The Future Of Innovation: Created By Connected Individuals

Prof. Elke den Ouden

Innovations in the future will be created by connected individuals. Currently there is a growing amount of people in R&D departments of companies that are feeling restricted in their thinking and access to external networks. The companies feel the need to stay secretive about what they are working on, to protect their intellectual properties. This secretive behaviour is necessary for certain innovations, like those that rely heavily on new technology development that require big investments in time and resources. But it drives out creative people that are inspired and driven by end-users. They start from the end-user perspective and want to create innovations that fit seamlessly in the lives of end-users, using whatever technology is available to design solutions. They are constantly looking around what is going on in the world, what end-users are doing and needing, and what technologies are available for new solutions. They integrate ideas into total systems comprising of products and services, staying focused on the end-user. They don’t want to compromise on usability or design, for reasons like: solutions that do not fit in the scope of the business, a technology that is not part of the companies own portfolio, a supplier that is not yet accredited or a new business partner that is not yet approved by management.

A further separation of people working in innovation can be expected. One group feels proud to work for a company and happily adjust to the inevitable restrictions, and uses creativity to maximise the solutions within the constraints. The other group will no longer accept the restrictions and leave the company to work as connected individuals. Their dedication to deliver meaningful solutions for end-users will drive the growth of their network. They will continuously look for people and companies to cooperate with to realise their dreams. They will find that it works best to cooperate with people with similar ambitions. They use their intuition to select soul mates for their network, without extensive trial projects to build trust. This will speed up the networking tremendously. The solutions generated by these communities will just be better fitted and more appealing to end-users and as such create their own success. The community will take care of the quality of the innovations by selecting those individuals that fit the profile. Like in the classic guilds, experienced masters will blend naturally with unbiased views and fresh ideas of apprentices. The future of innovation is with those connected individuals that together make a big difference.

Companies will recognise the power and complement their own development activities with the solutions that are brought by the community of connected individuals. The companies are part of the innovation and value chains that are required to bring the ideas to the global market. To be able to benefit from the communities they will have to nourish people who are loyal to the company, but are valuable member of the connected community at the same time.

Article © 2009 Prof. Elke den Ouden. All rights reserved.

about the author...

Prof.  Elke  den Ouden

Prof. Elke den Ouden

affiliation:   Philips Applied Technologies

position:  Manager Product Innovation

country:  Netherlands

area of interest:  Breakaway innovations, communities for innovation

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