In past articles, I have written about how Amazon is a great example of a large Anticipatory Organization. Rather than focusing on agility—reacting faster than competitors—these companies have learned to identify the Hard Trends that will happen and use them, as well as other Anticipatory Skills, to drive exponential innovations at a reduced risk. A recent example is Amazon’s Echo, the first product that put its intelligent digital assistant Alexa similar to Apple’s Siri, Google Now and Microsoft Cortana in a stand-alone device instead of a smartphone or tablet. At a glance, Amazon’s Echo is both decidedly useful and cool, from playing music at a moment’s notice to providing users with information about weather conditions, traffic jams, cooking recipes and much more.
But what’s far more intriguing is how Amazon is leveraging the digital assistant technology within the device—named Alexa—and its potential use in any number of other devices and applications.
That’s not just cool. That’s another Amazon game-changer and an ideal example of the technological and economic potential of opening a system up to outside collaborative innovation.
Alexa’s “Coming Out Party”
This year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas paid a good deal of attention to Alexa—one headline even proclaimed that Alexa “won” the entire event.
But that headline is a bit misleading in that it suggests that attention at the exposition was focused solely on the Amazon Echo. That was anything but the case. As news reports have outlined, the event also highlighted how Amazon’s strategy has begun to migrate its technology into all sorts of other products and services.
That’s because, rather than protecting and defending Alexa technology in some sort of proprietary cocoon, Amazon has made the software readily available for other companies to incorporate into their own products and services. To that end, Amazon offers the Alexa Voice Service developer program to allow manufacturers to build their own Alexa-integrated devices.
Instances of Alexa integration have already begun to appear. Even before CES back in late August 2016, Sonos announced that its speakers would be Alexa-controllable sometime in 2017. But that was then, and now that we are into 2017, the Alexa ecosystem is expanding fast.
The Best Is Yet to Come
What’s really intriguing about Alexa technology is its potential application in any number of other products and devices. This could include some rather obvious suspects, such as smart TVs, smart appliances and even such tools as garage door openers. Further, Samsung plans to offer a refrigerator with a built-in version of Alexa.
Nor is Alexa’s potential limited to stationary uses. At CES, both Ford and Volkswagen announced plans to integrate Alexa for weather updates and navigation. Particularly intriguing is Alexa’s potential application for tasks beyond keeping the car on a safe route to its destination—these could touch on everything from making certain the vehicle has adequate gas to checking to see if the driver’s schedule is on track to meet the day’s obligations.
Other enormous possibilities exist, particularly in the field of health care. For instance, Boston Children’s Hospital recently developed an Alexa-based app that offers parents advice when their child runs a fever. Further, the hospital is exploring other uses, such as an Alexa-driven tool that would allow surgeons to audibly call up images from electronic health records without the necessity of leaving an operating room theater.
Alexa’s potential might well only be limited by our collective imagination. For instance, I can predict an Alexa “sales assistant” in stores, answering shoppers’ questions about a particular product. Likewise in grocery stores, where Alexa could provide dietary information, recipe ideas and other valuable data—all without a shopper having to read product labels that are often more bewildering than they are informative.
Collaboration and Abundance
Amazon’s willingness to share the technology of Alexa is not just a feel-good story of technological generosity. It’s an ideal example of the value of collaborative innovation, one of the benchmark principles in my Anticipatory Organization Learning System.
Many organizations think they’re collaborating when in fact they’re just cooperating. You cooperate because you have to. Cooperation is based on scarcity—how to protect your piece of the pie from ruthless competitors. It’s contractive and exclusive.
By contrast, you collaborate because you choose to do so. When collaboration is tied to innovation with the purpose of creating economic abundance for all—rather than fighting to keep your share of the pie intact—innovation becomes inclusive and expansive, and so do results.
Next time you chat with Amazon Echo, think about the potential of reinventing your products and service using this technology and collaborative innovation.
Daniel Burrus has been trusted by leaders from Fortune 500 Companies, the Pentagon and Heads of State to deliver a message that accurately predicts future trends and identifies game chaning opportunities before the competition. Click here to see some of Daniel Burrus’ Sample Keynote Topics