I did a quick Google search using the keywords “the value of innovation ” and the first result is:
Innovation is “the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay.”
In the mission-driven sector, an innovative approach is transforming an established practice that enhances an organization's mission, while earning revenue for the organization, as stated in this blog post by Mission Capital.
Basically, you have to have a good idea that people will use and pay money for.
We hear the word “innovation” often used with startup companies and especially with technology-enabled startups. Even here at Toolbox LA, we tout ourselves as SoCal’s largest innovation hub. For us, innovation is a core value and we continuously strive towards providing the best space with resources that allow entrepreneurs to innovate.
With all intentions aside, let’s dive deeper into what innovation actually is.
How do we know if what we are building is truly innovative?
Should innovation be a core value for a company?
Should society deem innovation valuable?
Where on the totem pole of values does innovation rank?
Above or below justice?
That’s even assuming one considers justice an important value. Can innovation exist without complementary core values such as trust and transparency? When looking at the future of innovative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, then the answer is most certainly not. If indeed we are to place innovation at the top of our totem pole of values, then we must guarantee that we are aligned with values that enhance innovation for the greater good and not just personal monetary gain.
A recent blog post by innovation consulting agency Kromatic explored the vagueness surrounding “innovation”, mainly stating it exists because we often confuse it with “invention.” The author explicitly states that the difference between the two is fundamental to understanding the value of innovation. He goes on to say:
“Invention refers to a single product or service. To invent is to create something that has not existed before. An invention is a product or service that is fundamentally new. Innovation is a process.
To innovate is to combine business model elements into a novel configuration that delivers more value than the individual elements. It is the process of creating a business model that’s new and sustainable at any given scale.
Very simply put: If invention is creating a product, innovation is creating a business.”
As we all know, when innovation is perceived as a core value important to the progression of society, then innovation will thrive within a certain geographical location or in certain organizations.
There’s something exciting about taking what is not possible and then suddenly making it possible with either a click of a button or a few simple steps. If someone invents a product but no one else uses it, then how is that helping society? Maybe a better question to ask is if no one invents products, then how will we progress humankind?
Investors certainly reward innovation. The media extensively covers it, there are countless media outlets dedicated to exclusively covering the latest companies, gadgets, apps, and so forth.
Let’s take a look at the world’s greatest innovator, Leonardo Da Vinci. I recently attended an exhibit showcasing all of Da Vinci’s ideas and creations and it was quite marvelous. This man continually built, sculpted, sketched, painted, and mostly created things that were not that useful. But the few that actually were found useful truly changed the trajectory of history. His consistent look at the laws of science and nature pushed boundaries on what was thought possible. “Learning never exhausts the mind,” is one of his most famous quotes. If we stop learning, we stop innovating and then we stop moving forward. If we are not moving forward we are stagnant and if we are stagnant then that only means we are regressing.
Looking ahead to the future, we know there is much innovation needed around the way we operate. The future is already here and we aren’t ready for it, apparently. Our current situation with the stay at home order is showing us how unprepared we as a collective society are in regards to adopting new practices and technologies. The future usually comes at us slowly and in predictable cycles. But in 2020 it came at us like a wrecking ball.
When innovation moves slowly it gives society time to adjust. The process of adoption over time is typically a bell curve, with the innovators, the early adopters, the late adopters and the laggards. Most people I know are innovators and early adopters, depending on the environment, although I think I am going to be a laggard when it comes to Tik Tok.
What’s to say about the vast job loss that was inevitable from e-commerce, automation, and computing? The robots are taking our jobs. Media outlets have been saying this for years. Economic forecasts state that almost 40% of jobs will disappear in the next 10 years due to automation.
What do we do about it?
The answer: continue to innovate. And continue to build ecosystems that support innovation that value inclusion and diversity. This will ensure we level the playing field and build up society.
What is an ecosystem?
It’s not about people or places specifically, but rather on the relationships between them, the exchange of information and resources that make a sustainable system. What is important is the relationship between the elements, not simply a list of the elements themselves. The elements must be interacting in some meaningful way by exchanging resources and information.
Right now we have the opportunity to rebuild society in a progressive way to ensure our most vulnerable are not left behind. If innovation is truly a core value, then we must also value people. We must create products and services that help improve our standard of living, regardless of socioeconomic status.
My only hope is that entrepreneurs continue to innovate and solve problems in a way that brings us together, as opposed to driving us further apart.