What’s the buzz?
Google the word innovation and 92 million results come up. Google creativity and you get 41 million entries. On Amazon innovation brings up over 145,000 references.
Search engine fever?
Not really. We looked at four prominent English language business and economics magazines from June to August 2010. We found 80 articles in Fortune, as many in Business week, many more in Forbes magazine and 33 in The Economist.
The Economist has run articles on business innovation, state investment in innovation and innovation in education. It features articles on the effectiveness of innovation prizes, “frugal innovations” designed to improve the lives of impoverished Africans, “social innovation” and transforming the way public services are provided.
The Fortune articles are varied, though focusing more on entrepreneurs, including Muhammad Yunus who implanted his idea of micro-finance for poor populations in developing countries. Another article focuses on the process of “reverse innovation” whereby innovations that are successful in poor countries, are made successful in richer countries too.
Business Week has an entire section dedicated to innovation and a ranking of the most innovative companies. It also features innovation in advertising, commentary on organizational flexibility and agility to make innovation happen and “open innovation” – bridging internal and external resources and executing the innovation opportunities that arise from this combination.
Forbes magazine is also a prolific user of the buzzword, with much substance to accompany including the experiences of executives with innovation such as dealing with failure and innovation in difficult times.
Yes, there is a buzz.
Why the buzz?
Here are some reasons:
• The pace of change is accelerating – every new year is faster than the one before, and nobody has experience of a time when change was faster than today
• Complexity is increasing rapidly – a trend that is likely to continue and that is best countered with creative competencies
• Innovation is a true source of competitive advantage
• Innovation is the only legal way to keep a monopoly going
• An organization’s creativity may be the only thing that cannot be imitated (though as the art of copying is accelerating too, one must be the more innovative to keep ahead)
• As we see stagnant behemoths die, we recognize that innovation is necessary for the survival of an organization, perhaps for all organizations
• The most progressive organizations have realized that individual creativity, an essential component of business innovation, is developable and can be taught and learnt
• The most progressive organizations have understood that certain structures and cultures are necessary to promote innovation in a sustainable and continuous way
Today we have good academic research and solid evidence from the business world demonstrating the value of innovation for shareholders, for employees, for society. While many will debate the “how” of innovation (Strategy, processes, systems, behaviors, values etc) there is little contest for the “why”?
On the “how”, there may of course be differences in emphasis as the innovation-drivers, hard and “soft” factors are interpreted by organizational leaders. For a comprehensive “how” model see The Art of Innovation at www.theartofinnovation.net