As kids in school, we had lessons on general knowledge, which taught us the various nations, capitals, and currencies, that were oft forgotten no sooner than the exams were over. However, some fragments of this knowledge was later reinforced by lessons in science classroom.
This particular fragment was the invention of the light bulb by Thomas Alva Edison in 1879. That’s what I had memorised as a kid. Little did I know that long before Edison, Humphry Davy, Warren de la Rue, Joseph Wilson Swan, and Henry Woodward (whose patent was bought by Edison) had built their versions of the electric light and had paved the way for the Edison’s electric light.Very often our perception is heavily influenced by popular culture.
And sometimes even the basic definitions are hijacked by jargon in the business/public realm. We have been hearing a lot about innovation…. things that will revolutionize our lives as we know it. A strictly business definition of innovation is: “The process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay.” In a social context however, innovation is any novel idea, method, or device. Sadly, something that has the capability to truly impact society in a significant and positive way such as the solar cells languish in the shadows because the innovation is not “disruptive”or “radical”enough. “One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree.
‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.
“? Lewis Carroll, Alice in WonderlandSo where is your company heading?The word ‘innovation’ generally brings to mind something radical but more importantly something commercially successful such as Facebook, Apple, Amazon… ,etc. But these “fairytale successes” are riding on the innovation train constantly. Their innovation not an end but a journey. pics of fb-2014, early apple and early amazonThe more realistic innovations- machines that perform hazardous tasks, automated software processes, industrial mechanised processes, and even workplace automations, and everyday business apps and tools, are so ubiquitous yet tend to be overlooked. It is essentially such overlooked innovations that have influence the economies of businesses, improving efficiencies, cutting costs, and achieving sustainability.
Such innovations reshape businesses small and big are much more likely to have profound economic implications.So by defining innovation in such a commercial context, are we exnovating innovation? Does that even work? In case you were wondering, I did not just make up that word. Exnovation is exactly as it sounds, it is the opposite of innovation. Products and processes that have been tested and are accepted to be “best-in-class” are standardized to ensure that they are not innovated further. Some notable examples of exnovation as a strategy include General Electric, and Ford Motor Company.
In celebrating Edison and in forgetting the work of his predecessors, we are doing a disservice to the process of innovation. In only celebrating the success we are ignoring the many lessons learnt from the many failures over nearly 8 decades. Of course, in today’s world of instant gratification this has changed. Take for example Pokémon Go that reached the milestone of over 100 million downloads after barely 33 days on the market. Does this removal of innovation from the process of innovation ensure that the “best-in-class” processes will replicate and produce other Facebooks, Apples, and Amazons. Does innovation fit within a framework, a model, a standard process?Innovation_01.jpg