Innovation: finding the path to positive disruption and relevance

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We know that humanitarian organizations can create innovation just as corporations can create “cool” innovations—but should corporations do both?

From aspects of the cool, to solving challenging business or technological problems, we are now seeing innovation as a conduit for enhancement and a catalyst for humanistic and social impact.

Riding the carousel of the latest market innovations can be intoxicating—just think of the latest innovation trade show you experienced. Would it compare to a visit to Willy Wonka’s world of technological decadence or a chaotic spiraling down the hole to a wonderland of whimsical widgits? I recently attended an event boasting of outcomes that parallel such surreal experiences. As I stood in front of a “looking glass” that offered to transform the entire consumer retail experience by applying augmented reality to buy a pair of jeans, I thought—cool, but is it essential to heightening the retail experience?

We know that humanitarian organizations can create innovation just as corporations can create “cool” innovations—but should corporations do both? Can we balance innovation for convenience and cool? Or, is relevance truly in the eye of the beholder—someone who wants a great pair of perfectly fitting jeans might value that innovation as much as helping to recycle used clothing in order to reduce landfill pollution. Without a clear understanding of consumer values, any approach toward innovative outcomes often fails to bring meaning and applicable relevance. This may seem counterintuitive to the principles of innovation, but it is a reality.

If overused as a buzz word, innovation can become precariously rendered as trite. What we have seen recently is that the concept of innovation is comparable to that where change is a constant.  From aspects of the cool, to solving challenging business or technological problems, we now perceive innovation as a conduit for enhancement and a catalyst for humanistic and social impact. Innovation has become organic, leveraging social media and enhancing technological merits with meaning and social engagement

As we continue our journey and explorations to innovate, the desire to enjoy the savvy and cool aspects of innovation will keep us intrigued. However, it is also important to keep in mind that we can employ a balanced innovation scorecard of commercial and social good. The adage “necessity drives innovation” still stands the test of time and compels function over form.  Perhaps this is the path to relevance and social good.

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