Innovation that excites

NASA Space Shuttle Endeavour. Photo Credit FastLizard4
NASA Space Shuttle Endeavour. Photo Credit FastLizard4

Which one is the real aim of innovation? To make money, to improve citizens’ lives, or to impulse mankind towards the greatest achievements as species?

These ones could be great reasons to support innovation, however, most real innovation are done simply as the evolution of human organizations to improve the adaptability to the environmental changes.

Innovation, actually, is a process of adaptability to improve the effectiveness of the people and organizations.

I remember an old university professor of mine at a faculty of engineering that has a very curious hypothesis about innovation. He said to us that science does not advanced excessively when a smart person thinks about something, but when a lazy person starts to think, because the lazy person will develop a way to work less later, making easier the future work of the smart people.

This odd concept of innovation could seem less stupid if we use the typical language of consultants to define it. For instance, the following sentence could be applied to the same concept: “The most valuable innovations are those ones that increase the efficiency of the scientific process”.

Probably, I would never find a client as consultant using the former expression, but with the latter one most innovation managers could agree.

Analyzing in deeper this concept, we can find that neither money nor great social aims are the main drivers of innovation. The most important driver of innovation could be the efficiency (in terms of energy) of the adaptability to new activities imposed by the environment.

This concept can show us why some unionists hate innovation. Innovation would imply less work, and they can think that less work could drive finally to a lower number of jobs. However, this is a matter of language again. A good consultant would not talk about less work. He would use the expression “better working conditions” (more leisure time).

In engineering terms, less wasted energy is a great advance. A lot of engineering work is related to build machinery with less energy consumption. However, in political terms this could be considered a social problem if we do not find an attractive way to explain this concept to the illiterate.

Now, it should be interesting to analyze if money or life conditions are a matter of language when we are talking about innovation.

In economic terms, money is equivalent to energy. The concept of energy in engineering can be associated to the capability to provide a work, and all of us know that money can be easy turned into a manufactured good or a provided service, money as stored energy can be used to provide some kind of work.

On the other hand, in social terms, life conditions are not directly linked to efficiency but effectiveness. Here is where the smart people provide value related to innovation in front of the lazy one. Life conditions are improved when people can fit the environment in an easier way. In other words, functionality helps us to adopt environmental changes.

Innovation development is supported by two great pillars: functionality and performance using engineering terms, or scientific development and efficient processes using management terms.

But there is an additional thing that we have not considered yet. If there are a lot of ways to provide better life conditions or money, why are some of them successful and other ones are not? There must be something additional required for innovation.

We have begun to analyze it. Personal innovations do not improve society or it would not impulse mankind towards the greatest achievements as species, because they would die with the innovator.

From an economic viewpoint innovation has got a social component too. This is the market side of the innovation in enterprises and the political side of the innovation in public organizations.

From a social viewpoint, innovation is not only a way to solve a problem. It must be an exciting way to gain followers to be extended through the community of clients or citizens. That is the reason why the use of the proper language for a certain audience is so important. An innovation manager should dominate the language of scientists, engineers, managers, investors, economists and politicians to provide an effective personal work. To be a good scientist or a good politician is not enough to defend a certain innovation in a truly attractive way for all the people involved in the process that may support it. An innovation manager must know how to communicate the value of his managed innovation for a very diverse audience.


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