Online education portals like Udacity and Coursera are really changing the world of remote learning in significant ways. By making free and high quality education accessible to a global audience, these platforms are opening up undreamt of possibilities for communities around the world to improve, grow, and prosper in the digital economy of the 21st century. Education at top tier colleges and universities has traditionally been a social and economic privilege, but now anyone can join in the learning revolution by sitting in virtual classrooms with the world’s best and brightest educators. Whether this involves learning how to code and build smart phone apps, or starting up a new business, or learning about public health literacy, the sky is the limit of what’s now possible.

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Is your business innovative enough?

Innovation has become the new “buzzword” in business circles over the past few years and it seems like every CIO and CEO is scrambling to get onboard. The critical importance of this most essential practice is not hard to figure. The rapid pace of technological transformation in recent years, especially around mobile, cloud, information, and collaboration has led to increasing levels of creativity and productivity.




While once the exclusive domain of enterprises with large R&D budgets, innovation is now available to anyone. New breakthroughs in collaboration tools, open source systems, mobile platforms, SaaS solutions, and 3-D printing have led to faster, more efficient and scalable development and production cycles. And the democratization of technological knowledge has been advanced by disruptions in online education like Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which offer free or reduced-cost education to anyone in the world with an internet connection.

The end result of all this rapid progress is that innovation is now happening on a scale never seen before. And small businesses are the direct beneficiaries of these trends. The small guys have an advantage because they’re not strapped down by big, legacy systems and excessive processes, policies, and protocols. Big budgets are no longer an essential element for innovation; just some ambition and a good idea or two!




We’ve all heard horror stories about the large business enterprises that climbed to the height of success in their verticals, but then became irrelevant by failing to adapt to new market forces and customer expectations. Eastman Kodak is the classic example, which for nearly a century owned the camera market, but ignored digital photography. Many other examples exist. Think of Blackberry, Borders, and Blockbuster in recent years. Complacency and a feeling of invincibility are the direct counterparts to innovation and creativity, and are the sure path to bankruptcy. It’s a scary proposition and a warning for any business to consider.




In today’s ultra-competitive marketplace businesses of all sizes need frequent assessments and inventories about where they stand on the innovation spectrum. There is no magic pill or quick fix or easy path to innovation. It takes time, effort, focus, and perhaps a bit of luck.

Fortunately, there are some guiding principles that can help promote an innovation culture inside your organization, one where employees feel empowered to think and act innovatively on the job. While there are never any guarantees, these best practices certainly can help steer your business in the right direction towards an innovation mind-set that encourages creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.

Don’t expect to reinvent the wheel: Innovation doesn’t imply creating something new and novel. Look first at how to take an existing process and make it better!

Challenge convention: Innovation and convention don’t mix; promote a culture that makes it safe to ask new questions and question old traditions.

Keep the end result in mind: Don’t assume a fixed result endpoint but be prepared to pivot and shift your innovation strategy as market dynamics determine.

Don’t languish in the planning stage: A great start can flame out if the team allows planning and logistics to overwhelm the effort. Stay the course, preserve the vision, and finish strong!

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable: The process of innovation will require attributes and attitudes that stretch your comfort zone, but the rewards and outcomes will be well worth it.

Think outside the box: Box? What Box? Too many company structures will impede innovation faster than anything.

Create a small, agile team: A team size of 6 to 10 people makes life easier for everyone as it improves communications, builds trust, and improves overall efficiency.

Leave decision-making in the hands of no more than two people: Consolidating the authority will keep the innovation process streamlined and less inclined towards company politics.

Research emerging & disruptive markets: Hire or assign someone the role of emerging technology researcher and strategist to study the latest trends and 6-12 month outlooks around the most pressing areas in your vertical.

In today’s rapid-paced business culture innovation is not an option. Businesses that do it best will succeed while those that don’t will become irrelevant. Don’t be “that” business which thinks just because it has a majority market share it will ride the wave of success indefinitely. The times have changed and businesses that are riding high one day can be disrupted almost overnight.

For this reason, it’s paramount that CIOs and business leaders make periodic assessments of their innovation best practices, recognize the latest disruptive trends in their industries, and do whatever it takes to stay ahead of their competition.

Getting onboard with innovation is the critical first step. Change is never easy and while there is bound to be uncertainly and discomfort at first, the key is to start “doing innovation” today. And then keep right on doing it . . . until innovation becomes the essential ingredient of your business strategy and vision.

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About Jeffrey Walker

Jeff is a business development consultant who specializes in helping businesses grow through technology innovations and solutions. He holds multiple master’s degrees from institutions such as Andrews University and Columbia University, and leverages this background towards empowering people in today’s digital world. He currently works as a research specialist for a Fortune 100 firm in Boston. When not writing on the latest technology trends, Jeff runs a robotics startup called, along with oversight and leadership of - an emerging market assistance company that helps businesses grow through innovation.