The Future Of Innovation ... Up Close And Personal

Dr Bettina von Stamm


I believe we need to address 3 disconnects in order to achieve the kind of innovation necessary to have a future.

1.     The disconnect between innovation output and input

We need to move from innovation that is driven by what is technically possible to innovation that is driven by what is necessary and desirable from the society's point of view.  We hear a lot about customer focus and latent consumer needs that should help to achieve more people-centric output of innovation but I believe that we also need a more people-centric approach to understanding innovation input.  What I am talking about is a deeper understanding of what prevents us as human beings form developing, pursuing and accepting radical solutions.  This aspect of human nature has been captured rather well by Niccolo Machiavelli "Nothing is more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.  Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.

2.     A disconnect of individual and organisation

On the one hand we increasingly see bottom-up movements, a willingness to seek change and take action, on the other hand we find increasing levels of disengagement and apathy inside organisations and institutions.  We hear talk about 'us and them', and what organisations do to us - seemingly forgetting that organisations are made up of individuals, people like us. As a result we see voice activated telephone answering systems that everyone hates.

We hear talk that 'they' must change, occasionally that 'we' must change but not often that 'I' must change.  We should listen to Mahatma Gandhi who said: "You need to be the change you want to see in the world."

3.     A disconnect of decision and implication

I believe that we see the decisions we do because decision makers are 'protected' from observing and feeling the consequences of their own decisions. How many of the bosses who deciding to 'loose' 20% of their workforce are facing the individuals who are being made redundant?  Those who do are generally only executing orders.  As Jawaharlal Nehru said, "It is only too easy to make suggestions and later try to escape the consequences of what we say."

What to do about it?

1.      Acknowledge human's resistance to change and find ways to address concerns; Motivational and inspirational approaches to engaging people in change are more powerful than using fear and control.  People do not so much resist change as being changed.  As Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1944) author and pilot said in his book The Little Prince, "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

2.      Imbue a sense of responsibility - not only for the self but also for the implications of one's actions - in every individual.  Or to speak in the words of Eric Fromm "The longer we continue to make the wrong decisions, the more our heart hardens; the more often we make the right decisions, the more our heart softens - or better perhaps, becomes alive."

In order to minimise negative consequence or our actions we need to understand implications for planet, people, and profit (= the systems level); or in the words of Iroquois Wisdom: "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations."



Article © 2009 Dr Bettina von Stamm. All rights reserved.

about the author...

Dr Bettina von Stamm

Dr Bettina von Stamm

affiliation:   Innovation Leadership Forum

position:  Catalyst & Director

country:  United Kingdom

area of interest:  understanding and enabling innovation

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other books and writings by

Dr Bettina von Stamm

Innovation Wave - meeting the corporate challenge

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Managing Innovation Design & Creativity

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