Innovation is all good. Isn’t it …??

We all want innovation, don’t we? The latest gadget, the more efficient manufacturing technology, a more competitive business model, prosperity and social development for all. That’s all very positive, right?

Well, then think about terms like disruptive innovation, or creative destruction. They speak a different language. So maybe innovation is not all only positive? Maybe? Definitely!

We usually have predominantly positive connotations when talking about innovation. Now take a step back and look at the immediate outcome of innovation: change. What are your connotations regarding change? They might be positive (if change is good for you), they might be negative (if change goes against your ideas and objectives). In essence, we are fairly aware that change can be both, positive and negative, depending on your perspective. What might be good for you could be bad for me. There cannot always be a win-win solution.

We understand that concept when talking about change, but we seem to ignore the downside of innovation. And then manage to wonder about the stiff resistance innovation often is met with. Shouldn’t we simply be honest to ourselves and acknowledge that innovation has negative impact?

Take yet another look: the purpose of innovation is generating value for those that implement it. That sounds very positive, doesn’t it? Well, generating value might have two different sources: ideally, value could be created anew, e.g. through an entirely new business model that opens up a new market segment that didn’t exist before (think mobile in all its early facets). But more often, value is generated through reallocation. That means that the value I gain is the value somebody else looses. For that somebody, my innovation is even a hostile act, because it destroys his value.

I think that it is important to have an open discussion about the downsides that innovation has. No intention to paint things black, but a more balanced view of innovation would be an essential stepping stone for anticipating and understanding the resistance that often constrains and limits the adoption of innovation.

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Comments

  1. I agree with you, there are many undesirable consequences of innovation, one that comes up often it seems is myopia that leads to wrong assessments.

    Equally as innovation is often ime-lagged it becomes often too difficult to study, have different levels of complexity and effect to easily describe, usually the vested interest tends to ‘win the day’ and you get into always the debates on the reliability of the measurement of “what is undesirable?”

    Yes innovation has its dark sides I’ve written a few times on this
    http://paul4innovating.com/2012/03/01/the-innovating-era-creative-destruction-or-destructive-creation/
    http://paul4innovating.com/2011/09/12/seeking-innovation-productivity-through-creative-destruction/
    http://paul4innovating.com/2012/01/23/those-disruptive-moments-when-you-simply-need-to-let-go/

    Regards
    Paul

    • Dear Paul,

      thanks for the constructive feedback. And especially the hint to your earlier thoughts on the subject. Will read with pleasure.

      On the “undesirable”, I feel that deserves more attention than it receives usually, because everybody gets immediately focused (myopia again) on the benefits. Too few thinking goes into the collateral effects. I’ll keep that on my list

      Thanks for the inspiration.
      Ulf

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