Our Only Hope: How to Revive American InnovationNews
If there’s anything keeping us awake at night here at Parari, it’s the steady, silent downfall of American innovation.
The decline in innovation affects every business sector, but we see it most clearly in the technology and biotechnology where global market share is gradually giving way to foreign competitors who are investing in innovative spaces, schools, and think tanks.
Because of past success, many American companies have been lulled to sleep, thinking their dominance in the world market will never end.
Countries, like China, formerly dismissed as “copycats,” are experiencing an entrepreneurial renaissance.
Edward Tse, founder & CEO, Gao Feng Advisory Company, writes this warning to those who refuse to believe in China’s ability to innovate:
China has entered new era. A new generation of entrepreneurs defined by their youth and exponential growth nature has generated new energy and vigor into the country…as long as these entrepreneurs do not break laws or defraud consumers, China’s society now allows and welcomes trials and errors. This era — the era of China’s entrepreneurs — is bringing forth real ground breaking times in China’s long history.
He’s not the only one saying this. In a talk in Beijing, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick predicted “that in the next five years, China’s innovation will surpass that of Silicon Valley.”
Like Tse and Kalanick, we’re looking forward to the innovations that will come (are coming) out of China. We’re excited about the opportunities opening up as their society slowly changes from “a planned economy to a market economy.”
If not careful, American companies will keep doing what they’ve always done thinking all is well right before waking up with tire tracks on top of them.
But we still believe in American innovation. Question is: How can innovation be revived.?
First of all, we must understand the difference between creativity and innovation.
Creativity is only a part of innovation. It’s dangerous to assume we’re being innovative, when in fact, we’re just thinking creatively.
Essentially, creativity is a form of learning that has no expected result. While fun and “cool,” it doesn’t set out to solve real problems.
In contrast, innovation ties its creative process to the needs of the customer.
Innovative companies are in touch with their customers needs and wants, and they use all of their creativity to bring the customer a solution that fits the need.
Second, we must venture into the unknown.
Lots of companies are exceptionally creative when it comes to making their current processes or products more efficient.
Problem is, if we insist on taking the more familiar, presumably safer routes of what we’ve done before, we’ll end up like Eastman Kodak, a monolith of innovation past.
David DiSalvo observed that by the time Kodak woke up, they were “too late to own any facet of the market. Whether fighting for territory in the printer or digital camera markets, it was always perilously behind well established players.”
Companies that stop innovating solutions in favor of making past innovations “better” are facing sudden death.
And they don’t even know it.
Third, we must create innovative cultures within our organizations—starting with the C-Suite.
It’s important that the entire organization values and embraces innovative approaches to problems. From the CEO to the janitor, anyone can make a tremendous difference with the right idea at the right time.
1. Executive leadership must take the lead.
The CEO must be innovative themselves before inspiring others within the company to do so. They must be anchored in the needs the customer while constantly trying new ways to bring about the solution.
2. Leadership must reward innovative thinking, big and small.
It doesn’t matter how big or how small the idea, if employees are not rewarded for their contributions, the innovation will stop.
We have to get past the idea that innovation only happens in big projects or large programs. We need daily, continual innovation.
If you can’t innovate in little things, you can’t innovate in big things.
3. Leadership must invest in training their team to be innovative.
Idea creation and problem solving are skills that can be honed over time. There are principles and a whole emerging science around innovation that can and should be taught to every staff member.
Last of all, from time to time, companies need to partner with firms that specialize in innovation.
If innovation is lacking or falling behind in your company, bringing an objective third party on board can help you get your edge back.
Innovative thinking, and the kind of culture that innovation thrives in, is caught rather than taught.
With the right partner, you can absorb the principles behind innovation and spark a change in your organization.
If more American businesses were taking this approach, and waking up to the rapidly changing needs of the market, we’d all sleep a little bit better.