I saw an interesting post titled Is India Not So Innovative, After All?. Somehow, the word Innovation is being misused, twisted and turned and nobody seems to be noticing. (my original comment to the post is here, part of which is reproduced below).
Guys, it’s innovation we’re talking about here. Does anybody care to explain what the word means? Does it need a context? Is it a process or a domain – or both? Or many other things coming together?
Talk to technology and business people and they will somehow try to see it as a tool. So researching a need and then developing a solution to address it is Innovation. Right? That’s what I get from reading the post. Then why call it innovation, why not keep calling it R&D? Are we simply using the word because it sounds nicer?
It’s not about India being innovative, it’s about Indians being innovative. I believe we are innovative and perhaps the only nation that has all the ingredients needed for innovation. Of course, this means expanding the definition – oops! almost fell into the same trap myself there – (understanding is a better word) understanding of Innovation.
Some questions I continue to look for answers are:
- Does anybody know what Innovation really means? I believe it is a way of thinking that embraces ‘all’ dimensions of a situation and tries to find the best interconnections. It (innovation) is simultaneously the way of thinking AND the process AND the domain AND the tools AND the methods coming together to CREATE a solution (change) FOR a situation (context) AT a certain point in time.
- Why do we continue to use Innovation interchangeably with invention, R&D, creativity and a few others? I often hear people say, “This or that is a great innovation”. I have a problem with understanding why an abstract term is being connoted as a ‘thing’. I suggest we go back to our Wren & Martins to study English grammar all over again. I don’t have a problem with invention since it is a tangible output, part of whose process of development may have been innovative. But an Innovation?! It’s a ludicrous thought.
- Was Gandhi innovative? He didn’t ‘invent’ any products, unless we’d like to credit him with the charkha (spinning wheel). He did not try to incrementally solve problems that came his way. He had a purpose (objective), an unflinching belief to back that purpose (conviction), thought about consequences of his actions (impact), and then chose to do something in a way that had never occurred to anybody else (disruption). Not his followers, not his fellow politicians, not the British Raj.His innovative ways ‘surprised’ everybody, even himself! He did not research his ideas and ideologies (sometimes we keep doing this on end), he did not develop complicated plans for executing his ideas – he just thought differently. One man moved the powers that were, single-handedly (well not really, he did crank up the polity though) out of India.
So if we want to be sure about success in innovation, we must —- there we go again. There is no sure way when it comes to Innovation. Let’s accept it!
Then there’s the issue about sustainability. This is another dimension that I’ll write about in a later post.