Going beyond the 5 bold steps offered to Reimagine the American Innovation Agenda

I have been reading a report written by Stephen J Ezell of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) along with a guru of innovation, John Kao, of ILSi on their concerns that something is amiss with the U.S. innovation system.

The report “Five Bold Steps Towards a Reimagined American Innovation Agenda“, written in February 2021, argues for embracing these five bold steps of story, stewardship, strategy, scaling, and system reimagine innovation for the decade ahead.

In all honesty, it is a little underwhelming, not just the bold but simple five steps but the short document of five pages. It assumes a position, and that is dangerous.

Their argument regarding innovation is that Americans have come to see U.S. leadership as a birthright, as a matter of course. In my view, they lost the leadership mantle for innovation years back. I totally agree it should and needs to come back as a bedrock of future growth, prosperity and dramatically altering today’s landscape.

The authors quite rightly recognize most innovation has drifted to the two coasts. U.S innovation has got fixated on technology as the ultimate solution (to all our ills). Partly, this is not wrong, but it cuts off all the different types of innovation the U.S needs. It needs a greater regenerative type of innovation; it needs to find ways to fund the incremental or distinctive needs to resolve local, national or logical problems when the time, inclination and appropriate funding can be made available.

Far too much of the investment money is chasing the big breakthrough. The chase for unicorns, fast scale, disrupting existing and constantly reiterating what is successful into the next version. Of course, having companies like Apple, Tesla, or whoever building on monopolies or technology prowess is great. Often this innovation is off the backs of poorer paid countries cranking out the final product, and I think of apple especially here. The money they make, where is this being invested back to build innovation capacity?

Clearly, with the Biden big deals flowing through, who will be hoovering up that money. Will it go to the entrepreneur sitting in the middle of the country, or will those there simply sit back and wait for the payouts and funding offered by the Government?

How is the middle of the country not going to avoid being further left behind as clean energy positions closer to its markets, the coasts and not account for the coal, steel and other heavy industries that can’t escape legacy within a bold reinvigoration plan? Hence why terming innovation reinvigorating allows for a different narrative to be built.

The authors claim, as step one, to reclaim the narrative. They leave it as stories needed that connects with citizens from all walks of society. I would argue firstly, is to find out the stories of the citizens and then build up the innovation narrative. Bottom-up, not top down. to bring positive change (regeneration). I think the U.S is way off what the authors talk of shared national purpose and share national values. Really with all the current destructive storylines, fake or blatant. Will this change? Will the U.S ever reforge a national narrative of shared purpose or values? That is questionable and some time out if it ever does. The idea of “catalytic aspirations”, “great purpose” sounds wonderful, does that gel with what is being faced today and every day by a majority?

Step two: We then get into empowerment, often as an innovator; I die a little hearing this. How often does empowerment really happen? What I like here is the harvest, organize and scale concept. But not through stewardship. America does have enormous innovation value lying in its foundations, institutions, and research bodies, but these are fragmented or lacking real national cohesion.  The authors are right, innovation remains less than the sum of the parts. Find a way to bring those parts together, for example, to transform energy or other big global challenges, and America will begin to find its way back to the top of the innovation pinnacle. Throwing money at a problem is not necessarily the answer but it certainly helps. Others less fortunate rely on ingenuity, then search for the money.

Their suggested steps three and four- develop a coherent national strategy seems so out of fashion in America. They point out disparate policies towards scientific research, technology, commercialization, information and communication technology, education and skill development, let alone tax, trade, intellectual property, government procurement and regulatory policies all need desperately fixing in some form of integrated fashions. Can they be pulled together, or is this too far gone, lost in individual ownership, funding or constraints?

The love of “making it scalable” I do not buy at this point in time. My counter-proposal is to make it accessible, and over time it will scale. We need engagement more than empowerment. Yet as they point out, 80% of the venture capital is in four U.S states. Equitable, fair, or even hope of changing this is not pitched on the scale, where investors articulate as a must. Going back to basics, funding these in local, highly focused ways gets closer to my accessible alternative. People want to start seeing growth in themselves, in their earning, in their self-esteem, and that needs to be local in new infrastructure, economic activity so the community gains and begins to pick up its vibrancy. Not in payouts those simply get spent on keeping going.

The investments proposed by the Biden administration in science, technology and R&D of $300 billion will go where. The key industries identified are all or mostly based on the two coasts. These are essential to fund, promote and develop as technology is one of the critical places that must have an American dominance to counter other parts of the world but with the high levels of foreign talent that eventually takes what they know back? What about tackling environmental, climate, and nature challenges on a similar scale?  These can be regenerating the middle of America.

The author’s last bold point to maximize human, intellectual and financial capital takes me back twenty or so years in all the discussions on leveraging the intangible capitals. I am far more in knowledge and nature capital but brought up to date centred around ecosystem designs, so they generate the whole not stay trapped in silos. Information, actionable, honest, believable information tied to knowledge access and relationship connections, will do as much more to restore innovation. Of course, the world needs STEM, but for its grassroots, it needs the rebuilding of Reputations & Trust, Culture & Values, Skills & Competencies that are not technically driven but non-technical.

I know what is wanted in America is a resurgence of its pioneering spirit. We all want that.

Applying these five bold steps might have many parts that need fixing to keep it globally competitive. Still, America’s innovation engine is so lumpy and firing on a few cylinders even with this call to action. Success in a few areas distorts and blinds those who are not seeing a continued hollowing out of any innovation and creativity based in America employed by Americans. These five steps are simply not enough, even to get the conversation flowing.

Innovation to take hold in America needs a deeper, broader fix. It needs to be inclusive but not on technology but on some of its oldest attraction points, hard work, adventure, pioneering, use of both hands and brain to thrive and renewal in itself.

These five bold steps don’t provide the force of change necessary. It needs far more Stephen and John.






Human-centred innovation in a digital world.

Today we are facing many current disruptions where we need to react fast and intelligently. There are many situations we are facing that is a race against time. As we continue to respond to Covid-19, technology has the power to reduce the complexity often faced, speed up and contribute to solutions that help resolve pressing issues.

We recognize that equally as important as the technology are the people using the technology. Having people at the centre of designs enables more intelligent, rapid and lasting innovation.  The Digital Twin is where data from the physical and virtual world come together and is increasingly where people and technology come together to resolve many of today’s challenges.

Applying human-centred innovation

Tony Hemmelgarn, the CEO of Siemens Digital Industries Software, presented “Human-centred Innovation” at the Hannover Messe show (April 12th to 16th, 2021), which was held in a virtual environment. Continue reading

Building the Coordinates into your Innovation World

Most of us are very aware that Innovation can be fairly complex in what needs to be pulled together to take an idea or concept into a finished product.. We are also aware innovation often ‘flies’ in contradiction to the normal organization’s ways and wishes, especially the emphasis on working in structured, efficient and productive ways. Innovation can often be rather chaotic and discovery driven, it often is seen as counter-productive to the orderly state our organizations wish to achieve.

Yet it is that randomness, that serendipity, that sudden discovery that needs a different way of thinking and organizing innovation. It can still be well-structured and effective but it needs the opportunity to allow in accidental discovery, by-chance conversation, fortuitous moments that just seem to happen and occur as you are “open” to them. You need to have both structure and unstructured aspects to allow innovation to happen, evolve and eventually shape towards an outcome that changes the current status quo. Innovation should always challenge and question this status quo.

One of the useful ideas of using an external resource is to put additional coordinates into your innovation world, they see contradictions in a different way. They can assist in working through the conflicting signals, so as to help align innovation in helpful and thoughtful ways. Certainly, the innovator’s role is not an easy one inside the structured world of larger business entities.

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Innovation Capital Lies Within Organizational Learning

We need to know how to unlock the real value of innovation both personally and within the organization, we work for. If we do not fully understand where the innovation capital comes from, how new capital and stock can be provided, innovation will remain tentative, always stuttering along.

Innovation will lack that essential organization innovation rhythm, and it will stay disconnected for many and will be frustrating your own evolution in understanding if it does not become an organizational learning need.

I’d like to offer a fresh view on building your own innovation capital. Continue reading

Nesta’s Landscape of Innovation Approaches

You sometimes need to kick yourself. Well in my case that seems to be increasing by the day. I have to confess I have drifted in and out of checking on Nesta, based in the UK. Different reasons, different focus areas partly although innovation keeps us together, well me checking in on them, I’m not so sure it is the same their end.

Nesta is an innovation foundation. They state: “For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality. It also means changing lives for the better. This is what keeps us awake at night and gets us out of bed in the morning” They work in areas where there are big challenges facing society, from the frontiers of personalized healthcare to stretched public services and a fast-changing jobs market. They cover a lot of ground and provide some very sound advice along the way.

One of their team, Bas Leurs, who is their head of learning experience design, has been working on “A Landscape of Innovation Approaches“. I read version one in February 2018 and did not pick up on version 2, published as a blog in December 2018. Hence, why I kicked myself. Continue reading

Extending innovations value- appreciating the whole system.

There is always a time to reflect. It is when you have those spaces within your daily work you must take a view, a break, consider something that builds your energy up some more, to make it more resilient.

Do you stop and reflect, do you “veg” out, do you seek alternative points of stimulus or find something completely different to go and do, read a book, listen to music, take a walk, climb a mountain or simply tune-out. We need a time out for reflection.

Well, I had a reflective moment on some points I consider within innovation that need re-emphasizing.

So my reflective points were these as we always should consider the whole connected system of innovation. Continue reading

So CX + DX needs IX for the transformations we need

We are on the brink of a transformation, a global one that connects us into information, knowledge, and insights in ever-powerful ways. thanks to the digital internet. We are also exploring the use of Artifical Intelligence (AI) more than ever.

BCG suggests that nine out of ten companies in their recent survey for the report “The Most Innovative Companies 2019” are investing in AI. BCG also suggests that 30% of those surveyed believe AI will have the greatest impact of any innovation area on their industry over the next three to five years.

We are also seeing the emergence of platforms and ecosystems radically changing how we collaborate and invent, design, solve issues from a changing shift in cooperation understanding. Platforms are fueling new business initiatives as they learn to engage across the whole value chain spectrum, from customer to delivering back the needs of that customer.

It is our technology being applied through new approaches that are galvanizing the new potential within innovation.

As we learn to orchestrate the underlying technologies, learn to build helpful applications, establish these software platforms this is beginning to become attractive as a new place for integrating, exchanging and collaborating. There is the talk of “the network effect” (Metcalfe’s Law) whereas more participants engage on platforms or in ecosystems and exchange, the more the value goes up and the community participating gets increasingly more out of the value of the “combined” thinking, data and insights. It has huge potential to generate new levels of innovation, ones that are more connected, more seamless and more what the customer wants.

So we come to CX + DX, it needs IX

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Finally a framework to manage holistically Industrial Revolution 4.0

Introducing the Smart Industry Readiness Index Prioritization Matrix

I was really pleased to watch the official launch of the Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI) with its addition of the Prioritization Matrix at Hannover Messe on Monday 1st April 2019.

This will become a very useful and relevant management planning tool to help manufacturers worldwide to determine and prioritize their necessary areas of focus with all the digital initiatives, based on an Industry 4.0 Maturity and their current performance.

This tool or readiness prioritization index has a real potential to finally bring organizational wide awareness and common language identification. It can help implementation in a number of significant ways.

This has been pioneered by The Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), a very formidable Government entity within the development of Singapore over the years, and in consultation and growing support, from McKinsey & Co, SAP, Siemens, and TüV SüD.

The framework is a very systematic and I feel, a robust way, to focus on what matters to you in your own Industrial Revolution 4.0 journey (IR4). So often organizations do not have a clear vision, strategy or can develop a systematic roadmap for this form of transformation. It becomes overwhelming and a real challenge of where to start. Often the more you read, seek advice, the more you get confused. Continue reading