Innovation and Technological Transformation

Every generation must contend with profound political, economic, social and above all, technological transformations. They not only change long-held assumptions about our future economic prospects but also create new expectations about human advancement and social progress. Yet the breadth and velocity of technological innovation appears equally inspiring and empowering as well as disruptive and ominous. Context, culture and circumstance all play a role in creating a positive or negative reaction.

For example, on one hand, a new era of industry advances in data analytics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience and unconventional energy is transforming business, industries and economies. On the other, societal concerns such as structural unemployment, income inequality, skills training and national competitiveness are being framed in the context of technological innovation. The challenge is to arrive at a shared understanding of innovation and an awareness of how it can generate greater value for all for the people we serve, the organizations we lead and the societies to which we belong.

Distinguishing between complicated and complex systems becomes even more important when looking at the future of innovation from the vantage of a globally competitive company. In their new book, Tackling Complexity, management experts Gilbert Probst and Andrea Bassi contend that such differentiation is critical, and that complexity is relevant for the private sector as “the patterns of demand and supply from emerging countries are evolving, technology is developing rapidly, and energy and natural resource prices are highly volatile.” They also warn that such a spiral of complexity “may frighten decision makers, or they may be unable to appreciate and understand it,” which in term may slow or even hinder innovation, particularly in larger companies. Countering such a reaction requires emphasizing and reminding the aspirational and inspirational impact that the quest for innovation provides for an organization.

So, with all of this – what should businesses be doing today to prepare for and take advantage of new models that come from the range of innovations and disruptive technologies coming at us:

When many people hear the word innovation they immediately think of technology innovations but that is only one kind of innovation.

To get to big innovative breakthroughs – we need to understand the nature of innovation and that Innovation goes beyond new product development or new technology.

When we hear the word innovation we often think of technology invention but that is only one kind of innovation.

Innovation goes beyond new product development or new technology and addresses the creative capability of our people in all areas of our organization.

You must capture multiple forms and sources of innovation to be competitive and to have breakthroughs in thinking and models that leads to technology breakthroughs.

You must capture multiple forms and sources of innovation to be competitive

  • Patent searches show that 1% or less of all innovation is based on new inventions
  • 80% of Innovation is not Technical
  • 99% of Innovation is not Invention! *

Social Systems means the management actions coupled with the practices, processes, structures and systems created in your organization that enable and sustain a climate of innovation – and yes, any of these can be innovative.

Market Extension means either meeting a need in the marketplace where no solutions exist or adapting an existing product for a new market. An example of this is Arm and Hammer Baking Soda. The company extended its use as a baking product to offer it as a refrigerator deodorizer.

Business Models means reconfiguring how business is conducted. An example of this might be eBay, although many companies have changed business models to improve profits or make transactions simpler. In the case of eBay, they created an international classifieds website to allow buyers and sellers to come together in a very seamless way by facilitating the entire transaction including transferring the funds from the buyer to the seller.

Process Improvement: Streamlining their business to be more effective, efficient and productive; resulting in work being easier, faster, more accurate and reliable, more integrated, and less expensive. Wal-Mart is a master of supply chain management and inventory control. They vastly improved the way retailers order merchandise and manage their inventories.

System Solutions: Rethinking and integrating current systems or generating new systems to solve existing problems within a business or supply chain.  FedEx operates its own aircraft, depots, posting stations and delivery vans to ensure overnight delivery of packages.

Product Improvement: Improvements to products in ways that allow companies to be more competitive, create new value to the customer, and increase productivity.  Xerox, once a copy company expanded their product to include printers, fax machines and all-in-one technologies to help make their customers more efficient.

Technology Invention: Product creation and development with a new core technology or new generation breakthroughs. Apple has been a leader in new technology invention with its series of handheld devices and music players. They revolutionized this market.

What you really want to do is mine the ideas from your people – as Harvey Firestone said

“Capital isn’t so important in business.  Experience isn’t so important – you can get these things.  What is important is ideas.  If you have ideas, you have the main asset you need, and there isn’t a limit to what you can do with your business and your life”

Innovation that leads to business and technological breakthroughs needs to be more than a value statement – and just part of a job.  You need to support idea generation and idea flow.  You need to establish management and support systems to build a culture of innovation.  You need to hire and train for creativity and innovation and align reward systems matched with established innovation metrics.  You can create and facilitate social opportunities for idea sharing and transfer, and focused idea generation.

Where would you like to be in 90 days with respect to an innovation strategy for your organization?  We can help

Contact us:  at (780) 471 7060 or

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