s not in that drop of the ocean is up for grabs. Think about it. Aren’t the possibilities for us to seek knowledge endless? With it, we can create a lot more things and the riches will eventually come. First, start off with that ‘want’. If you don’t want it, you can’t go to the next step. If you really want it, then you must commit, plan, strategise and instill perseverance to execute it. That’s the difference between people who go on to achieve what they want and those who just dream and do nothing about it.
If we truly understand the power of knowledge, there’s no limit to what a man can do. You can either choose to acquire the knowledge within that drop in the ocean or acquire more and go beyond. Only those who continue to learn and never stop innovating can avoid becoming extinct.
Datuk Azrin Mohd Noor is the founder of Sedania Group. He is an innovator, award-winning
entrepreneur, best-selling author, IP expert and a frustrated Manchester United fan.
This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia – 24 September 2018