Innovation is Everywhere

There are several sources of innovation. It can occur as a result of a focus effort by a range of different agents, by chance, or as a result of a major system failure.

According to Peter F. Drucker, the general sources of innovations are different changes in industry structure, in market structure, in local and global demographics, in human perception, mood and meaning, in the amount of already available scientific knowledge, etc.

Original model of three phases of the process of Technological Change

In the simplest linear model of innovation the traditionally recognized source is manufacturer innovation. This is where an agent (person or business) innovates in order to sell the innovation.

Another source of innovation, only now becoming widely recognized, is end-user innovation. This is where an agent (person or company) develops an innovation for their own (personal or in-house) use because existing products do not meet their needs. MIT economist Eric von Hippel has identified end-user innovation as, by far, the most important and critical in his classic book on the subject, The Sources of Innovation.

The robotics engineer Joseph F. Engelberger asserts that innovations require only three things:

  1. A recognized need,
  2. Competent people with relevant technology, and
  3. Financial support.

However, innovation processes usually involve: identifying customer needs, macro and meso trends, developing competences, and finding financial support.

The Kline chain-linked model of innovation places emphasis on potential market needs as drivers of the innovation process, and describes the complex and often iterative feedback loops between marketing, design, manufacturing, and R&D.

Innovation by businesses is achieved in many ways, with much attention now given to formal research and development (R&D) for “breakthrough innovations”. R&D help spur on patents and other scientific innovations that leads to productive growth in such areas as industry, medicine, engineering, and government.[19]Yet, innovations can be developed by less formal on-the-job modifications of practice, through exchange and combination of professional experience and by many other routes. The more radical and revolutionary innovations tend to emerge from R&D, while more incremental innovations may emerge from practice – but there are many exceptions to each of these trends.

Information technology and changing business processes and management style can produce a work climate favorable to innovation. For example, the software tool company Atlassian conducts quarterly “ShipIt Days” in which employees may work on anything related to the company’s products. Google employees work on their own projects for 20% of their time (known as Innovation Time Off). Both companies cite these bottom-up processes as major sources for new products and features.

An important innovation factor includes customers buying products or using services. As a result, firms may incorporate users in focus groups (user centred approach), work closely with so called lead users (lead user approach) or users might adapt their products themselves. The lead user method focuses on idea generation based on leading users to develop breakthrough innovations. U-STIR, a project to innovate Europe’s surface transportation system, employs such workshops. Regarding this user innovation, a great deal of innovation is done by those actually implementing and using technologies and products as part of their normal activities. In most of the times user innovators have some personal record motivating them. Sometimes user-innovators may become entrepreneurs, selling their product, they may choose to trade their innovation in exchange for other innovations, or they may be adopted by their suppliers. Nowadays, they may also choose to freely reveal their innovations, using methods like open source. In such networks of innovation the users or communities of users can further develop technologies and reinvent their social meaning.

Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic. The term was coined in 1967 by Edward de Bono.

According to de Bono, lateral thinking deliberately distances itself from standard perceptions of creativity as either “vertical” logic (the classic method for problem solving: working out the solution step-by-step from the given data) or “horizontal” imagination (having many ideas but being unconcerned with the detailed implementation of them).

I get awestruck to notice people innovating to overcome the daily mundane problems around them. Truly inspiring and invigorating to my engineering mind.

About Deepak Devanand

Seeker of knowledge
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