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Jan 10th, 2021 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

Explorers, Pioneers and Settlers

Over the holidays — Happy New Year Everybody! — I spent time to review the research we have been doing at be radical over the last year, especially as it pertains to the seemingly never ending conversation (and occasionally heated discussion) about innovation and disruption.

Much has been, and still has to be, said about the distinction, the finer and more nuanced points about which is which, when to deploy which strategy, as well as the different dimensions in which a new product or service can be disruptive. But this is not about this. This is about your choice what kind of person/company you want to be.

Most (all?) new things go through three distinct phases, attracting different types of people and yielding very different outcomes:

First come the explorers. The brave souls who are marching into the unknown, creating the future we all will live in sometime in the future. Explorers are the researchers, the artists, the crazy ones who are at the forefront of every change/technology. They don’t care about risk, are driven by the thrill of putting their foot onto unknown lands, and – sometimes – seek the fame of the explorer.

Once the explorers have staked the ground, and assuming they find something worth pursuing, the pioneers follow. Pioneers have inherited their genes from those who ventured into the vastness of the new world, driven by the newness and promises of untold riches. But just like in the gold rush of years gone by, few will make it and most of the money is made by the merchants.

The moment the hype subsides (as it inevitably will), the early settlers – patiently waiting for the craziness to subside, sifting through and identifying the real opportunities – appear. They bring tools, processes and a refined insight into what is real and what isn’t – often reaping the benefits from the hard work the explorers and pioneers have done before them. Alas – the thrill is gone. The name of the game is efficiency, effectiveness and structured process.

Now – we need all three groups of people. We don’t seem to be able to skip the hype; it is just human nature to overestimate what technology can (and will) do in the short-term and underestimate what it is capable of in the long run (Amara’s Law). And all three come with their own set of risks, rewards and reasons to pursue them.

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