Innovation – Where Does it Begin?

There are attempts being made to turn Ireland into an Innovation Economy. Not everyone understands what an Innovation Economy is but that’s ok, we don’t all need to share the same understanding, all the time, about every issue. It is sometimes a little demoralizing though, when we hear people who should know what Innovation is, talking about Innovation but clearly not really ‘getting it’. These are often public figures, political leaders and the like. They often use ‘the Innovation Economy’ when they mean ‘The Smart Economy’, or they night ‘drop’ the phrase ‘Knowledge Economy’ into a conversation although they do so without any deep knowledge of the subject. If we want to be an Innovation Island (or even THE Innovation Island) we should get our thoughts clear on the subject.

Innovation often begins with the questioning of accepted beliefs. You have something, it works well and before you know it you are thinking “if it ain’t broke, why fix it”.  If you want to be an innovator you definitely need to drop that expression and replace it with “if it can be improved on then its broke, so I’ve got to fix it!”.  The moment you open the possibilities by saying “If it can be improved on” you have let the innovation genie out of the bottle an he/she is about to become your best friend (and give you at least one good wish).

What naturally follows from the phrase “If it can be improved on” is the question How?

Where does all this happen? It clearly has to happen before we get to Science Technology Engineering & Maths (STEM) … and it does.

Here is an ‘accepted belief’ that we should question… Innovation means ‘Science Technology Engineering & Maths’. It doesn’t but many people believe the terms are interchangeable. Others sometimes confuse “Research & Development” with “Innovation”.

There is a component missing from that (STEM) quartet. Anyone who uses the terms Innovation when they mean STEM or vice-versa doesn’t ‘get it’. Where does innovation begin? Here is a hint …

[———————] Science Technology Engineering & Maths

Innovation begins in the space above, on the left, before Science.

It begins with creativity, design thinking, imagination, ingenuity, and inspiration – if you really want to improve the commercialization of an idea – you have to begin by knowing how to have a good idea. When you have one, you can develop it! Sometimes, before you get into actual science and real experiments – you need a gedankenexperiment!

My Iphone is packed with Science Technology Engineering and Maths. I didn’t buy it for this reason. I bought it because I like interacting with it and it interacts well with me! I like the Iphone because of the exceptional work of Product Designers, Usability Experts, Interface designers (creatives). In the product development arena, once the ‘creative work’ is developed (its never finished) the job of making sure that the product functions properly and can be made and sold at the ‘right’ price etc., requires the input of Scientists, Technologists, Engineers and Mathematicians – who are, of course, creatives of another kind!.

You can call that area to the left of Science etc., Creativity. So STEM actually becomes C-STEM.

Try it. You will find that what you thought wasn’t broke, was … and you released the Innovation Genie from its bottle. Happy Days ….

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