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L.A. Benefits From Digital Innovation

Originally published in the Los Angeles Register and Orange County Register.

According to the research firm eMarketer, in 2013 Americans spent more time using digital media than watching television.

     Dr. John Mooney

A recent article in the Economist reported that in 2008 nearly nine-tenths of consumer spending went to physical media items, whereas by 2017 it will comprise a little more than half with digital media consuming the rest. PricewaterhouseCoopers corroborates this increased activity, reporting that revenues for digital media and entertainment will increase approximately 13 percent per year for the next five years.

Not only has the rise in digital innovation transformed the entertainment and technology industries, it is revolutionizing other industries as well.

The adoption of electronic medical records and the increasing use of telemedicine in health care has changed how people communicate with their care provider. The rise in digital technologies is fostering a richer dialogue between physicians and patients and enabling patients to take a greater role in managing their health care decisions.

The retail industry is also experiencing enormous changes driven by digital innovation. In addition to the meteoric rise of “born-digital” retailers such as Amazon.com, traditional retailers are deploying digital technologies to innovate in-store retailing. Bloomingdales, for example, has launched “Me-Ality,” a digital sizing station which takes 10- to 15-second body scans of shoppers, matching their measurements with clothing available in-store and online to recommend brands, styles and sizes that are most likely to fit and be flattering. The Bloomingdales at Santa Monica Place and South Coast Plaza are two of the five locations testing the technology.

Within the Los Angeles region, some industries are adopting digital innovations at a greater pace and geographically some areas are experiencing stronger growth than others. For example, the Cleantech Corridor, a four mile district on the eastern edge of Downtown L.A. which will house the future La Kretz Innovation Campus, recently secured its final round of financing. Plans for the Campus include a 30,000-square-foot home for cleantech demonstration centers, R&D labs and work force training facilities all designed to spur innovation.

Similarly, the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena received donations to double the size of its South Campus, achieving what was planned as Pasadena’s Innovation Corridor. On the West side, investors, startups, entrepreneurs and digital content creators are drawn to Silicon Beach, one of the area’s biggest burgeoning tech scenes that is gaining international recognition as an innovation hub for digital games, social media and mobile application development. A significant digital health care cluster is emerging in south Orange County.

The emergence of these pockets of digital innovation in these industries and locations is an important step in the right direction. Now is the time to significantly advance the City’s digital innovation in all geographic areas and industries.

Mayor Eric Garcetti recently made a significant statement by appointing Peter Marx as the city’s first Chief Innovation Technology Officer. In addition to improving the City’s technological capabilities to make services more efficient, Marx is charged with partnering with businesses in Los Angeles to deploy technology and promote local job creation. Marx’s credentials and leadership will be instrumental in creating a plan to stimulate innovation and create local jobs. Other cities in the greater L.A. area would be wise to link up with Marx as the entire region will benefit from a concerted effort to spur digital innovation.

In addition to support from the Mayor’s office, it is also important that working professionals possess the skills needed to parlay digital technologies into business innovation. This will require a future workforce with “21st Century skills" which include digital literacy and proficiency in using Internet, mobile and social media applications.

I believe that business professionals also need to have higher-level innovation competencies, including a comprehensive mix of business, digital technology and managerial knowledge. In addition to being “digital savvy,” this skill set includes “deep smarts” about effective operational processes, management practices and strategic capabilities, as well as soft skills such as interpersonal communication, conflict resolution, negotiation and change management. The combination of strong managerial skills, digital savvy and effective soft skills will enable professionals to guide the development and deployment of digital innovation to better engage consumers, peers and stakeholders and better enhance the service, product or experience being delivered.

The opportunity is ripe for communities across the greater L.A. area to attract innovative companies and for business professionals to develop the high-level digital innovation skills needed to succeed.

John G. Mooney, PhD, is department chair, associate professor of Information Systems and oversees the Digital Innovation and Information Systems concentration at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management in Los Angeles.