Toward Meaningful Innovation

Image © Feng Yu

Image © Feng Yu

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  All organisations have inherent risks and rewards. There are risks and rewards embedded in playing it safe, keeping the status quo or pursuing the ‘big get’.  Risk and reward are the yin and yang inherent to any venture.   Investors often choose to avoid risk in favour of securing

 

All organisations have inherent risks and rewards. There are risks and rewards embedded in playing it safe, keeping the status quo or pursuing the ‘big get’.  Risk and reward are the yin and yang inherent to any venture.

 

Investors often choose to avoid risk in favour of securing the highest return on investment in the shortest period of time.  To achieve this, their evaluation of Intellectual Property (IP) tends to rely on the optimisation of financial performance through linear-thinking, quantitative analysis, market projections, and past success. While creators are often left with no choice but to accept onerous terms in the form of fiscal and/or other non-economic trade-offs in order to have their designs realized.

 

What is the result of such “short-terminitis”?

 

It is the one of many investors who dictates what type of innovation comes to market.  Any creative and social value that cannot be translated into commercial terms is lost.  Most potentially innovative ideas, large or small, do not see the light of day — in particular those creations of the human intellect that are “value-adding” in a more meaningful way.

 

IP frequently relies on taking a leap of faith.  Most examples are untested and impacted by broader influences that determine their long-term success.  These influences are brought to bear in the current paradigm shift driven by the transformation of values in “Western” society.

 

While some would acknowledge we are expressing disquiet for an ever-deepening state of crisis, cultural theorists Timotheus Vermeulen and Roben van Akker (2010) argue we are in an emerging period of metamodernism.  We oscillate like a pendulum, back and forth, between the two opposing extremes of modern values (e.g. hope and sincerity) and postmodern values (e.g. doubt and irony).  All the while longing for a future, yet knowing that future is ultimately problematic. Nevertheless, the constant repositioning of ideas, concepts and discourses occasionally swings beyond the poles, creating something new.

 

Economists Umair Haque and Michael Porter both argue that the current vision of Capitalism is broken.  There is loss of confidence in Capitalist institutions and in their leaders across society that is weakening our sense of shared purpose.  Their ideas, inherited from the Industrial age, are now obsolete, focusing on a very narrow definition of profit and value creation.

 

Hagel, Brown and Davison (2009) argue that in shifting disposition, organisations can harness the potential of pull.  A redesign of roles, relationships and governance structures will bring participants in society together toward productive efforts.  Rebooting the system through the use of ‘institutional innovation’ would yield more powerful value.

 

If creators and investors strive to be more conscious of why things change, and reflect upon how things change, there would be less waste and more meaningful engagement with people and products. Thackara (2006) suggests we use fresh lenses to perceive the world – a microscope and a macro scope.  With this approach to innovation, people can be designed back into the situation.

 

Overturning or redefining our understanding of value may be the key to aligning stakeholders toward meaningful innovation.

 

Almost everyone is a user and potential creator of IP.  Engaging society in the dialogue would allow us to apply a fresh lens.  Perhaps it is time for institutes of higher education in the arts like Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design to be thought leaders in starting the dialogue.  Through critical thinking, exploration and experimentation, a broader, more holistic definition can be conceived.  A clear purpose and shared understanding of what that value ought to be would resolve stakeholder tension and ensure we only bring to market what really matters.