Innovation? It’s a “clear case of the emperors new clothes!”

In the modern economically developed world many processes and ways to act are standardized.  A standardized school education, such as specific school subjects that have been defined during more than hundred years ago up to university studies that may vary, however certain focus areas are given. Based on what was  needed in the last century to educate people to work in factories, offices, craft men. Higher studies and  professional education for clear working areas in companies and bank systems.  There have not been huge changes. Still today the official requirements can be found in Job descriptions, are reflected in certificates of all kind, bonus points for those who do it well and in accordance with these pregiven boundaries. And it worked well and still does. But shouldn’t we start to change deeper in these systems themselves?

The world is changing , but changing learned, fixed processes, evaluation systems and standards that worked well all the time is difficult! 

When I talk to people – young or advanced in age, managers of upper or low level, workers of all kind – they often tell me as follows: (just a few examples)

Question 1: Why do we need huge product related  booths that cost a lot of money , e.g. at international conferences? (Just thinking of international digital conferences, international car fairs, huge health exhibitions. It seems to be state of the art to be present  in a certain way…)

The answer:  “Well, we do it because that’s the way how to do it”.

Asking the same people if they could imagine to do it differently, to think differently? The is answer is often YES, we could, but… As human beings we all can imagine to do it differently. But it is difficult to make change happen. In our jobs it seems we act more as job operators than as human beings who have the world in mind. We all  know that in the world 2/3 of people live close to the poverty line, we know that we damage the environment, we even spend money in activities just because we are used to (even they might not be that relevant any more) where there might be a lot of potential to act differently.

Question 2: Have you ever questioned whether the maximum profit is the most important goal?

The answer after wondering about getting asked this level of question is “that’s how economy works and what has this to do with myself? What could I Do about it? I’m just doing my job. ”

It seems that many do not feel responsible or expert enough to decide if this goal is the right one or not. Sure, there might be many reasons to continue (as this is what we have learned), it’s how reality looks, there are fears that asking for change at this level means to challenge the system itself. Too much, too big, too complicated – although many people agree that it would be good to have less poverty and a much stronger middle class – we know.

That’s the crux. It is as it is. We know it should be different, but we don’t ask.

Movements like more social responsibility are more and more “measured” in international company rankings. As an advanced example – in India there is the law that 2% of the company’s win should go to social engagement. Great. Many other countries don’t have a similar law. But discussions around CSR are ongoing,  are discussed, reduscussed – meanwhile the poverty is growing. I ask myself:  they struggle to fix 2%??? That’s not really a lot, but even at this percentage it seems revolutionary… Do we really need to think so much about it?

Who is responsible totale such kind of decisions?

Huge change is not for those who do not want to take too many risks. They feel overwhelmed, fear to become losers and to be seen as rebels. That’s why many adapt, latest when the wild years of junior years are over. It’s understandable. Change management practices by dedicated changemakers , CSR managers and departments and some volunteering days – that’s what is state of the art. That’s what stays – and by attributing this task to a few people we loose all the potential of change that could really prepare us and business for a globalized, complex and social century. Innovation then?

Question 3 to be asked: how do YOU innovate?

The answer: “We have innovation departments, research laboratories, digital experts…” That’s good, but by far not enough. What is about YOUR personal innovation engagement? I admit often People answer with excuses or question if This question is a good one in business and job surroundings …. well, I’ve learned that there are no bad questions to be asked, but just bad answers…

But if Real Change and innovation often remain at the surface because these questions are not be asked…

No doubt digital – wise and technically we advance.  It’s fantastic to see, but what is with all the rest? Where do we read and see best practice examples that go beyond? How often have you read that huge budgets normally spent  for expensive marketing campaigns have been cancelled and have been used  for social issues instead? Socialentrepreneurship  is for sure a good starting point. But done by too less idealists.  Many buts, many doubts, many referrals to millenniums only. But change needs to be done where decisions are taken – day by day and at every level and type of business environment.

What if we just would question the status quo and come up with innovative ideas to act differently. All of us.

What if all of us would be measured not just based on economic needs and profit oriented year results, but had to demonstrate , too, social thinking within business? In business meetings traditional business numbers are given, but what about the social impact numbers? Is this not relevant enough?

An example could be that instead of an expensive booth we would put a simple wooden table and a person behind who besides informing about the products, would talk about real system innovations, too and social engagement. Why not bringing social entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs as speakers to conferences?  It would save a lot of money, people would be surprised, for sure. As human beings they would feel the purpose. In the role of pure business probably some people wouldn’t maybe understand what’s going on, but there have never been a real innovation that all people liked right from the beginning. But many would easily agree:

Not all what we do makes still sense. 

That’s why Innovation is about all of us. It’s for all of us. And can be done by all of us. It’s not a question of budget, time or resources. It’s nothing we have not in our plans this year ( because we won’t  have it in our learned plans next year, neither – it’s not part of our educational systems from the last hundred years).

It’s time to start questioning the status quo and to think independently – in our own small daily activities and surrounding.

  • Innovation is not just a matter to upper management.
  •  Innovation goes much beyond technical or digital innovation.

Innovation can start from small budgets. It’s much more about willingness and personal engagement. Innovation means questioning the status quo: what we do, how we do it and why we do it and to learn by trying out new things –   start with small things that even do not put ourselves into huge risks! But do it!

In a few words: Innovation is a “clear case of the emperors new clothes”. And it could lead to completely new business models. Business models that would survive tomorrow and even push us into a frontrunner position.  What do you think?

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