Does innovation have borders?

Regardless of the project, decision or learning I have gathered and/or inherited, diversity has proved an efficient tool for me as an innovation professional to envisage situations under varying angles and figure out the smartest approach possible. From working in global companies to very tiny SMEs in the centre of France, I can do it all, and deliver over the top value. Viewpoints can differ and there exist ways to make the best of that difference. Individual and companies can speak “marketing activities” as much as they can speak “philosophy” when presenting an innovation standpoint. Learning from others and with others seems inevitable to make sense of such variances to me. Yet the “echo chamber” reverberating across social media may prove me wrong: somewhere across the value chain, diversity is drown into polarization and identity issues. Where do we draw a limit between making sense of diversity for innovation and losing its value to standardization, and meaninglessness? Does innovation have borders? This new Connecting Dots investigates some of the tentative answers we have elaborated on weareinnovation.org through out most read articles.

Despite growing evidence that cooperation across borders in defined sectors and areas would be an asset for innovation, international relations prove unable to properly integrate diversity as a creative value. While questioning the social, political and economic drivers that could help assemble smart ideas from differences and synergies, experts highlight a necessity to rethink our priorities, and among them, the collaborative direction which should support our common sense of shared meaningfulness. There is no question about the digital turn our innovation developments are taking. In this highly pressured environment, change makers would be inspired to concentrate on one key question: do we fully understand the limits of our innovation capabilities , and if so, how can we innovate beyond those borders to make the most of the “exponential everything” ahead of us?

The issue with diversity

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The political and economic events occurring across the international relations scene is reflected in primary concerns of our innovation readership. While analyzing how innovation interacts with its wider ecosystem, many analysts in the past couple of years had already highlighted the risks of reducing diversity to statistics and political tag lines. They outlined how, far from delivering the creative value they hold, minorities were locked in a cultural and social position that only further stigmatized diversity, focusing on barriers and difficulties while so many private and non-profit initiatives remind the necessary inclusion of social and multiculturalism for a smarter innovation.

Will innovation and technology ever help solving real political issues ? We can at least hope there is an intent. For the political issues are real, and they need more than predictable solutions. As AFP reminds in La Gazette des Communes, in France “discriminations slow down the economic integration of immigrants’ descendants, especially those from Africa.”

Read more:Leading through change: politics and economics“, WAI March 2015

How have we managed to polarize diversity itself? Were we wrong concentrating on specific sectors, such as Tech and the Silicon Valley? Have we missed the point that individuals in cruelest need for civil and social inclusion might not be targeting, or even interested, in innovation? Startups and tech companies have a crucial yet partial role to play, and to be fair, they have recently proved at least their ease to talk about diversity’s crucial role for innovation in technologies. The question is: what more can be done so in fact, diversity benefits for our societies comes more clearly across through innovation and technologies?

As Manuel Rapada from Good reminds about major tech companies in Silicon Valley: “(They) are in a unique position to help narrow the diversity gap in the industry by giving people the education, skills, and opportunities to break into tech”.

Read more:The disrupted society and the last mile“, WAI November 2014

Once they successfully solve this challenge, startups and tech companies could be used as inspiring examples, through their strategic approach to lowering barriers, helping us understand how we can overcome any type of “border” innovation faces.  We could act the case with all stakeholders (and there are many) who should be involved in shaping a more diverse workforce and society, as a way to develop growth and intelligent change. And in best cases, we may be inspired to do so before issues occur, as an anticipative model, instead of right after, as a defensive model. And by the way, you can find plenty of ideas to promote the merits of diversity on this blog.

One way to lower this barrier to market is to proactively go ahead of regulators and have a transparent and clear definition of what a business aims to do, with identified and validated benefits for all stakeholders, as Sarah Cannon suggests.

Read more:Privacy, sharing 2.0 and synergies that save more than money“, WAI October 2014

Beyond the diversity issue, there are human questions and worries we still haven’t answered, or at least not crisply enough to reduce emotional impacts of change. The “worries”, “fears” against “invaders” highlight a need to better coordinate innovation from people, by people and to people. More precisely, collaboratively shaping an environment for change, anticipating worries and answering human needs, seems to be inevitable to make sense of future technology developments, regardless of their gigantic market opportunity. What is the human opportunity we seek to achieve through technology?

There are immediate effects that can be seen from existing developments of AI. They come in the form of worries that robots “invade” our social and economic space, pointing to the fact that we do not trust AI yet. Yet the opportunity is measurable.

Read more:Innovation Index: Artificial Intelligence not Artificial at all“, WAI July 2016

Maybe it’s about time to think

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Whether it comes from our educational, social or cultural models, it seems we haven’t learnt to think wide enough to individually make sense of information, not at the amount it is being shared through social networks, at least. From identifying the veracity of facts, how they relate to each other in a wider context, and why do experts end-up with opposite conclusions for the very same issue, the lack of critical thinking and logical reasoning shared across entire online communities has exponential impacts through technologies that operate on exponential bases. Learning to think, and perhaps think twice, and perhaps re-think twice, was outlined by experts as a necessary responsibility to bring diversity and sense on social media.

The uniformity of ideas shared among closed communities require to add further diversity in our thinking frameworks, with the potential benefit of creating human links between communities jointly driving change.

Read more:Making sense of social media through diversity“, WAI January 2017

But then, what should we think about? Or more precisely, towards what goals? An example of human goal brought by experts is the pursuit of meaningfulness. While most management methodologies and well-being initiatives may concentrate on increasing “happiness”, experts highlight the benefits of focusing on sense instead. Interestingly, they therefore redirect discussions towards an identified question, what is the human value we are pursuing through managing our teams?

As a core element of building inspiration, they focus on meaningfulness beyond happiness and create an environment where individuals are free to express their talents.

Read more:11 leadership skills to innovate in 2017“, WAI December 2017

By extension, it may be that pursuing meaningfulness through teams, companies, we end-up embedding it in our innovation processes, and perhaps, products. What if we all created meaningful products? What if we took end-users’ needs at the heart of our thinking models? To find out, experts highlight how startups develop breakthrough models, whether it is an economic, a business or a partnership model, to drive disruption and generate systemic impact by concentrating on end-user needs.

By bringing a human sense to technologies and business models closer to end-user needs, they are a perfect ecosystem to analyze in order to understand how to best prepare for disruption. 

Read more:9 systemic trends fueled by startups“, WAI December 2016

Are you the next catalyst?

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Maybe we have an answer to all of these questions. Maybe diversity is natural to us, and we know where we stand with meaningfulness, and we know what human impact we desire to accomplish through technology and management. In that case, our next question may well be: in a time of ‘exponential everything’, how can our behavior make a difference on a systemic level?

As a central question to economic growth, business development and scientific breakthrough, the place of humans and technologies inspires innovation makers.

Read more:Driving our global connectedness“, WAI January 2017

Because if we don’t ask ourselves this question, we may not be part of the ‘exponential everything’. And whether we agree or not with the turn our labor, economic, technological and social areas are taking (that’s a lot of components of the innovation ecosystem already), the fact is that the turn is being taken, and it now appears critical to ask what our role and value will be in the digital world. Unless we want more rapid, more flexible and more agile businesses to find that answer for us.

The growth of digital opportunities as well as the exponential impact of new joiners in incumbent markets question the stability of so far known business strategies.

Read more:What is your diversity profile?” WAI December 2016

There is part of the answer experts can help with by highlighting specific goals and sectors that need exponential innovation, right now. They even highlight business strategies and leadership attitudes to inspire change makers. In this specific case, they seek to inspire the exponential change maker in you. If we believe innovation has no borders, or if we think we can overcome these borders including through diversity, how can we prove it works and how can we make it happen, ‘exponential everything’ style?

Time is counted for change to happen, especially with regards to the environmental challenges ahead of us. As a result, entrepreneurs reach out to each others to combine experiences and generate synergies.

Read more:The Loop: our story towards intelligent innovation“, WAI April 2016

weareinnovation.org writes the innovation story that thousands of innovation experts around the world constantly develop and share on WAI social networks. Browse our knowledge library and read our management reports to learn more.

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