Many people have said this before, notably Peter Drucker, who argued the case for innovation for several decades, but organizations that do not innovate as part of their regular cycle of business will stagnate internally, lose touch with their markets – current and potential, and ultimately fail.
However, as those of us who work in the innovation space know, it has been hard for some organizations to see the need to innovate when times have been good, and they have been achieving success via traditional channels. Innovation, by definition leading to something new and emergent, is hard to measure. Some worry about an uncontrollable, resource hungry, process, without understanding the disciplines of innovation. Others worry about a rise in beanbag futures, seeing their previously diligent employees suddenly wearing casual clothes, lying around on comfortable furniture, and, in dreaming up the future, losing sight of the core business.
Current times are forcing changes upon us. As ever, we have more choices than we think we do. We can slip into fear as individuals, retrenchment as organizations, and isolationism as nations – requiring the creation of scapegoats, and the loss of rights and liberties. Or, we can use our creativity, skills and generosity to change the ways in which we do business, consume our resources, share our wealth and our responsibilities as problem-solvers.
The capacity to innovate is the capacity to adapt swiftly to changing circumstances whilst also moving out to meet and co-create the future. It’s the capacity to work simultaneously on today, tomorrow, and ten, twenty, thirty, one hundred years out. (Or more, see www.longnow.org). And in working in multiple time frames, the capacity to bring the paradigms of the future back to the work of now, rather than carrying the paradigms of now everywhere as the unconscious filters of our experience.
Fiona Hovenden is an ethnographer and partner at Collective Invention, working on change, social research, prototyping, and social influences on the design and use of technologies