Does Innovation Need a Purpose?

by Mari Anixter

Does Innovation Need a Purpose?

Conversations about Innovation are the oxygen of Innovation Excellence. We love when our contributors converse, collaborate or co-author articles. Ralph Ohr and Tim Kastelle co-wrote a post recently, and Jeffrey Phillips and Paul Hobcraft collaborated on a series for our site to name a few. Several of the posts we publish, if not “co-authored”, are likely the outcome of purposeful and impassioned conversations among our contributing authors. Authors who not just writers, but avid thinkers and collaborators in their work.

I thank Greg Satell for bringing this conversation with Tim Kastelle to my attention. I discussed with Greg and Tim how best to present their dialogue? E.g., all-in-one or separate links? We are always open to trying something new regarding collaboration or dialogue. In a series of feature articles, Lou Killeffer has captured and presented many outstanding Innovation Conversations and I encourage you to read them all. Lou’s are presented in a traditional “interview” format (warning : there is nothing traditional about the thinking within). In the case of today’s feature, the format is different — linking separate posts by two authors who are writing — individually and together – about a topic of shared interest.

Tim Kastelle and Greg Satell may agree on points, but today we offer two personal views on one question. In the spirit of innovation dialogue, we welcome your comments and insights about the question: Does Innovation Need a Purpose? We start with Tim’s post followed by Greg’s post followed by our invitation to you: to offer your insights and questions below in the comment box, OR to enter the dialogue with your own post in this series. Either way, please, don’t hold back! Now, without further delay, Innovation Excellence is proud to feature:

Tim Kastelle article – link here

Greg Satell article – link here

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Innovation Quotes of the Week – Dec. 16, 2012Mari Anixter is Managing Editor for Innovation Excellence. She is a communications professional living in New Mexico.

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  1. Nice collation of thoughts and perspectives. Of course Innovation needs a Purpose. It has to be aligned with the Vision, Mission and Strategy of a Company. Although there is nothing wrong with “accountable” Free Time (Daniel Pink) but if you make say plastic you are not going to do metal…
    Tim refers to DNA and wonders if it is innovation, I think not it really is a Discovery and yes that can lead to Innovation, but regardless development has to be split and shared between concept to launch and true R&D, both Tima and Greg hit on.
    Innovation has to have a purpose and it is fine to start and focus on line extensions to gain internal capabilities to ultimately get to breakthrough Innovation. The key is to dedicate sperate and shared resources and not be driven by monthly or quarterly results.
    Ultimately it is key to look for KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) as in Observe and Measure, lagging and more importantly Leading indicators to see if your Innovation as the right purpose and is Strategically aligned, SEE:
    https://www.innovationexcellence.com/blog/2013/03/03/sustainable-innovation-metrics/

  2. Engaged and engaging synthesis of ideas around a question that even today remains a key first question when meeting with a new client: “What is the end goal (or purpose) of this innovation you want us to manage?” Too often, we finds goals that are either unaligned with a strategic plan, unrealistic in either short- or long-term goals (or both), and have no clearly defined (hence measurable) outputs. Put simply, if innovation is to be sustained and repeatable (key adjectives, to be sure), it needs to not only be managed carefully but be managed within a defined, generative, and purpose-full framework.

  3. I’m a long time fan of Greg’s and Tim’s work and they both provide great arguments for their positions. I think what’s important is that a company/organization/enterprise explicitly expresses what its objectives are. If ‘innovation’ is what they are looking for then I agree with Robert, and yes it needs a purpose. That being said don’t do ‘innovation’ a disservice by keeping it in a ‘box’. Is Facebook an innovation? Was Mark Zuckerberg creating his social network so it was in alignment with a vision, mission and strategy of a company?

    The world is embarking on a new kind of trajectory https://bit.ly/YYZYYQ where a different narrative around ‘value creation’ (and how to do it) is emerging, and what innovation is and if it has a purpose is a challenging and excellent debate.

  4. Thanks for chiming in Robert.

    However, I’ve always been skeptical about the discovery vs innovation formulation. I never saw what it achieves except to create rather arbitrary post-hoc classifications.

    In a similar vein, I’m also skeptical of relying to heavily on ROI measures. What was the ROI on Edison’s 9,999the try at the lightbulb? Or IBM’s successful quantum teleportation in 1993, which will most likely form the basis of computing a decade from now.

    By any conventional standard, the ROI of both would be zero as it would be for all of Google X (presently, at least). Does that mean they should not be done?

    – Greg

  5. “Innovation or start disapear ” , may be from this message we are in same of way of Innovation is need a purpose

  6. Simple – Innovation is the development of new values through solutions that meet new requirements, inarticulate needs, or old customer and market needs in value adding new ways.

    This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments, and society. – Wikipedia

    At moladi we innovate to bring about change

  7. Simple – Innovation is the development of new values through solutions that meet new requirements, inarticulate needs, or old customer and market needs in value adding new ways.

    This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments, and society. – Wikipedia

    At moladi we innovate to bring about change to impact the lives at the base of the pyramid

  8. Michael A. Porter

    If innovation is distinguished from invention (or creatity) because it creates value, then the central challenge may be deciding what value is. In a modern commercial context, value equals profit. But there has been plenty of innovation that created great value without creating profit. Fire is one example. For many scientists, designers, and inventors the value of the first stages of innovation may involve non-monetary rewards. People and organizations that focus ONLY on the monetary rewards may misunderstand what motivates these individuals (at least in part). Did Watson & Crick create value? Yes, they created the instant value of personal satisfaction. Many people hard at work in companies today are also harvesting that value. I’m willing to suggest that organizations that suppress that value creation soon are experiencing a loss in the more monetary type as well. In a commercial organization seeking innovation, you must create tangible and intangible value for your customers and your employees and your owners.

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