History shows that the road to technological innovation is long and winding, but lessons from successes and failures with other emerging technologies offer managers a helpful guide.
Talking about “green technology” gets people excited. It’s thrilling to think that a new wave of inventions and discoveries will revolutionize the way we live, halt the degradation of our planet and conserve resources for future generations. And it’s more than just talk: Investors are committing real dollars. As the level of activity increases, however, discussions about green technology raise as many questions as they answer. Addressing the key questions is complicated by the fundamental uncertainties that are at the heart of the green technology market. The evolution of this market space depends on forces that are beyond the control of any individual entrepreneur or investor: government policies; availability of capital; and wild cards including oil price volatility, geopolitical conflicts, the rate of economic growth and public attitudes toward warnings of global climate change.
History shows that the road to technological innovation is a long and winding one. Between 2005 and 2007, runaway enthusiasm led to the proliferation of hundreds of new green technology ventures, many of which ran into trouble during the great recession. Green technology companies need to develop staying power. In addition to understanding the opportunities, they need to get ahead–and stay ahead–of competitors. To assist in this effort, the authors have identified 10 broad lessons for green technology players based on successes and failures across a broad array of emerging technologies, including the biosciences, nanomanufacturing, advanced materials, space science and numerous information technologies. The lessons address three important areas of focus: understanding the nature and the dynamics of the market opportunity; crafting strategies for market leadership; and building an adaptable organization with enough “staying power” to handle the numerous uncertainties ahead.
Successful players in the green technology space will formulate strategies that are calibrated against uncertainties at many levels. They will also develop and foster leaders who can manage high levels of complexity and uncertainty.