Innovation- For What And By Whom?

Ms Josephine Green

We hear so much about creativity and innovation, releasing it in ourselves, in our society, in our institutions, but wait a minute, innovation for what and by whom?

The world is changing. The forces that shaped the 19th and 20th century have gone, leaving the institutions, the companies, the ways of thinking and the ways of working less relevant if not redundant. This is inevitable. The socio-techno-economic forces underpinning the industrial era have changed, making many of the solutions of the last century not only less sense making but increasingly non-sense making. With a new paradigm, comes a new consciousness, a new set of values, new behaviours and new solutions. If all this is happening, and more, then it seems somewhat facile to push the creativity and innovation button without a more in depth process of imagination and learning around the kind of society we want, the kind of future we long for and the values that we need to under pin such a society.

We stand at the crossroads of a unique opportunity. Given the state we are in, we have to re-invent just about everything, including new ways of living, new ways of producing, new ways of delivering our social industries, such as health, education, mobility and even new ways of measuring progress and growth, beyond productivity and consumption. At the same time the new socio-techno forces shaping our next future come to the rescue by enabling a more systems approach to living, one in which people are connected in an ecology of places, information, activities and experiences. Health offers an example. The future of health is about putting people at the center of the system and connecting them to their circles of care, loved ones, health practitioners, medical centers etc. Such systemic and structural re-invention is based on new values, new needs and new technologies.

This emerging possibility, however, is less about the market and market innovation, based on consumer needs and driven by experts, and more about social needs and social innovation, based on stakeholder needs and driven by the collective and collaborative participation of those stakeholders. Less about products and consumption and more about eco-systems and value. Such necessity and such visions change everything, including why we innovate, what we innovate, how we innovate and who innovates.

We are living through the death of one paradigm and the emergence of another. If in this process we simply continue to innovate for innovation sake, based on old thinking and past/best practice, then we increase the nonsense. If on the other hand we take the opportunity we enhance future relevancy and sense-making. Hence the need a priori to ask the big question: creativity and innovation for what and by whom?

Article © 2009 Ms Josephine Green. All rights reserved.

about the author...

Ms Josephine Green

Ms Josephine Green

affiliation:   Philips Design

position:  Senior Director of Trends and Strategy

country:  Netherlands

area of interest:  Strategic Futures, Social Foresight for Strategy and Innovation, Sustainable Solutions; Design, Innovation

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