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Future Business: WWWabs go Public?

Posted on Apr 1, 2013

We recently stretched our business knowledge by taking a detailed look at the latest trends to power an Open University Business School ‘Business Perspectives’ view of Innovation in the world. (See our case study and download it there.)

A wave of creativity and innovation, enabled by technology, is changing the business map of the world. We are seeing the emergence of WWWabs (in-house labs developing and testing ideas online), crowd-sourcing, and thousands of incubators. Telefonica launched their own company, Wayra, to link in with young, creative companies to help develop the latest products. Google and others encourage intrepreneurship by giving 20% of time to employees to work on their own ideas. Starbucks use Facebook and Twitter to open up their horizons and Toyota crowd-sourced their online audience to do something good for the planet with their technology. Meanwhile, great ideas are no longer just queuing at the doors of city financiers. They are also very much alive online in the worlds of Seedcamp, Kickstarter and others.

If business needs a good idea it really can be a fast-paced 24/7 experience. It will be interesting to see just how far Business Schools will go in response. How will courses and portfolios change to meet the new demands? How much will they anticipate and take the lead on? Many of the most influential jobs in the future will be rooted in creativity and entrepreneurship, with an ability to fuse great ideas with the potential of technology. Whilst the corporate giant will continue to have a place, the SME and the start-up will become even more important in growing the business leaders of the future. No doubt we’ll see a lot of change in the education world.

But what about the public sector? Of course, there are great examples out there of how government and health services are following business and consumer trends to embrace innovation in a brand new way. We have Obama’s crowd-sourcing initiative, already developing over 150 new solutions to challenges; Denmark’s Mindlab; is encouraging online communities to help shape policy; and Aberdeen City Council are releasing ‘open data’ for their community to innovate with.


However, in much of the public sector innovation can be hampered by the supply chain. Contracts are often tendered and in the hands of large organisations focused on cost-saving. The start-ups and SMEs often find their nimbleness and creativity shut out at the door. Meanwhile, we hear every day of the human resource pressure in the sector, so it’s no surprise that we don’t hear of many public sector ‘Google Time’ type initiatives to support intrapreneurship.

So is a big opportunity opening up here? Could Business Schools be the new incubators of great ideas in the public sector. Could they help to shape the ideas into viable, efficient, effective and sustainable process? Could they build their own WWWabs and crowd-source their own ideas? Will we see a local council or an NHS trust throw a problem into a business school lab because they need a creative, bright idea double-quick? Will Business Schools seize this opportunity to become completely in-tune with an important customer base?

We’ve seen a flavour of this collaboration with Mindlab’s anchoring of some work within Copenhagen Business School. Undoubtedly there’s much more happening in the world and we’ll dig it out for our Future Index release in May 2013. To learn more about the Future Index and how we can inspire you to act, please visit us at

*interestingly wwwab is very difficult term to search for. The 3 letters at the start cause any search engine a major headache.

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