You have a bright idea—a vision for a product or service that has the potential to benefit all of humankind and help create a new, better world. You’ve even come up with a viable business model that will make it a financial success. And yet, the road to turning your vision into a launched product is complicated and paved with difficulties. You see the light, but others struggle to do the same.
So, how can you bridge the gap between dreams and reality; between your vision and a launched product?
Carlos Brito, CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev, gave a talk in 2014 where he shared how having a big dream has been core to his company’s success. “Dreaming big or small,” he said, “Takes the same amount of energy. So you might as well dream big.” This quote should be framed in the office of all leaders. It embodies the mind frame needed to bridge the gap and realize a great vision. It all starts with a big dream.
Revolutions of all kind are created by big dreamers, whether they be heads of state or C-suite executives. Throughout history, the type of transformational change we’re talking about has been led by those visionaries who have been able to look at a landscape full of hardships, complexities, and dead-end streets, of committees and decision-makers who would rather say no then yes—and still be able to see a brighter future. You may be a startup entrepreneur looking for your first investment, or a corporate leader attempting to steer the ship in a new direction, but chances are you’ve been here. You’ve seen how things could be made better if only we stopped doing this and started doing more of that, whatever that ‘thing’ may be.
Deep Tech Revolutions
We’re lucky to be living in a time in which a host of new technologies are moving from being “visionary” to “practical.” Where we have the ability to connect the physical and cyber worlds (IoT), make sense of the data we capture (AI), and, by doing so, take actions—actions that will hopefully make our world a better place. The big dreamers of our time have stretched these technological advancements to their limits with visions of a future where cars will be autonomous, cities will be smart, industry will be 4.0, and homes will be both smart and connected. This is a world powered by Deep Technologies.
Deep Tech present an unprecedented opportunity for development and growth for companies the world over. And most CEO’s, I believe, understand the potential. So, once the dreams and visions of what can be done with these technologies have been spelled out, all that’s left to do is to do, right? Herein lies the challenge.
For this new future to become a reality, sensors must already be in place. Data must already exist and flow seamlessly between developers and users. Regulation must not impede progress. And all required technologies must operate flawlessly. But when it comes time to actually build this future, we realize that the sensors are not there yet, and, therefore, the data does not exist. Proprietary protocols prevent us from sharing or using data. Regulations are not up to speed. Some of the necessary technologies are still lagging. And so, the gap remains. The investment required and risk involved in making the dream a reality is simply too high.
The way to bridge this chasm is not to try to operationalize the entire dream at once. Cars will not become autonomous in one leap. Cities will not become smart overnight. Industries will not become connected in one go, mostly because each of these spaces has legacy systems, assets, and equipment which have not been designed with this kind of future in mind.
To move towards the promise of a new world that current technologies represent, we must indeed have a vision of a preferred future—and there is certainly no shortage of vision out there. However, we must not try to build a new world from scratch. This approach is wonderful in the abstract, but terrible in reality. Too much investment is needed, too much risk is involved, and few CEOs will take the leap.
Hack the world
To truly make progress, we need to accept the world as it already exists. Systems are already in place. Buildings have already been built. Money has already been invested in assets. It is a complex world full of silos, regulations, decision-makers, and dead-end streets.
When we accept the world as it is now, the challenge is redefined. We can focus on looking for opportunities to tap into the existing world. By doing so, we can prioritize the problems that present the most friction, the fruits that hang the lowest, and the industry sectors that offer the most favorable starting point to leverage the new capabilities of technology. This vertical approach dictates building solutions that leverage Deep Tech and provide us with a hint of what the big dreams have to offer. It does not require the entire ecosystem to be rebuilt in a way that is beyond the cost and risk investment we are willing (or able) to put into it. By nature, these types of solutions are simpler, quicker to build, and faster to launch.
The lesson here is not to stop dreaming big, but to take small achievable actions. Find the vertical opportunities that can feed off the vision of the big dreams. By augmenting and bettering the existing world, these opportunities can make a big difference with a small amount of energy.
- Deep Tech relies heavily on data. I discussed how companies miss opportunities in making use of the data they have in this post.
- Carlos Brito, on dreaming big: