There’s nothing like an exclamation mark or two in a title to get your attention.
We’ve all heard a lot of talk about innovation recently. It’s the new buzzword for policy makers, and for politicians attempting to appear current and relevant and forward looking.
It makes a fabulous slogan for the 21st Century. Innovation! It’s new! It’s better, shinier, modern, making life better for you! We have Innovation Summits with the brightest and best Innovators from around the world telling us how to innovate.
Now don’t get me wrong. Innovation is badly needed, but technological innovation, which is what most people talk about when they talk about innovation, is only a sliver of the pie. Technology can only go so far when it’s injected into a system that is built to reject innovation as a threat to its self preservation.
We will also need innovation in business models, public and private financing, infrastructure planning & valuing services. Social and economic innovations are every bit as important as technological innovations. The new century will not and cannot thrive on propping up models developed sixty years ago.
This is the most difficult challenge for policy makers, and a challenge that is doomed to failure. When a new model is designed to be round and it is re-shaped to be square to fit into a pre-existing hole, it is no longer the model that was created in the first place. It will not function as advertised and will ultimately be rejected.
Policy failures abound; the innovation graveyard is waist deep in decomposing initiatives that were too “radical” to survive the ravaging given them by an entrenched system that sees its’ sole purpose to be its’ own survival.
We see this in political discourse on a daily basis. Political parties love to speak about change and innovation as if they honestly know what it means. Change is something the long-established parties do not want. Anything that is perceived as a threat to their future electability is rejected as unworkable or relegated to the Someday File, where everything goes until “more studies are done to assess its safety” or “the economy is in better shape.”
As we stumble our way into another election, we would do well to consider that change and true systemic innovation will only come about when enough citizens are willing to accept the consequences of change.