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Specters of Innovation

By J. Aditya, Asst.Professor of WSB

“Necessity is the mother of Invention” is an old proverb that needs a structural change. Various factors can be taken into consideration to contemplate the forces that foster imagination and innovative ideas. For companies to experience exponential growth, each employee needs to delve into creative imagination. However, first, we need to understand the factors that shackle imagination and limit innovative ideas in an organization. Therefore, it is imperative to identify the Specters of Innovation.

  1. Benchmarking:

Benchmarking is one of the most prevalent practices of many organizations. The process of benchmarking is a norm when it comes to assessing the position of an organization in the marketplace. It is used to scrutinize whether key performance indicators are on track. Nevertheless, benchmarking does not gauge the extent to which creative ideas can be transformed into reality. By setting or trying to reach certain standards, companies are missing out the opportunity pertaining to the unlimited growth they can achieve through innovative transformation. Although benchmarking is instrumental in raising the existing standards or performance of companies, it distorts new methods of implementing activities. As a result, an organization may lose substantial benefits or returns with offerings or strategies that are radically novel and dynamically Avant-grade.

  1. Embracing Certainty & Adhering to a plan:

Great depressions and economic recessions have proven that certainty is one of the illusions. If necessity is the mother of invention, certainty is the destroyer of innovation. Entrepreneurial ventures are all about exploration and experimentation. When a plan is formulated with certainties, one is acting under the assumption that he or she is completely cognizant of all the external forces that work in favor of the plan. This is a far cry from reality. There are numerous fields of sciences that may shatter plans or may make the plan work by pure chance. Discoveries arising from Quantum mechanics, Artificial intelligence, Neuroscience, Anthropology, Cosmology and various other sciences are crucial in the formulation of business plans. For instance, major breakthroughs in artificial intelligence are important to devise a marketing plan even for a product as simple as an automatic vacuum cleaner. Similarly, it is important to understand terms like “Quantum supremacy” to develop a feasibility study for next generation computers. Although plans can be formulated, adhering to a plan is not advisable as it may be susceptible to changes we are not aware of. Plans need to adapt to both internal and external factors.

  1. Existing Knowledge:

The creation and dissemination of knowledge are racing at an unfathomable pace. As a result, the existing knowledge is rendered obsolete. Therefore, there is a logical implication that any innovative idea that arises from existing knowledge is susceptible to becoming a commodity. An innovative idea arising from existing knowledge can be bought, shared and dissipated at a lightening pace. Such innovative ideas are just table stakes. There should be a paradigm shift from knowledge-based application capabilities to creativity-based transformation capabilities.

Creativity and innovative ideas should be generated from the creation of new knowledge that is hard to commoditize. Furthermore, innovative ideas should also arise from various scientific fields to generate new value.

  1. Big Data:

Conventional wisdom holds that Big Data is of paramount importance and companies need to utilize large data sets for various business purposes. Big data leads managers to stick to default problem solving model, in which, evidence and facts prevail over untested and creative ideas. In the midst of analyzing Big Data, it is easy to lose the clear picture of what is wrong and what is right. It is also tough for companies to measure the return on analytics investment when there is a lack of imagination.

Fact based analysis is prone to noises and biases. Noise is chance variability of judgements. There is a high probability that decisions will vary when similar sets of data are presented more than once thereby resulting in noise. There is also a possibility of cognitive and social biases when we are not able to catch up with the velocity of big data. Therefore, these noises and biases are serious impediments to imagination and innovation.

However, bridging the gap between right data and big data is of paramount importance to ensure evolvement of creative ideas. Key resources and processes can guide the way to the right data. For example, 8 wastes related to lean manufacturing system can serve as one of the guidelines to identify the right data.

Right data can also be identified by eliminating biases & noises and through the process of BrainSwarming. Through the process of BrainSwarming, employees in an organization tend to first question the importance of data and this process may lead to the extraction of the right data. The level of extroversion of the employees can be ruled out in BrainSwarming sessions as opposed to Brainstorming sessions. BrainSwarming in an organization fosters innovation as each employee is given an opportunity to think creatively, state the objectives and explore solutions before analyzing the data. These 3 processes are far more orderly than getting lost in the chaotic process of collecting data that seems incomprehensible.