In a recent conversation, I remarked that I used to be a scientist. Thinking about it afterwards, I realised that was wrong. A more accurate description was that I used to practice as a scientist, first with basic science, then the discovery and development of science-based products. But I am still a scientist, in other words I take a scientific approach to many aspects of my work; I think like a scientist.
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One of my favourite definitions of innovation comes from Andrew Hargadon – it’s about making the possible desirable and the desirable possible. It neatly encapsulates supply and demand, implying that it’s something the customer wants and the innovator can deliver. It’s where problem and solution meet.
’m sure many of you will have read or heard the famous quote attributed to Henry Ford, “if I’d asked people what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse”. This is usually quoted in the context of radical or breakthrough innovation, justifying an approach that doesn’t rely on customer feedback.
It is generally accepted that innovation involves risk. In the more enlightened organizations it is also clear that failure should be accepted as a consequence of playing the innovation game. It’s a bit like sport. You can’t win all the time, but it doesn’t mean that you change the whole team if you lose one game. Equally, embracing failure is going too far.
Open Innovation (OI) is a well-established way to increase options for innovation. It is quite prominent in areas such as Fast Moving Consumer Goods (CPG), but much less so in manufacturing industries. That’s why I took the opportunity recently to find out more from Pete Longdon, who runs the OI programme at Tata Steel.
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