100 Business Ideas From Last 100 Years

There is a vast array of
innovations (sociological, technological, managerial, organisational, etc) that have shaped our contemporary workplaces. These vary from mass production, management-by-objective through to recent advances such as agile development, Internet, crowd funding, etc. These changes highlight some of the current challenges and opportunities we face today.

Remember in the field of technological and management innovations, new ideas build on each other. For example, in technology, the microprocessor enabled the PC, which enabled the Internet, which enabled Wi-Fi. In management, eg agile working has built on the idea developed in the 1960s that teams work faster and more effectively if they are empowered.

For most of the hundred years, the western influence, especially the USA, has dominated. More recently with the rise of China and India, business ideas are starting to emerge from them, like the flattening organisational model "Rendanheyl" pioneered by Chinese Haier Group, Jugaad innovation from India, etc.
Not all ideas will survive. Some will disappear very quickly as their limitations are exposed; others get reinvented. Need to be careful of fads, ie chasing the latest idea owing to its novelty rather than worth.

100 Influential Ideas (in alphabetical order and not necessarily in order of importance)

Influential Ideas (A)

1. Agile (in 2001, some software developers found new ways of developing software that involve greater responsiveness to changing user needs; focus on collaboration between autonomous, cross functional teams and their customers; it has expanded beyond the software industry and replaces teams with new titles like tribes, squads, chapters, guilds and terminology like scrums, etc)

2. Artificial Intelligence (major developments starting in the 1950s has resulted in widespread use of AI from natural language processing like Siri & Alexa to online chatbots; computers can successfully win at games like draughts, Go, etc; in 2018, a survey found that nearly 2/3 of companies said they are using AI in part of the business; "doomsdays" predictors claim that AI will bring about the extinction of the human race!!!)
3. Assessment Centres (using outside locations to test staff initially started in the military during World War II)

4. Augmented Reality (process of overlaying computer-generated information on to the real world that has a variety of uses from flight training to manufacturing and games like Pokeman Go; similar to virtual reality, it offers total immersion in a digital world; still in its infancy regards impact)

Influential Ideas (B)

5. Balanced Scorecard (too often organisations focus on a few performance measurements, especially financial, this approach encourages a wide range of measurements around 5 main areas: customers, processes/systems, people, innovation and financial)

6. Behavioural Economics (emphasises the cognitive biases we all have and which result in our flawed decision-making; we are not rational individuals in our decision-making; we often act and think irrationally due to our biases)

7. Benchmarking (comparing a company's performance against another or against an industry average - inside or outside your industry)

8. Big Data Analytics (coined in the 1990s with the growth of the Internet and associated devices resulting in a massive increase in the amounts of data produced mainly by machines, ie
"...There were five exabytes of information created by the entire world between the dawn of civilisation and 2003. Now the same amount is created every two days..."
Eric Schmidt as quoted by Tim Husle 2019

Big data analytics uses a range of technology (including machine learning) that allows analysis to uncover new insights and trends)

9. Blockchain (it is a distributed ledger technology that underpins the world's cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin, libra, etc; helps where authentication is a priority, eg different points of the supply chain, etc)

10. Blue Ocean Strategy (linked with business models to challenge the status quo; existing industries are described as red oceans, whereas blue oceans are those that do not yet exist, ie unknown market space is untainted by competition, eg Apple's development of iTunes and iPads)

11. Brainstorming (starting in the 1940s, a group of people coming together to explore new and different ideas in a non-judgemental environment, ie creative thinking)

12. Brand Management (in the early 20th century, there was a rise of market segmentation and acquisition activity that resulted in multiple brands in same company competing in the same product category; it was suggested that companies should assign a separate marketing team to each individual brand, as if it were a separate company)

13. Business Ecosystem (describes co-operative networks of companies working innovatively together; widely used in the world of start-ups and businesses that operate under the same umbrella of the giant tech companies like Amazon; can embrace customers)

14. Business Process Re-engineering (in the 1980s with the Japanese appearing to have more efficient business processes, American organisations started to focus on looking at customers' requirements, deciding what processes are needed to achieve them and designing those processes from scratch; later became linked with downsizing and job cutting)

Influential Ideas (C)

15. Cellular Manufacturing (reinvention of the assembly line (Henry Ford) where workstations were clustered around specific stages of the manufacturing process; intended to create more flexibility while increasing employee engagement and making use of teams of highly skilled, multi-tasking workers)

16. Circular Economy (traditional linear economic approach is to take things out of the ground to make things, we use them and then throw it away; this "throw them away" has been replaced by "reuse, remake and recycle", and these 3 principles involve changing the way we design things, eliminating waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems; linked with the subscription economy which allows products to be reused by different customers)

17. Cloud Computing (intergalactic computer network which allows access to specific programs and data, no matter where the access point might be located; a vast variety of computing services is routinely delivered via the cloud and is linked with the subscription economy; examples include infrastructure as a service, platform as a service and software as a service)

18. Communities of Practice (a group of workers who share their knowledge on an informal basis; organisations nurture these communities and some are formalised, eg tech clubs)

19. Core Competencies and Resource-based (the secret of long-term success was to understand the underlying competencies that differentiate an organisation; linked with this is having rare, valuable and hard to imitate resources, ie
"...a core competency is a combination of multiple resources that distinguish a firm in the marketplace......competitive advantage comes from the way a company applies its bundle of tangible and intangible resources towards market opportunities..."
Tim Husle 2019)

20. Corporate Social Responsibility (understanding the impact that businesses have on the community wider than their immediate stakeholders; this is linked with the triple bottom line which adds social and environmental concerns to a company's traditional focus on financial returns)

21. Corporate Venturing (organisations create "venture units" or "new venture divisions" to incubate promising new business ideas; this led to the term "intrapreneur", ie staff who act like an entrepreneur within a large organisation; adapting entrepreneurial principles to large organisations takes many forms, including lean start up concepts)

22. Coworking Spaces (allowing workers from different organisations to share an office space; this has cost savings and convenience with the use of common infrastructure, such as equipment, utilities, staff, etc)

23. Credit Cards (the first credit card was launched in the late 1950s, allowing users to purchase goods on credit, ie buy now and pay later)

24. Crowd Funding (raising funds through donations from people via an online platform; used in a wide range of areas like artistic endeavours, charities, cash-hungry start-ups, etc)

25. Customer Lifetime Value (puts a figure on the net present value of future sales)
"...If you invest in customers early on, to attract custom and generate loyalty, over time you can recoup that investment and more with steady sales..."
Tim Husle 2019)

Influential Ideas (D)

26. Design Thinking (designing as a way of thinking and emphasising the importance of rapid prototyping and testing)

27. Direct Marketing (selling direct to customers via Internet (e-mail), post, phone or knocking on people's doors; recent technological developments have increased the reach of direct marketing and allowed it to become more targeted)

28. Disruptive Innovation (are innovations, like Internet, digitalisation, AI, etc that have the potential to drastically change or disrupt a market/industry and leave traditional players out of the new markets, like digital cameras on Kodak, smart phones on Nokia, etc)

29. Divisional Structure (with organisations becoming unwieldly owing to many different brands under the same umbrella, large organisations divided into divisions like strategic business units with more focus on specific marketplaces)

30. Dynamic Pricing (using algorithms based on variable parameters to determine the most appropriate price, eg Uber uses algorithms to calculate the fare based on factors like traffic, rider-to-driver demand, etc)

Influential Ideas (E)

31. Economic Value-added Analysis (EVA) (it measures whether the organisations create value, ie
"...take sales, deduct operating expenses and you have earnings. All EVA is, you subtract one more expense, the cost of financing the asset on the balance sheet. What is left over is a measure of how efficient the business is being managed and how to assess new capital projects..."
Bennet Stewart as quoted by Tim Husle 2019)

32. Email (people are able to communicate via the Internet)

33. Emotional Intelligence (it started as social intelligence, ie ability to get along with others; it has been expanded to include the idea of understanding your own emotions and those of others; involves understanding and using "tough or soft" skills like communications, leadership, relationships, motivation, persuasion, etc)

34. Enterprise Resource Planning (using technology, like computers, to integrate and schedule the many variables of production like people, processes and technologies across enterprises)

35. Ethnographic Market Research (understanding customers by observing them in their native habitat; is linked with the field of anthropology; earlier marketeers relied on surveys and focus group to try to understand how consumers made decisions)

Influential Ideas (F)

36. Fax Machine (allowed for real-time delivery of documents around the world via telephone line, ie transmitting images over a wire, etc)

37. Five Force Analysis (Michael Porter developed the 5 forces to help organisations understand their situation in an industry, eg threat of new entrants, substitute products or services, bargaining power of both customers and suppliers, intensity of  competitive rivalry; to maintain competitive advantage organisations needed to adapt 1 of 3 basic positions, eg low-cost, differentiation or focus)

38. Flat Organisations (reducing middle management in favour of a workforce that is divided into thousands of customer-facing, self-managing micro enterprises sometimes called holacracy, rendanheyi, etc; distributes decision-making throughout an organisation rather than concentrated in management; encourages a reduction of internal controls and greater use of initiative by workers)

39. Frugal Innovation (how to do better with less; innovative models found in emerging economies, like India and China; linked with sharing economy and circular economy; low cost and flexible innovations, ie
"...Jugaad is a Hindi word used to describe an improvised solution born from ingenuity and cleverness..."
Tim Husle 2019)

Influential Ideas (G)

40. Game Theory (a mathematical discipline which essentially applies scientific principles to any competitive scenario in which two or more players are trying to make decisions and interact with each other in the best possible ways within set rules and conditions; it assumes the players are rational and want to maximise benefits)

41. Gig Economy (enabled by the Internet platforms and growth of the sharing economy; a more flexible way of working where freelancers are paid on every "gig" they complete, like delivering meals, driving cars, etc)

42. Global Positioning System (GPS is the ability to track items, like vehicles, people, individual packages, etc - it has revolutionised logistics)

43. Guerrilla Marketing (using super-creative, unconventional techniques to advertise on a small budget like finding ways to leverage from another organisation's marketing plan)

Influential Ideas (H & I)

44. Hackathons (a group of people, usually technicians, come together for a couple of days to address topical issues like changes in technical systems, culture, etc)

45. Industrial Robots (linked with artificial intelligence, heralds the arrival of the smart factory, ie
"... Robots are increasingly a feature of manufacturing: figures show that their numbers have doubled over the last five years and are forecast to double again in the next three years......as their numbers grow exponentially, so the cost of building them falls..."
Tim Husle 2019)

46. Influence Marketing (it offers the product approval by authentic individuals who are trusted by Millennials and Gen-Zers as taste masters and thought leaders, ie
"...The Instagram-filtered lovechild of celebrity endorsement and social media..."
Tim Husle 2019)

47. Internet of Things (connectivity between people, things, etc plus unlimited access to data, information, etc is creating unlimited opportunities
"...The concept in which everything from cars to homes to factories and much, much more is connected via the Internet..."
Tim Husle 2019)

Influential Ideas (J & L)

48.  Jet Engine (jet powered air travel has made the world smaller and been a great enabler to international trade)

49. Lean Manufacturing (involves implementing
"...a series of measures aimed to increase flexibility, including machines operated by multi-skilled workers that can produce a variety of products at a large volume, and just in time velocity of demand-led production..."
Tim Husle 2019)

50. Lean Start-up (how to use continuous innovation to build the new company, especially start-ups; includes concepts like "minimal viable product", "pivot", "build-measure-learn", etc; linked with lean manufacturing and customer development)

51. Loyalty Cards (retailers reward customers via cards that have a magnetic strip on them. This allows the customer behaviours to be tracked, ie
"...What scares me about this is that you know more about my customers after three months than I know after 30 years..."

Lord MacLaurin (past chairman of Tesco) as quoted by Tim Husle 2019)

Influential Ideas (M)

52. Management by Objectives (developed by Peter Drucker in the 1950s, ie
"...the managers should be directed and controlled by the objectives of performance rather than his boss..."

Peter Drucker
as quoted by Tim Husle 2019)

In recent times, with today's world being more complex and objectives less clear, its popularity has waned.)

53. Managing Work Groups (a way of understanding both individual and team behaviours; the basis of this is psychometric testing analysis like Myers Briggs, Belbin, Disc, etc); the highest performing teams are made up of the balance of different and appropriate personalities types, ie implementor, coordinator, specialist, generalist, analysts, etc.)

54. Market Segmentation (starting in the 1930s, General Motors came up with the idea of a car for "every person and purpose"; GM offered 5 separate brands while Ford was offering one-size-fits-all, model T; this helped GM become largest car maker after World War II; in the 1990s, segmentation narrowed to personalisation.)

55. Mass Customisation (mass production is great for producing products on scale but what happens if people don't want the same product and other companies can use the same techniques with lower wages; in the 1980s, flexible processes and new technologies allowed a more diverse range of production, eg Motorola was able to produce its new pager in around 30 million different ways)

56. Massive Open Online Courses (distance learning has changed with technology, from postal correspondence courses to online e-learning, eg MOOC; this makes learning available to large numbers of people online, relatively cheaply)

57. Matrix Organisation (involves reconciling the demands of specific projects within an organisation's existing functional structure; staff can report to 2+ bosses, eg functional and hierarchical; focuses on structure, ie who does what, who reports to whom, etc)

58. McKinsey 7S framework (looking at a company in a holistic way; there are 3 hard elements (strategy, structure and systems) and 4 soft elements (shared values, skills, staff and styles), ie
"... All seven need to be aligned and mutually re-enforcing if a company is going to perform well..."
Tim Husle 2019)

59. Mentoring and Executive Coaching (mentoring involves the passing of wisdom, knowledge, information, etc from a more experienced person to a less experienced person; executive coaching is less advice based and more about developing specific skills)

60. #METOO (the history of business development, management, technology, etc has been dominated by men; still a large pay gap between men and women despite legislation around the concept of equal pay for equal work; starting in 2006, #METOO focused on the mistreatment of women by men in the workplace; several high profile cases of alleged abuse of women by men in positions of authority/power have highlighted this problem in the workplace)

61. Micro-finance (it offers poor and marginalised people, especially women in developing countries, access to a wide range of financial products previously denied to them; in the 1970s the idea of micro-credit started with the Grameen Bank (Muhammad Yunus was founder) in Bangladesh)

62. Microprocessor (miniature version of a computer's central processing unit developed by Intel in the 1970s; this paved the way for the development of personal computers.)

63. Microsoft Office (initially launched in the 1990s with Word, Excel and PowerPoint, it has grown with more than 1 billion people around the world using Microsoft software; recently cloud computing is threatening its dominance)

64. Mobile Telephony (starting with hand-held mobile phones, moving to SMS messages, invention of emojis, camera phones, smart phones (Internet link, etc), video streaming, 5G connectivity, etc; the mobile phone has become a minicomputer)

65. Motivation Theory (in the 1950s, Maslow developed his theory of hierarchical human needs, ie basic needs of food, water, air, sleep, shelter, etc must be satisfied before we move on to the next levelsz; safety, love/belonging, esteem and finally self-actualisation; this was extended by McGregor in the 1960s who suggested 2 contrasting visions of the workplace, ie theory X (assume workers are essentially lazy and stupid, and need to be either punished or rewarded in order to be motivated) and theory Y (workers are self-motivated which results in a more friendly and productive performance)

66. Multichannel Marketing (the Internet has increased the number of ways an organisation can interact with its customers; organisations utilising the gamut of potential customer touch points across both digital and traditional media like "omni-channel", ie using several channels at the same time, "click and mortar", ie bringing online experience in store; technologies that have allowed this to happen include GPS, RFID tags, tablet computers, AI and a big data analytics

Influential Ideas (N & O)

67. Negotiation Theory (involves dissecting the science of negotiation into 8 components, ie appreciate the big picture, solve the right negotiation problem, understand the other side's point of view, put price in perspective, understand differences between issues, positions and interests, appreciate differences as well as common ground, appreciate the best alternative to a negotiated agreement, understand the psychology of perception, eg cognitive biases)

68. Net Promoter Score (need to answer the following question - how likely is it that you would recommend your organisation/product/service to a friend or colleague? Subtract the percentage of "nos" from the percentage of "yeses" to find the score)

69. Online Payment Systems (allowing Internet users to send money to each other, eg PayPal, Alipay (China), M-Pesa (mobile phone-based system for transferring money via SMS that started in Africa)

70. Open Innovation (organisations freely share their research; traditionally corporate research is secretive and any discoveries are guarded; today innovation comes from many different sources including customers, knowledge base partners, competition, other industries, etc)

71. Open Plan Office (improve workers' performance by breaking down social divides starting in the 1930s; later the cubicle became popular offering more privacy but limited interaction; down sides of this include noise, stress, conflict, illness, staff turnover, and excuse "to pack more bodies into a space"; current trend is co-working spaces, ie to abandon the permanent workstations in favour of hot desking.)

72. Operational Research (before World War II, the military used mathematical and statistical analysis to address complex problems, like integrating radar into an early warning system; it is used in situations where information can be quantified and decision parameters are well-defined.)

73. Outsourcing (involves "hiving off" part of an organisation's activity to an outside firm; became popular with the computer revolution starting in the 1970s when organisations outsourced their IT departments, eg Eastman Kodak used IBM to handle some of its data centres)

Influential Ideas (P & Q)

74. Ps of marketing (initially 4, ie product, prices, place and promotion; this has been stretched to 11 Ps with the addition of planning, people, positioning, passion, partnerships, performance and presentation)

75. Portable Document Format (PDF) (a way of sending documents across a variety of machine configurations, operating systems and communication networks; became important with the Internet; in 2018, 250 billion PDFs were opened using Adobe products.)

76. Peer to Peer Lending (cutting out the middle man to reduce costs, eg using online services that directly matching lenders with borrowers; this means high returns for the lender and lower interest rates for the borrower, eg Zopa; expanded to other areas like matching users around the world and bypassing currency conversion fees, eg TransferWise)

77. Performance Related Pay (linking employee pay to company performance, eg if the organisation reaches an agreed level of performance, the workers share in the benefits.)

78. Personal Computer (Altair 8800 (1970s) was the world's first personalised computer, ie microprocessor; both Microsoft and Apple started by using Altair 8800, eg Microsoft wrote software for it)

79. Personality Tests (started in the 1920s in the military; made famous by Myers & Briggs during World War II as a way of helping women enter the workforce; around 2 million people annually take the Myers Briggs test; many variations have been developed since.)

80. Photocopier (in the 1930s, using static electricity created with a handkerchief, a light source and some dry powder was the basis for the technology that underpins the modern photocopier; ended the days of carbon paper)

81. Private Equity or Venture Capitalism (traditionally investment in companies had been limited to wealthy individuals and families; PE democratised investment and encouraged private share ownership; received great boost when the UK Thatcher government privatised state-owned utilities in the 1980s; by the 1990s nearly 12 m. Britons owned shares.)

82. Quality of Working Life (balancing the social needs of staff with the daily reality of their working lives; many workers would rather be anywhere other than the office or factory; abolishing traditional status differentiators like separate dining rooms from management, introduction of staff social clubs, in-house gyms, in-house child-care centres, etc.)

83. Quick Response (QR codes) (in the 1990s this started as an aid to tracking parts and vehicles in the car industry; around 2 decades later, smart phones used it to pay for things and open websites; very popular in Japan and China.)

Influential Ideas (S)

84. Scenario Planning (developed to explore and prepare for multiple possible futures; an alternative to strategic planning which looked at only one future option.)

85. Search Engine Optimisation (in the mid-1990s search engines, search engines began trawling the pages of the World Wide Web with website owners realising that a higher ranking was good for their business; website owners try to find ways to build up their rankings while search engines try to limit unfair practices.)

86. Sharing Economy (it cuts out the middleman in the provision of a service by putting customer and provider together via a digital platform; a rating system is usually included; examples include Airbnb, Uber; sometimes called the access economy.)

87. Six Sigma (an upgrade of total quality management; started with 6 standard deviations being equal to 3.4 defects per 1 million opportunities; a way to reduce costs and improve quality; a precursor to lean manufacturing that was popular in the late 1990s)

88. Skunk Works (a small team that is separate from the rest of the organisation and works autonomously on new projects)

89. Social Media (social networking websites like Facebook, YouTube, WhatApp, Messenger, WeChat, Instagram, etc; Facebook has led the way in showing how to monetise (both for itself and marketers) the data acquired from users plus an effective tool for selling pretty much anything, including political views.)

90. Socio- technical Systems (in the late 1940s, Tavistock Institute of Human Resources was applying psychoanalytic concepts to the way that groups and organisations worked; need to understand the interaction between social and technical elements of an organisation to improve its functionality.)

91. Stage-gate model (there are 5+ main stages (ideation/discovery, scoping, build business case, development, testing, validation, launch (including post-launch review) with 4 gates (go, kill, hold & recycle) at each stage.)

92. Strategic Planning (started in the military in World War II and then adopted by the Ford motor company; it is used to set priorities, focus energy and resources, strengthen operations, ensure that staff and other stakeholders are working towards a common goal, establish agreement around intended outcomes/results; it produces fundamental decisions and actions about what an organisation is, who it serves, what it does and why it does it with a focus on the future.)

93. Subscription Economy (been around for centuries and linked with the selling of books; customers prefer to access a product rather than own it, eg software as a service (SaaS) where companies licence software, usually via the cloud, on a subscription basis; other examples include Spotify, Netflix, etc.)

94. Supply Chain Management (it involves logistics and strategy, ie as business became more global in the 1980s, the importance of managing a chain of materials, finance, people and information across countries and continents became important.)

Influential Ideas (T & W)

95. Television (started in the 1930s as a basis to inform, educate and entertain; starting in the 1950s its value in advertising was realised; with the advent of the Internet and new multichannel possibilities, the power of traditional TV advertising is waning.)

96. 360-degree Feedback (other stakeholders, including staff, have the opportunity to give feedback on their managers)

97. 3-D printing (using additive technology and designs, able to print useful objects including human organs, prosthetics, manufacturing goods, etc at home.)

98. Total Quality Management (TQM) (responsibility for quality is shared throughout the whole workforce; improved quality is linked with efficiency and productivity; linked with total quality control; successfully used in Japan in the 1960s and 70s; recently renamed Six Sigma.)

99. Tubular Building Designs (a tubular system of building designs that allow for taller, lighter buildings to be constructed, eg skyscrapers, etc)

100. World Wide Web (invented in the late 1980s; merge the evolving technologies of computers, data networks and hypertext into an easy-to-use global information system; there are around 2 b. websites.)

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