4 Reasons Innovation is Alive and Well

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    Marketing Insights

  • Date:

    September 20, 2015

4 Reasons Innovation is Alive and Well



Marketing Insights

Innovation is on its way out. Innovation is stagnating. Innovation is dead.

At first glance, these distressing statements, taken from articles like the Wall Street Journal's "Why Innovation Won't Save Us" and Forbes' "PayPal Founders: Innovation Is Dead", took a bit of the wind from my creative sail. I was not familiar with these purported claims that innovation is dead, and I’d be lying if I said I understood the viewpoint. For me, as well as all the other dreamers, creators, strivers, teachers, learners, inventors, entrepreneurs and tech visionaries around the globe who are passionately working to engage, inspire and create a better world, this perspective seems perfectly outlandish.

I agree innovation does not look the same as it did during the Industrial Revolution or 1950s technology boom. Innovations of the past like the toilet, refrigerator, and polio vaccine solved massive problems and changed the world. However, this does not mean innovation is dead. It just means that innovation is transforming and adapting to a connected and progressively global environment.

Innovation is coming from unexpected places.

Take the textile industry, a business understood to be in crisis a few short years ago. The textile industry of the 21st century is solving a lot of problems – from athletic wear to health care to building materials, with innovations like textile concrete that activates when sprayed with water, medical fabric knit with collagen for healing skin, patented glass and bamboo fiber gauze for military field dressings. Many businesses are learning to adapt to new technologies while revitalizing their brands through innovation.

Innovation is shifting to accommodate and engage new audiences.

I was surprised to find that some in the innovation-is-dead camp believe social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are not true innovations. I disagree with this viewpoint wholeheartedly. The Merriam-Webster definition of innovation is “a new idea, device or method; the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices or methods.” By that definition, social networks are essential to today’s connected, resourceful culture. Additionally, these networks are reaching and stimulating a new imaginative generation: Gen Z.

Today’s innovations may seem small; nevertheless, they are still innovative.

Not all innovations are global problem solvers; however, they are no less innovative. Take Post-it Notes – a tiny innovation that didn’t solve a world problem, but changed the office world for years to come. Despite a decrease in paper use over the past 10 years, the Post-it continues to thrive. Not only that, but its use has evolved from organizational bookmark to a tool for innovation and collaboration. I wonder how many brilliant concepts were first a word or phrase written on a Post-it?

Innovation of today will facilitate future innovations that confront the massive problems of our world.

Problems like climate change, rising cancer rates and impoverished communities will likely not be solved by one mind-blowing innovation, but rather, by a combination of pre-existing innovations. For example, Sunbrella® Future of Shade winners Amber LaFontaine and Sophia Yi designed an innovative shade shelter system to protect refugee families from the elements. Should this idea be manufactured on a large scale, would it not be as momentous an idea to families in crisis as some everyday innovations of the past?

I stand firmly in the innovation-is-NOT-dead camp. Innovation is happening at a faster pace than ever before and will continue to accelerate, coming from many different places, driving more innovation – big and small – that in aggregate will have an even greater impact on our globe than we can even begin to conceive of today.