The Future Of Innovation … The New Frontier Revisited

Dr Trevor Davis

Clearly the balance of power is shifting in the world beyond the current economic distress. There are new technologies and emerging business models, powerful global players in China, India and Russia, aspiring nations in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Latin America and the diffuse threats of terrorism and extreme ideologies. We have reached a further New Frontier and that requires a re-evaluation of the future of innovation.

In the past two centuries a technological revolution in agriculture led to a productivity explosion, followed by a similar expansion based on manufacturing goods. Many organizations have still not learned to fully exploit the value creation potential of those innovations and yet we are already in the middle of the next wave; that of service innovation and global integration, creating the largest labour force migration in human history and characterised by urbanization, pervasive communications and global resourcing.

In my view, the world is changing and an old era is ending. The old innovation thinking and methods will not do. The trend to open innovation is a first and strong indication of what we can do, but we need more. We need innovation for this New Frontier, bringing together open and “closed” models and more.

To be successful as innovators going forward we need the courage of our old convictions coupled with a collective and open willingness to challenge the status quo. To borrow from Senator John F. Kennedy at another time of paradign shift, “The motto of the American Old West was not ‘every man for himself’--but ‘all for the common cause.’” Those innovators (in so many dimensions) were determined to collaborate to craft a strong new order, to overcome uncertainty and difficulty and we need to adopt the same spirit for our innovation efforts. After all, if the innovation experts and enthusiasts don’t, who will?

Some will say that all of the innovation horizons have been explored and that more effective execution of existing approaches is all that is required. But few business leaders in my experience consider that their problems can be solved with contemporary approaches. So we stand today on the edge of this New Frontier--the frontier of goods into services, of changing demographics and political balance—and there are fresh opportunities for innovation and innovators.

Why should we rely on approaches developed for an older world, when there is clearly a chance to re-write the textbooks in the way that Robert Cooper (phases and gates) and Henry Chesborough (open innovation) have in their contributions over the past 25 years? Perhaps the future for innovation will be written by all who read this essay, a ‘wikipedia’ effort for the New Frontier.

Article © 2009 Dr Trevor Davis. All rights reserved.

about the author...

Dr Trevor Davis

Dr Trevor Davis

affiliation:   Ibm

position:  Global Expert Innovation

country:  United Kingdom

area of interest:  Business Model Innovation

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