Innovation stands accused of plenty of evil and the case against it is strong:
• Product and marketing R&D in cosmetics for the affluent greatly exceeds that of R&D in tropical diseases that afflict millions of people.
• Terrorists are becoming frighteningly innovative (horrifyingly creative minds were behind the 9/11 attacks in the US).
• Hitler tested the Luftwaffe – cutting edge air force technology of its time – by bombing the unarmed town of Guernica in Spain in the 1930s.
• The sophistication of the US and Israel’s technology in killing people is alarming.
• Armies of innovation gurus spend time and gray matter to help rich, profitable companies out-innovate each other so they can become richer and more profitable.
Long live innovation because it may be the only way out of misery for the majority of human beings in the world. Here are some areas crying out for more innovation:
• Social innovation for people which markets can hardly reach, despite globalization, simply because markets are made by needs plus ability to pay. Philanthropy and NGOs can have some impact in these areas.
• Socialist innovation to redress the enormous imbalances caused by the capitalist system. Radicals today should be thinking of peacefully channeling the creative potential of the masses to redistribution, equal opportunity and human progress for everybody. Time to invent a new revolution!
• Innovation for environmental purposes, to prolong the longevity of life on our planet and more. Even the skeptics are convinced that we must do this consciously and with great new international consent and collaboration. Private and public sectors both need to work on this.
• Innovation in education. Developing the creative potential of the young should be a right for every child, not be a privilege for the rich kids.
• And how about some innovation in international relations to reduce terrorists’ cause for existence?
Innovation itself is of course independent of people’s values. It is up to humans to use the power of innovation for peace and progress rather than for terrorism, war or the reinforcement of privilege and inequality. To date it has gone both ways. It should be obvious that I would like it to weigh much more one way rather than the other. And so I am working at it.
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Dimis Michaelides, Managing Director at Performa Consulting, is global business consultant and keynote speaker on The Art of Innovation. His book, The Art of Innovation: Integrating Creativity in Organizations, was published in 2007.