Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

Through a Research Lens: What Captured My Attention in 2018 and What’s in My Purview for 2019

Photo Illustration by Tracy Ma/The New York Times; Shutterstock (child and phone)

Prophet’s Emily Schreck recently interviewed the Altimeter analysts to spotlight some of the things that we never get a chance to share, such as what we’re working on, what has our attention and what’s on the horizon. Schreck’s piece is now live.

This year has been a whirlwind for Altimeter’s famed analysts; Charlene Li, Brian Solis, Susan Etlinger and Omar Akhtar. The team has published several new research reports, presented keynote speeches at top global industry conferences, and helped some of the world’s top brands learn how to best leverage disruptive technologies.

Not all of the Q&A made the final cut, but I did want to share it with you here.

Altimeter Roundtable: What’s Happening with Our Analysts

Emily Schreck: What research areas have been your focus in 2018?

Brian Solis: 2018 has been a whirlwind of Altimeter and also client research. At Altimeter, my research focused on digital transformation, retail innovation and also corporate innovation (how change agents can drive innovation and transformation from within). On the client side, I studied the state and future of digital marketplaces, contact centers/customer service, digital influence, predictive analytics and the digital transformation of guest experience, among other things.

What reports/research will you be publishing soon?

Somewhere in Q4, we will release our annual “State of Digital Transformation” research, which I’m excited about. I’m also in the throes of studying the evolution of brand constructs tied to the accelerating changes of connected customers. I hope to see that release before the end of the year as well.

What is the most interesting research you’ve seen or finding you’ve come across in the last year? Why?

At SXSW, I gave a presentation about the effects of technology on our personal lives, exploring everything from distraction to addiction to fake news to neuroplasticity. It’s all quite fascinating (and mind-blowing) really. We’re succumbing to the effects of technology distraction and addiction. At the same time, so are our children. Ironically, parents can be the worst role models. We’re all so consumed by what we feel are the benefits that we miss the ramifications on us, everyone else and society at large. It’s not good. The Center for Humane Technology served as a fascinating resource hub for eye-opening statistics.

What are the hot topics /discussions we should be following right now? Where do you predict big changes in 2019?

The behavioral changes resulting from digital distraction is also affecting customer behaviors, preferences, expectations and also what they value and why. This means that experience design has to be reimagined for distracted consumers. CX efforts will have to hyper focus on the mobile customers, as that’s quickly becoming everyone. At the same time, those changes are also affecting employees. EX is the new CX. Upgrading/updating work, HR, employee engagement, training, management, etc., will prove critical. The trend of culture design will also rise in 2019 as culture is consistently ranked as the number one inhibitor to digital transformation and innovation.

What are you looking forward to in 2019? What do you intend to focus on?

I am looking forward to moving the conversation forward on everything I studied in 2018 in addition to the comments from the last question. Brand innovation, connected consumerism, culture design, digital distraction, employee experience, digital transformation and innovation, they are increasingly intersecting. I’m also curious about real applications of blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

Is there anything you’d love to see happen in your area of expertise?

More support for innovation and transformation at the board and C-Suite level. There’s a mindset shift that needs to happen…to see how people are changing, empathize and understand it, and embrace the change agents fighting to innovate but are facing push back from those who don’t want to change. Innovation is an investment, not a cost center, and it’s critical to understand the purpose of innovation at a human level.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

I’m starting to see more and more, that companies are confusing innovation and iteration. All too often, the innovation programs that I study are designed to improve existing products, models, services, processes, etc. That’s necessary. But that’s largely iteration…doing the same things better. Innovation, on the other hand, is doing new things that create new value. The combination of the two can lead to disruption, doing new things that make the old things obsolete.


Brian Solis

Brian Solis is principal analyst and futurist at Altimeter, the digital analyst group at Prophet, Brian is world renowned keynote speaker and 7x best-selling author. His latest book, X: Where Business Meets Design, explores the future of brand and customer engagement through experience design.

Please, invite him to speak at your event or bring him in to inspire colleagues and fellow executives/boards.

Connect with Brian!

Twitter: @briansolis
Facebook: TheBrianSolis
LinkedIn: BrianSolis
Instagram: BrianSolis
Youtube: BrianSolisTV
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