A little bit of different thinking can influence your innovating future

Following on from the Innovation Futures project (www.innovation-futures.org) that I’ve been exploring recently, I would like to pick up on the way the authors clustered innovation into fourteen broad forms. They felt these offered the major trends and innovation patterns and I felt are worth high-lightening here so we can begin to think through the different innovation options we have available to us. So we can test innovations future within our own activities in a number of different ways.

The fourteen broad forms of ‘emerging’ innovation

Idea Generation – this can come in all shapes and sizes but it is really on how you link it. The interesting emerging pattern is in the way companies are identifying and adopting new ideas with their customers or partners. The ‘hook’ is to gain attention and draw in through often novel engagements the community that is ‘watching’ trends, such as with clothes and fashion, so these can become inspirational and be a source of new designs – a community tool for a specific industry. Idea generation is becoming deliberately designed and placed in clear context, to extract out its greater value from the knowledge that resides in all the places that feed from one another, wherever they are, those closer to the place of consumption, are closer to emerging trends, values and needs.

Innovation Culture – the different ways to allow creativity to flourish is prompting some very distinct cultures. Allowing increasing freedom of what to work upon, where to work, who to attract within your team and how each person works offers a more liberating environment. Equally this has its risks and some level of balance needs to be struck in how do you capture and move this along and not allow this knowledge to simply walk out of the door. How this balance between the chance to have freedom but work within the environment that ‘hosts’ this needs actively managing

User Integration – the user is increasingly becoming a more dominant focal point to drive innovation activities. How to effectively manage this is a real issue for the company to integrate, learn, respond and extract and provide value from these engagements back to all involved. The posting of concepts and encouraging increasing involvement really shifts the design of future innovation when the user applies their influence and when the company responds in making the change because it simply made sound sense.

Crowd-sourcing – the ability to tap into the crowd to accelerate understanding of products or services is a far more open innovation model. It can run from collecting as many ideas as possible to the one where highly specialised skill sets can come together and attempt to resolve a complex challenge. These work well with environmental and community issues especially, social issues where you try to engage across the wider community ideas that then can be worked upon or commented upon by others and eventually, the best ideas are evaluated by experts. Crowd-sourcing is moving across sectors where community engagement is becoming an important social and behavioural change mechanism, that will evolve rapidly more in the years ahead.

Closing Innovation – there is a growing reverse trend to open innovation. Working outside traditional organization borders is making highly selective choices with whom and what you work upon. The level of secrecy, the need to contain public knowledge or work below the radar of your competitors is partly driving this closing off. Many organizations have signalled through their research their intended directions and this openness has potential consequences. Research is increasingly specialised and expensive, so knowing who is working in this area and openly publicizing the intent can possibly cut future competitive edges. In today’s more frugal spending environment organizations are becoming more selective on what and whom they work with, driven far more by speeding up the commercialization process than just purely its research value. Open is reverting to being selective and working in closed but extended preferred networks.

Legal frameworks – The emerging of a more common patent structure across the European Union, the growing use of the “commons licence” is accelerating publication of valuable knowledge for others to build upon. The throwing open of some earlier IP into the broader community for them to freely use, combine and explore, for advancing the IP into commercial application will greatly accelerate. For example  selected medical patents and the research results being more open to different thinking might yield new drugs or approaches to broader health-related issues. This opening up and sharing can extend across public, business and cross-sector activities for re-purposing and remixing knowledge for better value and public use.

Public Innovation – the sharing across the broader community of citizen, business and the public sectors to encourage the development of finding and then working on new solutions needs far more cross-ministerial or professional bodies collaboration. To find ways to engage all  that are involved or can influence outcomes in tackling societal problems will become increasingly important for sharing and developing with each other. The identifying and discussing potential solutions early enough, so the process of exploring this, validating its contribution and learning how to scale this requires this broad and much earlier set of engagements across multiple interested parties, and this will need a far more focused project management, across often complex problems.

Social Innovation – This is for me one of the most “explosive” and exciting areas where innovation can happen across all levels of society At neighbourhood, community and across broader society we need to come together to tackle societal issues. I feel today it is being held back a little by theorists a little intent on redeveloping their personal wheel and not recognizing that establishing common toolboxes, practices and processes, that can be established and applied on more general approaches would benefit all. We seem to be in the stage of constant re-invention and not sharing enough. The organization of specialised knowledge, the understanding of what makes up good or emerging practices, having clear governance covenants and what attributes are valuable for scaling up, all need more work to enable social innovation to realize its real  necessary force.

Open design – the application of modular principles, proving the platforms and connected parts or the building blocks  for encouraging personalised fabrication is promoting more do-it-yourself allows this creativity to surface within each of us. The open design to bring together the software and hardware and make this more ‘freely’ available is again encouraging more collaboration to occur. Allowing more engagement of non-experts to take part will further lead to the democratisation of innovation across the broader society to feel engaged in innovation activity for their own benefit or realizing that creative spirit that lies within us all to explore and share

Global Knowledge Sharing – We are witnessing a rapid change in e-learning now. Education through on-line courses is challenging the established institutions. Again having global sites allowing exchanges, networking, contributing thoughts and ideas is changing the way we see and opening up avenues for new business opportunities. As we exchange between each other, we learn to grow and connect in new emerging ways. Those more supportive environments allow us to achieve within ourselves but also we need to  ‘give back’ in our diverse web of collective collaborations. This movement is tending to allow the aspirations of the individual to be seen and heard, not buried within the confines of the institutions or societies they ‘reside’. Global sharing can be liberating but it can also be bewildering on what sometimes you challenge to tear down does not easily have a replacement. Global sharing needs not just its positive forces to emerge but it needs some new levels of governance and structure to emerge as well, to build it more on a sustaining platform of community value, as well as driven by the personal one. It is easier to destroy than to build.

Attitudes to Innovation – The invention of having innovation marathons, or idea generating activities over a sustaining period of 24 hours or a weekend as these can generate positive advancements on problems or social issues and can much advance solutions when they are well structured in generating, translating and actively working on solutions within these contained periods of intensity.  The slow movement in food might also gather pace in innovation. The speed and intent of innovating is deliberately slowed down, or we simply go back to past innovation as more valued, more familiar. We begin to reject the “march of progress” for a growing hankering for the past as more authentic, more comfortable, more productive, more valued. The movement of ‘slow innovation’ can change our existing attitude of what innovation is actually about the application of use and not adding simply more features, and this might begin to shift the ‘race and pace’ of innovation into more sustaining value, function and lasting practice.

Shift in Innovation Gravity – the rapid shifts in the economics of the world is moving to the East, the West is struggling to grow its economies and tacking growing social problems of ageing, the issues of unemployment, decaying infrastructure, rising health costs, educational challenges by not adopting quickly enough to the new learning needs of a rapidly changing world and being more agile and adaptive in thinking and changing. The West seems in a series of ruts while the East is taking on the mantle of leading through desire and determination, experimentation and new knowledge freedom traits seemingly missing in the West. There is a different mental model of thinking emerging in the East applying frugal innovation, reverse innovation, design that meets growing aspiration price points to accelerate new innovation models and experimenting far more. These are attempting to tap into these aspirational desires that are shifting innovation increasingly away from Western monopolies. The shift may even consolidate even into the West becoming the followers not the leaders in many new innovation practices.

Life-cycle thinking in Innovation – the absolute need to apply innovation into sustainability of our resources will become a huge source of inventiveness and creativity. From managing our waste, from converting existing products into new ones, from extending the useful life into breaking down the parts for reuse all are active areas today. As society demands greater care of these dwindling resources of our planet the convergence of our economics, technology, social and environment understanding of what is valued will change. The economic value model will change. This will force designers and innovators to come up with new solutions such as waste-led innovations. The reputation and active participation in managing resource more thoughtfully will have a higher premium. As awareness grows of serious challenges across our planet the cradle-to-cradle aspects of considering the entire life-cycle will drive serious change to product management in its production, monitoring and designing so innovation is designed far more for the ‘extended’ life-cycle.

We need to manage innovation differently in the future

Each of these fourteen broad forms of innovation activity will challenge the accepted ‘norms’ of today’s present innovation practice. The implications need to be identified and thought through but each offers a real future potential for innovation to prosper and grow.

Innovation cannot remain contained within selective groups; it needs to be openly encouraged for wider engagement and identification.

Each of these broad forms will over time transform innovation as we practice it today and that is the value of this timely study of looking at innovation’s future.

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