As a concept, “innovation” has been co-opted by every conceivable kind of organization. The New York Times called Oreo’s new flavours an “innovation.”
Fashion brands regularly tout their new seasonal lines as “innovative” before they hit the Paris runways. And if you’ve seen a car commercial in the last decade, you’ve probably seen a manufacturer refer to their latest model (an incremental improvement over last year’s model) as an “innovation.”
The problem is that all of these examples dilute the word’s meaning. In its truest sense – the one espoused by disruptors, mavericks and legitimately industry-defining organizations – innovation is so much more than a buzzword.
In this post, let’s uncover how true innovation benefits people at the consumer, organizational and societal levels. Using current examples and real-world applications, we’ll uncover why “innovation” is more than just a fashionable way of saying “different.”
Innovation Charts a Path Toward Environmental Sustainability
The vast majority of scientific experts agree that the climate crisis is a present, visible and potentially existential threat to humans. As policy-makers slowly drag their heels on appreciable changes to consumption and manufacturing, innovators have needed to step up to the plate.
Look at the innovations currently sweeping the agricultural industry. Advancements in vertical farming have solved longstanding urban farming issues and provided cities with natural carbon sinks.
Carbon capturing and utilization (CCU) innovations help repurpose carbon emissions as biofuels and alternative energy sources. And field sensors help farmers reduce water usage by targeting specific areas that need hydration.
Technological Innovation Can Democratize Information, Improve Transparency
When history books reflect on the current digital age, they will likely say that one of its defining characteristics is information democratization. Innovations in technology and business concepts have given rise to several consumer-centric companies aimed at providing transparency and resources.
You can look at innovations in the real estate industry as a good example. The industry was once infamous for opacity, inaccessibility and perceived lack of consumer choice. Now Nobul, helmed by tech innovator Regan McGee, is working to reverse those problems by shifting power to consumers.
The world’s first real estate digital marketplace, Nobul utilizes an innovative AI algorithm to match consumers to their ideal real estate agent based on the consumer’s criteria. No more opaque fees, hidden sales histories or doctored online reviews.
Innovation, Growth and Job Creation
Several proponents of innovation in business are quick to point out that radical ideas spur economic growth, job creation and company profit margins.
An influential Stanford study, “Innovation and Economic Growth,” found that roughly 85% of economic growth was attributable to innovation. Moreover, experts contend that as companies embrace new technologies and concepts, the job market diversifies – creating more opportunities for employment.
Finally, at the organizational level, innovations can increase productivity in several ways: automation, time management, resource management, streamlined communication, etc. And these productivity improvements directly impact a company’s profit margins.
It Addresses the UN’s Pressing Global Issues: Education, Literacy, Food Scarcity, Water
Thus far, we’ve demonstrated how innovations – real innovations – in agriculture, real estate, tech and productivity management can benefit consumers, organizations and the environment. But let’s think even broader. What can innovation do globally to benefit societies?
That’s the million-dollar question in the United Nations’ “Global Issues” departments – and they aren’t alone.
Together with forward-thinking NGOs, disruptive businesses and technology companies, they are tackling some of the most pressing issues worldwide, like education, literacy, food scarcity, water scarcity and poverty.
“The Relationship Between Innovation and Subjective Wellbeing”
As a final note, let’s zoom out as far as possible and connect the dots between general happiness/prosperity and innovation.
Why isn’t innovation “just a buzzword”? Because the genuine article can broadly and societally impact wellbeing. At least, that’s what this peer-reviewed scientific study in the journal Research Policy found.
Namely, the study points to innovation’s “impact on health, education, income” and overall value of life to explain the critical link between big ideas and general welfare.
Next time you hear a confectionary company call its latest sour candy an “innovation” or a traditionalist clothing company refer to its new collared shirts as “innovative,” try to remember the value of real innovation.
Far from a buzzword, innovation is a primary driver in economic growth, social welfare, organizational productivity, industry transparency and holistic wellbeing. It benefits everyone not to confuse the two.