What is top of your mind? Mine’s innovation

I’ve been watching the debate for the Presidency of the United States and thankfully the second one became a more ‘alive’ one, where you felt some real tensions on different issues. One of the most central discussion points was around jobs- creation, partly from bringing them back to America, and unleashing the Entrepreneurs from all that ‘crushing’ burden of bureaucratic ‘red’ tape but lacking in real specifics.

Innovation I noticed came to the rescue as that ‘certain’ word needed to be played, like a cloak you can hid behind, so the person waving its potential in magic dust will make us all feel happy,  that it will solve most of our problems. Apple was raised in the questions asked and how can the jobs overseas be brought back to the USA?   President Obama stated some of the jobs lost will not come back, those that are low skill, low wages and he wants to achieve high skill, higher earning jobs. I’m sure both candidates would want that and both know certain jobs will never come back.

Will Apple invest back in the United States in manufacturing unless there is a fundamental change in policy or consumer sentiment? They are more likely to invest on consumer sentiment than just policy alone, if it changed and suddenly there was demanded “I want home-made products, made within the US 100%” stamped upon them. Customers voting with their feet and wallets can deliver more than policy incentives alone. Pride of ownership might even replace status in ownership.

We need to turn the economic tide

The question for me as ‘top of mind’ is we still seem powerless to stop the economic flow away from US and Europe, unless we offer a really compelling message and put into place the structures, policies and incentive to achieve this, so people want to unite and then respond, otherwise we continue in ‘grid lock’, division and self-interest. We need a real call to arms- a rallying term used by proponents of a cause – and innovation needs to be at its centre. The smart building block based on knowledge acquisition, technology and entrepreneurs who see innovation as the new economic model.

In all I read and hear is that the very opposite is happening, the knowledge worker is either retiring, being marginalized by being placed in greater silos than ever and the influx of skilled workers or those that have potential, are hampered by not having the right skills to meet the roles being looked for. Equally they are being let down by the education system not positioning them to have these skills or to be prepared enough to satisfy potential employers.. Many people are simply in the wrong location, either within the country or where the jobs are within the world that might come, if the skills were available.

Both the USA and Europe are powers that are seemingly in decline and from what I see just simply don’t have even a half decent plan around innovation to pull us out of this deteriorating mess. Meanwhile in Asia and Latin America there is this ‘demand’ to move up the ‘food chain’, Governments are investing in education, in infrastructure, in offering modern facilities, a mobile work force and dangling powerful incentives to attract in the foreign investor. People across Asia and Latin America are hungry to progress while we in the West digress, distracted by hanging onto what we have in increasingly desperate ways.

Are we really tackling legacy?

The current system here in the West is largely a legacy one. Politicians, business leaders continue to defend, support and protect it. For a host of reasons, a legacy system continues to be supported in our Western societies and many are well past their really productive supported lifetime, resulting in growing support in maintenance challenges, huge lay-offs when reality finally hits home and little offered to replace it. Those within this current system still ‘extract’ from it, they need it because they either can’t see alternatives or simply can’t relate to the alternative. We need a grander plan and innovation vision to unite behind and move beyond supporting uncompetitive positions.

We are actually ‘locked-in’, dependent on legacies and creating the very barriers to make significant changes and alter this tide of the loss of jobs, wealth creation opportunities and this ‘dream’ sitting under the general ‘innovation’ banner. The ’emerging’ are being choked off by the structures that surround them, like weeds holding back their growth. It is little wonder they thrive but seem to when re-potted in a more conducive climate overseas.

We are all becoming increasingly unhappy and disenchanted with our politicians

What is happening we are all getting that uncomfortable feeling that perhaps we are not facing up to reality, maybe what we hang onto for far too long, is not relevant and will not get us back to the ways we had before. We get more confused. We get increasingly angry. We are not really being told the realities, as this might unleash forces difficult to control. We do need a debate on the future, not the past, not the present but the future. “I will create X jobs or I have a X point plan” is just not good enough, perhaps President Obama just can’t tell us the future as it is not what we want to hear. So we stay stuck in the present deluding ourselves. How about if we all jump together?

How about a burning platform?

To achieve in innovation, there is this wisdom you need a “burning platform”- a place where we are forced to jump from to save ourselves. In a recent blog written by Shideh Sedgh Bina, shew comments on the dangers of this approach in this blog.

“One wrong approach to innovation is called “burning platform,” a concept that is taken, literally, from oil platforms out in the ocean that had caught on fire. How do you survive a burning platform? You jump off it into the ocean. And you jump fast….

..That creates a sense of urgency, which can be effective. You can certainly burn up business as usual with this approach. But how do you sustain momentum once your people have jumped off the burning oil rig? You don’t.”

The article does sums up what was missing in the debate when the innovation card is played- where is sustaining?

Where Shideh’s article ends is what was missing from the debates, by both candidates for the Presidency, and that sums up where we are definitely NOT having a vision and action plan to move us forward. Until we hear from either of the candidates, in their policies or solutions, as well as in their understanding of what future we can have by simply offering “innovation” as the bland answer does not make anything compelling. It just is rhetoric.

“People have a deep desire to be a part of something that makes a difference. Something that is meaningful. Something that is great. And leaders have to tap into that to inspire their people to make things better, to innovate, and to stop operating in business-as-usual mode, because that will create a better environment for everyone..”

Let’s stop offering up “innovation” as our magic elixir unless we have clarity on what needs to be different and going to allow for a return to a more meaningful live. We can’t live with much more of our legacies, they are dragging us down. We will not recover much of our past infrastructure prowess, we need a far, far bolder “innovation machine” as the key to the future.

We do need a real awakening I feel not just being kept awake.

Those that can offer a future in vision and intent will achieve a real awakening and this will come from innovation, if it is well understood and well structured.

Ok, a little ‘reaction’ of mine

I reacted after from hearing innovation being used in the debate last night, simply lacking any real coherence on its value or meaning and what it can give to us for a belief in the future. I’m sorry, sometimes you have to start talking more on your  “top of mind” that keeps you awake at night.

I do claim innovation is 100% of my focus so I should expect a few restless nights thinking about where it can help and often feeling powerless that those in power simple don’t get it. They can certainly talk about it only when it is politically expedient for them to do so.

Innovation gets my vote but it has to be linked to a clear plan of its place and value in our future and we need to have leadership in this, not waffle. By the way that is not the square crisp pancake type, but that vague way, left to us all to feel vaguely happy but left unclear. Lets get a real all-embracing innovation plan that ‘projects’ forward so we can all identify with a more promising future….please.

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