This graphic came via Des Walsh and has a vague connection with my point tonight.
I have remarked before in the context of management and policy speak that topics often become popular when what is happening on the ground is different. Innovation is a case in point.
Innovation is all the go in this and many other countries. We see it in policy statements, in management reviews and writing, in global innovation indices. And yet, to my mind, real innovation has been in decline.
Thinking about this led me to think about some of the main fallacies connected with innovation. I thought that I might just list a few.
The first is that innovation = something new. One definition of the meaning of innovation is something new or different. Note both legs. By its nature, innovation involves the different, but that difference may not be new. In fact, innovation may involve the reinstatement of something that has worked in the past or be based on something that has worked in the past.
The second fallacy is that innovation = new technology. Innovation involves changes to the way that we do things, but those changes often have little if anything to do with technology. They are changes to the way that we do things or think about things. An example is the concept of law or the markets.
Problems don't end here. The third fallacy is that innovation = advancement. That's not just true. it's not just that most innovations fail. More to the point, those that succeed may have very bad consequences indeed. Would anyone argue that innovation in the distribution of illegal drugs, in germ warfare, in the gas chambers of Dachau was an advancement? Yes, they may be advances in their particular fields, but ones with quite serious consequences.
My argument here is not about the value of innovation as such, but the meaning, purpose and measurement of innovation.
The next time some one says to you that Australia must become a more innovative society, ask them what they mean by innovation, what they hope to achieve, how would they measure success. Then you can have a discussion about the end results rather than implicitly accepting my last fallacy, innovation = good.