The Hidden Human Dimension of Innovation

Why do so many of us get fixated on new technologies, discoveries, inventions, the process, the structures, even the art of creativity within innovation? Certainly each of these have their important contributing part to play in building a coherency for innovation, but the ingredient that tops them all and often forgotten or assigned as the afterthought is people. People making innovation work, all the rest are the enablers to help them.

The Australian Business Foundation published a report last year- the Hidden Human Dimensions of Innovation (http://www.abfoundation.com.au/research_knowledge) and in part of a speech given by its Chief Executive, Narelle Kennedy at an Innovation 2009 conference she spoke of this people factor.

Let me quote as her comments are really powerful and help encourage people to conceive that innovation is more of a social process first, and not a technical one so often a misconception of many.

People are innovation’s active ingredient, the catalyst that turns novelty into real benefits for economies and communities. Benefits like jobs, wealth, productivity and life-changing progress”

The role of people in innovation is a fact that remains hidden in plain sight. It is axiomatic – everyone says it and believes it, but few understand anything at all about the human factors in innovation”

- It is the pivotal role of people as innovation carriers – their networks, collaborations, knowledge flows, interactions and tacit knowledge – and how innovation itself is a potent competitive force that drives productivity”

People who innovate together capitalise on their tacit knowledge and informal know-how and on past strategic investments to “navigate the white-water risks” of innovation more successfully than their competitors.”

-  “It is tacit knowledge, accumulated experience and learning by doing result in a highly valuable intangible asset that boosts the innovation odds”

-  “(It is people who) form a community of practice with a clear intangible asset value in the form of intellectual capital and human capital”

-  “(People rely) on long term and sustained investments in strategic capacity-building and continuity of interpersonal innovation networks and gains in value by sharing and usage”.

Where I do feel Narelle Kennedy nicely sums up is a much needed re-think for innovation for it to really work and be valued for what it can truly offer comes from this statement:drawing on knowledge and creativity to add value in products and processes is an expansive view of innovation – new things or ways of working; knowledge and creativity; add value; products and processes – it is a dynamic view

Everything else today that does not place people in the centre of the innovation equation offers a dangerous misconception about innovation and why it should work.  It is our people that make it happen and we need to make innovation the social process it needs to be.

Original post was submitted to http://www.business-strategy-innovation.com/wordpress/2009/12/innovation-perspectives-hidden-human-dimensions/

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8 thoughts on “The Hidden Human Dimension of Innovation

  1. You have made an excellent point, Paul. I think that one reason that people are often not put at the center of innovation is because it is easier for most of us to deal with elements that can be discussed, evaluated and managed impersonally. Beyond collaboration and knowledge transfer (important in itself), the people elements of innovation truly dictate how new opportunities are conceived, get championed, obtain organizational support, overcome barriers/obstacles and reach market.

    Best regards,

    Michael

    • People are so undervalued and under invested in when it comes to the ‘spend’ on innovation. It simply gets lumped into general training and that is just not specific enough to be equipped for making significant innovation contributions.

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