The New Rules of Global Innovation

Look who are philosophers today:

The very way in which we innovate is being reinvented, with wonderful but often unexpected consequences. If you want to prosper rather than perish in this coming age of disruptive change, you need to master the new rules of global innovation:

1. Innovation is not a zero-sum game. China’s rise does not mean America’s decline— but the rising tide will lift your boat only if you patch the holes in it first.

2. Think locally, act globally. Many of this century’s thorniest problems— food and water scarcity, health scares— seem like local problems. In fact, they often arise from failures in national and global governance. Creative coalitions, regional approaches, and systems thinking are the way forward.

3. Turn risk into reward through resilience. Leaders must realign incentives for the private sector to build resilience into future infrastructure and supply chains. The key is to shift from brittle, top-down systems to modular, flexible approaches that are more future-proof.

4. Open up and say . .  . aha! Ivory towers are so yesterday. Open and networked innovation recognizes that the smartest people in your no longer work inside your firm.

5. Be the dinosaur that dances. It may be unsexy to be the incumbent firm in an industry undergoing disruption by nimble upstarts, but that is no reason to stand still. Leverage your legacy assets, and ditch outdated business models even if they are profitable today but do not have a future.

6. Elegant frugality trumps conspicuous consumption. The fallout from the great recession is clear. Consumers in developed countries, not just poor folk in emerging markets, want products and services that offer better value.

7. If at first you don’t succeed, fail, fail again. Transform your attitude toward risk so that you celebrate fast failure. It is not easy to fail elegantly.

8. Forget Father— it’s the user who knows best. Bottom-up innovation works much better than the top-down kind. When customers help you create your products and services, the resultant ecosystem gives your firm the edge.

9. Go whole hog. As the life cycle costs and externalities involved with economic activity get priced into goods and services, systems thinking will beat silos.

10. The path from stagnation to rejuvenation runs through innovation. Easing the middle-class squeeze seen in many developed economies will mean improving productivity and boosting economic growth. The best way to do this is to invest in the long-term drivers of innovation such as education, research and development, and smart infrastructure.

11. Put purpose on par with profits. In the Ideas Economy, money will no longer be a sufficient motivator of talent. Look to emerging business models of social entrepreneurship and hybrid value chains for inspiration.

12. Keep relearning how to learn. Each of us has an innovator trapped inside, and today’s innovation revolution promises to be much more democratic than the past— but you cannot rely only on traditional schools, fancy diplomas, and employers any longer. You must constantly work to figure out how innovation is evolving so that you can participate and prosper.

The democratization of innovation, once the preserve of technocratic elites in ivory towers, offers hope that the grand challenges of this new century can indeed be tackled. Ever deeper waves of innovation could, in time, even transform a world of scarcity and conflict into one of abundance and prosperity. That is because as the potential of seven billion innovators-in-waiting is unleashed, mankind will at last be tapping fully the one natural resource that we have in infinite quantity: human ingenuity. (emphasis mine)

(Vaitheeswaran, Vijay V, Need, Speed, and Greed: How the New Rules of Innovation Can Transform Businesses, Propel Nations to Greatness, and Tame the World’s Most Wicked Problems, Harper Collins, 2012, pp. 260-262.)

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