So how will we Innovate in the Future?

by Paul Hobcraft

In two short posts I have extracted a couple of strands of thought that might provide us some pauses in our thinking of where innovation might be heading for its consequences and implications and what this might mean for each of us. This is the first.

Evidence is all around us, that there are changing innovation patterns, more evolutionary than radical, taking place. There are new forms of innovation that are offering novel emerging concepts, ideas and strategies of how innovation is becoming organized or possibly will be.

Due to the enormous acceleration of innovation, companies have focused far more on the trend to “over-engineer” their products in order to stay that little bit more competitive. They have often tended to lock into incremental improvements and thereby have been losing track of their main objectives: to be able to reap the benefits of their innovativeness and to meet their customers’ real needs. We are falling short of transforming through innovation.

A Foresight Project on Innovation

A report, undertaken between 2009 and 2112 and covering 144 pages, has been coordinating views on innovation and its possible future direction. This was funded by the EU FP7 on a foresight project on the future of innovation (INFU). It can be explored under the web page www.innovation-futures.org

Our first ‘pause’ is the seven dimensions of change for us to manage:

There will be new forms of coordination and mediation – existing models will be challenged by growing coordination mechanisms, such as self-organizing communities or web-based co-design platforms. These today are seen to be on the rise. The emerging ones will present challenges on who is in control of these. The present reality is that our business organizations are not well set up in the emerging competences required, suffer considerable inertia and in-grained difficulties and barriers to change their cultures, to learn and adapt.

There will be a wider participation with the increasing trend of citizens and customers gaining increasing relevance to influence innovation, both in deciding the priorities and contributing to the innovation process. Co-creation will require more instruments, tools and techniques’ to enable this effectively. They are warning too much participation and too little coordination may slow down the innovation process and this growing consensual solutions ends up offering even lower innovativeness.

The motivation for innovation will be changing. The dominant aspect up to now has been company profits but with growing and complex societal and environmental problems becoming increasingly important, these will influence and become far more the driving force to innovate. This will push organizations to develop even more new (hybrid) business models to integrate all the parties making up part of these complex solutions, in the balancing out of the monetary with the non-monetary returns. We will also test the limits of participation.

The increasing use of technology and software will seek ways to automatize innovation far more, where the current “creep” of algorithms, web crawler technology or simulation techniques to access market potential and others, will have the increased implication on the place and what’s left in space for human creativity. Equally the increased security issues and maintenance of these will be equally at some degree of variance with human imagination.

There will be a growth of grand challenges but as eco-innovation pushes up the agenda we will likely see a growing movement towards sustainable solutions balancing production and consumption far more, or imposing constraints so more circular flows of cradle-to-cradle innovation becomes the possible model to control. Again we need to reflect on where scaling, transfer and standardisation come into play. Seeking optimisation becomes one of the biggest challenges to tackle.

A possible move towards an innovation society? We will also begin to change within society on the perception of creativity? Do we become more of an innovation society but as we explore this we might have growing negative aspects of innovation fatigue or heaviness in the leadership expecting innovation.

Lastly the significant shifts taking place of where innovation will eventually reside. Will the West become more of the fast follower, the adapter to the innovations emerging from the East? Where will the regional shifts take innovation, how will this evolve? Is the current innovation approach regarded as too ‘Western’ and the East modifies or changes our thinking and approaches to how we innovate? We are equally moving more towards GLocalisation in design, approaches and solutions. There will be a race to anchor ‘specific capabilities’ into a country or a region will become more intense in the immediate as well as long term future.

I think these all have growing implications for thinking through innovation. They each offer challenges, risks and opportunities. What is sure is that the pace and direction of innovation will change as the pressure to consider societal needs become increasingly important.

We need to also look far more at the unintended and negative consequences of the consistent, increasingly relentless demand for innovation. It risks having a growing undesirable aspect that needs increasing awareness and factoring into the push for “anything new”.

What do these seven dimensions have as our opportunity for us to consider?

image credit: innovation-futures.org

Wait! Before you go…

Choose how you want the latest innovation content delivered to you:

Leave a Reply