6 technology innovation sources for outside-in learning

October 14, 2014




The speed and variety of new ideas makes technology innovation harder than ever before. For most of the last 30 years, those of us in the field of information technology only really concerned ourselves with one major new technology trend at a time – distributed computing, GUIs, OOAD or data warehousing. Now we have not one, but a flood of technologies: mobile, social media, Big Data and Analytics, cloud, the Internet of Things and 3D printing, to name a few, rushing toward us all at once.

It makes sense that 67% of respondents to PwC’s 6th Annual Digital IQ study of nearly 1,500 business and IT executives are concerned that the speed of technological change is a threat to their growth prospects. The reassuring news is that there are as many sources of learning and opportunity to fuel innovation as there are technologies to consider integrating into your technology portfolio. But, you need to know where to look.

Most corporations have a history of learning about new technologies by tapping a few trusted vendors, attending a conference or two and reading trade publications. Some of the more progressive companies look to universities. Even fewer today rely on the venture capital world and some have taken on their own corporate venturing. But, companies don’t have to invest millions to partner with a university or fund a venture business to innovate in today’s disruptive digital marketplace.

The barriers of entry to innovate have never been lower as easy-to-access communities with ideas and talent grow more and more plentiful. For a fraction of the cost of traditional outside-in innovation, you can open the door to intriguing worlds and be inspired to create a new product or business model, source talent or acquire a company. I feel confident that if you explore at least one of these communities your mind will start to swim with possibilities for how to push your company’s agenda forward. It’s time to fight fire with fire to stoke the flames of innovation by bringing the outside in.

New places to look for technology innovations

  1. Open source community/projects – Open source communities are generating database and big data innovations as well as cloud computing architectures and data visualization frameworks.
  2. Maker communities – Makers are DIY technologists with a passion for cobbling together disparate emerging technologies to solve complex problems. As early adopters of 3D printing, micro controllers, SW+HW integration, sensors, and drones/quadcopters, Makers are fertile ground for innovation inspiration.
  3. Crowdfunding platforms – Crowdfunding platforms are housing a host of early innovators in many areas, particularly healthcare technology, sensors and wearables.
  4. Marketplaces & contests – Online communities of designers and developers who compete for money and notoriety in the areas of web, UX, algorithm and digital design.
  5. Independent app developers – Keep an eye on app stores for product ideas, UI metaphors, business model ideas, IT skills and acquisition targets.
  6. Global innovation hubsThe world is truly flat and great hardware, software and tech-driven business models ideas are springing up in all corners of the world. Make sure to not focus your learning on your own country alone.

It’s exciting to see such imaginative thinking and a determination to make something new happen that is consistent among all these communities. Spending time in these areas is like recharging your battery. By bringing the outside in, you can stay out in front of technology. Stay tuned for an in-depth look at each innovation source in future blog posts.

What less-obvious sources of innovation would you add to this list?

A version of this post originally appeared on the CIO Dashboard Blog.




Chris Curran

Principal and Chief Technologist, PwC US Tel: +1 (214) 754 5055 Email

Vicki Huff Eckert

Global New Business & Innovation Leader Tel: +1 (650) 387 4956 Email

Mark McCaffery

US Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) Leader Tel: +1 (408) 817 4199 Email