Innovation: What Do We Want?

The holy grail of the business world in the 21st century is increasingly seen as innovation.

The need for individuals and organisations to innovate is constantly promoted by economic theory, government policy and business organisations.

Two great innovators and entrepreneurs often used to promote the benefits of innovation are James Dyson and the late Steve Jobs.

There is no doubt both men used innovation to change industries, create jobs and generate new wealth.

Given the level of success that such unusual innovative entrepreneurs create, is it realistic to expect others to replicate their achievements.

Governments, academics and policy makers believe so, as they highlight the need to increase levels of innovation to solve our economic, social and organisational problems.

Dr Jonathan Huebner however suggests another view and argues that our rate of innovation has decreased over the last 100 years or so.

He believes recent innovations only represent small improvements to developments from previous generations.

We may not accept his view but it is worth considering his explanation of what has gone wrong.

First, he believes we have already discovered most of what there is to discover. Second, he suggests we are held back for economic reasons. Third, he believes we no longer have the level of ambition needed to truly innovate.

Whether we accept or reject his first two points, it is worth reflecting on the level of ambition we have for innovation before we adopt it as the solution to our current difficulties.

Is our ambition purely economic and short-term or is our ambition to build a better society for the long-term.

If it is the former, our innovation efforts will be easy to measure and limited in ambition. If it is the latter, our innovation efforts will be immeasurable and unlimited in reach.

SO, as we embrace innovation as a worthy ambition we need to agree on the level of innovation we wish to pursue.

What do you think? What kind of innovation do you want?

Leave your comments below.