The Future Of Innovation ... As Seen From A Risk Averse Culture

Mr A.S. Rao

The future of Innovation is inextricably linked to the value system of a society, and eastern economies might find transferring the routines that underlay the philosophy of western ethos that drivies innovation a daunting task. India and China are large economies, and forecast of their economic prowess vary from analyst to analyst. These potential competitors to western innovation systems face a major challenge: how to give their citizens 'freedom to fail'? Risk in innovation has been documented and analysed again and again, the success rate may be one in eight or one in ten, but the fact remains, there are more failures than successes. Economic risk can be underwritten by state but social stigma of failure lingers on, which becomes the major inhibiting factor for innovation-promotion programs to take off; it cannot be brushed aside as of no consequence.

I see the need for a major shift in the innovation programs of India and China which should focus on transforming the education system to allow children to 'experiment and learn' as opposed to 'teach to learn'.  Arresting the fall of the 'creative quotient' due to premium on logical mind would become a national priority.

When could this happen? India and China have traversed the traditional road map, moving from 'learn to produce' to 'learn to design new products/ processes' and have reached a stage where China is considered a major player in mass manufacture, with India being strong in services. Can they cope with the recession without transformation? Unlikely, as both cater to the US market and Fortune 500 companies.

These large developing economies need to introspect and reengineer their innovation systems. Like France which is converting high end research into innovations in a seamless manner, focusing on strategic sectors like aerospace and defence.  There is no light at the end of the tunnel for most research work in existing government structures for the simple reason that winners cannot be picked that way - only the market can - and  that probability improves with quantity.

To stabilize the innovation system, like a production system or a software program, the nation needs numbers, huge number of 'creative minds'. China became the 'global factory' because of a massive infrastructure build up manned by millions of disciplined workers; the software boom in India is the result of cumulative investment made by millions of middle class parents in providing their wards with engineering education.

Are Indian & Chinese creative? Fortunately the percentage of creative minds does not vary from nation to nation, and countries with billions of people have a natural advantage here. India and China do not have to produce creative people by genetic manipulations - all they have to do is ensure the creativity minds are not shut down at an formative age.

This brings us to the basic issue of education, primarily science education, of making science teachers great facilitators of learning. With information and communication technologies, multi media content, the time is ripe to do away with text books. Give them reference books and provide them with platforms to experiment (real or virtual) to keep their curiosity alive. Give them an 'opportunity to fail' and they will pay back in later life by not failing.


Article © 2009 Mr A.S. Rao. All rights reserved.

about the author...

Mr A.S. Rao

Mr A.S. Rao

affiliation:   Government Of India

position:  Adviser

country:  India

area of interest:  Open Innovation Network

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