Innovation and Change: The Invention of Invention

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  • 4 years ago
  • Posted: November 14, 2014 at 3:37 pm

A top the pantheon of the highest of human capacities, innovation and the capacity to enact change, even in the slightest instance, rests comfortably in regal splendor a top the Mount Olympus of Human Ability. Innovation is what drives change and change is what fuels innovation. The two concepts are joined at the hip, inextricable and inexorably linked, yet are not identical concepts. Paradoxically, the human form tends to resist change while at the same time embracing the blessed act. Perhaps it is because the resistance therewith is a function of the incongruous soul while the embracing of which is the gift of the spirit. Arguably, innovation and change is at the core of what it means to be human, whether from a physical perspective or a metaphysical one. Focused innovation is at the heart of business and personal development, thereby resulting in targeted change.

A majority of scholars who study innovation are of the opinion that a change must cause considerable difference in order to be rendered innovative. Creativity invariably has been at the heart of business, but until recently, it has not been at the pinnacle of the agenda by management. Nevertheless, it has long been in focus in the academics, especially in fields such as Neuroscience and Anthropology. Innovations of product or services create additional value to consumers, or lead to the greater improvement of procedure or process towards maximization of efficiency or creativity. A historicity of innovation can be traced in Alfred North Whitehead’s observation upon which is stated in his famous book, Science and the Modern World that, “the greatest invention of the 19th century was the invention of invention.” Especially when you figure that at the time the Enlightenment Period was in nascent.

Whitehead grasped that the invention of this new scientific knowledge had to be linked to the world of artifacts. But the man also understood that this linkage was not easily attainable. This is because of the gap that existed between a probable scientific breakthrough and a new product, service or process. It is precisely why management must ensure the perfection of this ‘slip betwixt cup and lip.’ It is a great mistake to suppose that the bare innovative idea is the required invention, such that it only has to be picked up and used. The fact that an intense period of imaginative design transpires between is disregarded.

A singular element in the new method is the discovery of figuring how to bridge the gap between innovative ideas, and the ultimate product. Beautifully, it is a procedure of one disciplined attack upon another. Alfred’s statement serves as profitable prolegomenon into introspective study of innovation and change and the metaphysic of the same. Initially, there is need to understand that during the twentieth century, innovation or invention became far more institutionalized and systematic than it was in the nineteenth century. The institutionalization of inventive activity destined that innovation proceeded exponentially in close proximity to organized research in twentieth century. That said fast-forwarding to the twenty-first century; almost every serious company with a bid for permanent existential strategy must incorporate research and development.

If one must innovate, then the concept of continuous improvement is fundamental to that process. Continuous improvement is a management process that invariably monitors what the enterprise is doing and how the personnel are carrying out its activity. This helps the management to pinpoint problems and tackle problems, fostering growth and development through amelioration of products, services, process and procedures. Many executives feel that the pressure is on and that they must innovate faster to stand still. True leaders should be at the helm of constant self-improvement, self-management, and self-leadership. Whenever change is to be made, there is a possibility that something could go wrong and this begs the question as to whether risk should be taken. Careful planning will help in anticipating risk and develop a strategy of addressing the problems. Understanding and accepting the possibility of negative consequences can help you weigh the benefits against the risks of a change making a wiser decision. There are three traits that are associated with change: complexity, prominence, and omnipresence. The elusive innovation ‘magic’ occurs at epistemological interfaces where the two avenues that innovation and change follows, Science and Art copulate in intellectual union. The bias that Science and Art is a duality that cannot be reconciled, but the greatest innovators have always assimilated the dichotomy.

Change rides along specific features of complexity that distinguishes this particular specie of complexity from the generic rendition of management. The particular cumulating of complexity represents a major challenge to both targets or recipients and the managers of the change process. The causes of complexity in change activities are blatant: the wider ranging, far-reaching, and quickly implemented a change initiative is the more complex work of leaders. For instance, within a transition period, old and new management principles, salary systems, selection guidelines, et cetera, complexity can arise with the overlapping of old and new rules. Change is ubiquitous and is assimilated in the daily structures of being; it is as existential as the concept of time. Prominently, change is a critical demand for agility and flexibility and its management represents a crucial capability of managers. At the organizational level, it is normally considered as a meta-competence or so called dynamic capability. According to an interview conducted for IBM, they state that “an organic system, which is what a company is, needs to adapt-and we think that values-that is what we call them today at IBM, you can them ‘principles’, ‘beliefs’, or ‘precepts’ or even ‘DNA’-are what enable you to do that. They let you change everything, from your products to your strategies to your business model, but remain true to your essence, your basic mission and identity.”

The essence of change is its management and is a holistic depiction of all far-flung changes. It is aimed at creating a change-friendly context for all change processes. Change management, inclusive of all cross-functional management activities such as Performance management, Quality management, and Integration management, qualifies as a mandatory cornerstone for all mid and long term management initiatives. It plays a huge role in current management frameworks. Change must support the implementation of an innovation. Clearly, no leader needs convincing that amelioration and change is at the top echelon of the agenda.

The disjunction between the burgeoning understanding of change and the reason as to why much is not known as to why it does not happen is disheartening and illuminating at the same time. Without much understanding of human development, coming to that epistemological bridge in understanding the intricacies of change is challenging at best. How this affects leadership drives the management of innovation and the change response. Leaders need to understand that the agendas they drive in their managerial race serve to drive them, too, the same way you drive a car, and it also takes you along.

What is your opinion on the topic?
Stefan Wolf
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