Innovation Rides High

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    This being TNJ’s
    first issue of 2014, I planned to write a year-in-review/year-ahead
    editor’s note, opining on key economic, political and social
    developments in 2013, how these impacted the Black community, and how
    they might influence trends in 2014. Two emails signaling trends among
    professionals and entrepreneurs, TNJ’s target audience, made me switch gears. One came from Robert Jordan, author of How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America,
    saying why more executives will jump into careers as interims, or
    “supertemps,” in 2014, working with multiple companies at one time. The
    second email was a MarketWatch article, forwarded by my trusted
    economics and securities guru, about the ballooning price tag of
    startups, particularly in Silicon Valley.

    Jordan
    calls “Obamacare” a game changer. Whether employees get pushed out of
    company insurance or decide they want independent coverage offered by
    all states, he argues, it adds up to “higher portability” in insurance.
    “If health insurance is transportable, and many employees say they only
    stay for the insurance, what happens when they can go anywhere anytime?”
    Then there’s the arrival of outsourcing in the C-suite amid predictions
    that global outsourcing will reach $288 billion by 2018. Jordan’s
    “supertemp” example is David Neafus, who has been chief financial
    officer of more than 50 companies and has up to eight interim CFO
    assignments going at the same time.

    The
    morphing of corporate cost cutting into “a blood sport” also sets the
    stage for supertemping. If companies can hire a senior manager and avoid
    paying benefits and severance, why not do so? “Interims are instantly
    disposable…no strings attached,” Jordan says. Game-changer 4 is the
    seldom-acknowledged attention deficit among executives, whereby those
    who have done well in their careers are increasingly bored with sticking
    around one company for a long period of time. “Steady as she goes can
    seem like a death sentence for an executive that loves to create order
    out of chaos and then move to the next company to do it again.” Jordan’s
    fifth supertemping booster is the persistent threat of layoffs, even at
    companies with record profits. More executives will step up to fill the
    gap in expertise on an as-needed basis.

    In
    and beyond Silicon Valley, start-ups are commanding 10 figures from
    buyers and venture capitalists—good news for entrepreneurs whose
    innovations promise “niche player” status. In October, startup
    researchers Pitchbook published a list of 24 venture-backed companies,
    each valued at $1 billion or more. The list includes Dropbox, Lending
    Club, LivingSocial, Pinterest, Square and Twitter. Facebook offered $3
    billion (reportedly turned down) for Snapchat, creators of a photo and
    video texting service. The texts, or snaps, must be viewed within a set
    time limit—1 to 10 seconds as of December—after which they disappear
    from the recipient’s device and are deleted from Snapchat’s servers.
    Google just paid $3.2 billion for Nest Systems, which reinvents mundane
    home products—like smoke alarms, thermostats and carbon monoxide
    monitors—as “simple, beautiful and thoughtful” smart-home systems.
    Nest’s smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detector, for example, talks to you
    instead of screaming, and you can silence it with a wave of an arm if it
    goes off for no reason. Google, it seems, wants player status in the
    growing arena of the “Internet of Things,” where every device is
    connected to the Internet.

    What
    do supertemps and billion-dollar start-ups have in common? Innovation.
    It’s the biggest game-changer of all and it’s riding high for 2014.