Can an artistic movement still be groundbreaking when it is understood by its audience or has been widely copied? Is a hipster still a hipster when their methods of consumption and dress codes are shared by a growing percentage of the population? Is innovation still innovative when an increasing number of companies have incorporated it into their strategies?

Innovation boundaries

Innovation has recently become a key topic on the agenda of both private and public organisations. New ways of thinking that first came to light only four or five years ago have been structured, giving rise to teams, events, and even specialist laboratories. To put it simply, innovation has really taken off. The managers of these new entities now sit on the company’s executive committees.

This generalisation may be viewed positively and proves that the stakeholders want to make changes and progress in complex and changing regulatory, competitive and business contexts. That said, it raises the very important question of whether it is possible for innovation to become mainstream when its very essence is difference. In the same way as an artistic movement or counter culture, innovation can be emulated. It is therefore essential to continue to promote difference through

These five avenues to ensure that innovation continues to be innovative

1. Renew and enrich its definition

Innovation is traditionally defined as a technical, or even technological, invention that has found its market. The notion of usage has gradually emerged and it is now commonly accepted that an innovation must also respond to a real requirement. This definition needs to push the boundaries even further today and incorporate the notion of impact. To qualify as being innovative, future projects will therefore need to have positive outcomes for humans, places and the planet.

2. Attract more resources

Whilst innovation is primarily a way of doing something and doesn’t necessarily require financial resources, devoting more resources to it can lead to greater breakthroughs. In the context of an internal open innovation strategy, a physical, or digital, suggestion box, is a first step towards new ideas. Creating an entrepreneurial programme and coordinating it within a given time requires other investments but provides for real projects. Investing in an internal startup requires even more efforts but may create a new business model for a company.

3. Release, deliver

To renew itself, innovation must also become less constrained and less elite. To allow everyone the chance to innovate, a company must have the right team of managers in place who will listen to employees, grant them autonomy in their actions, and invite them to initiate new projects. In other words, it is not enough for an organisation to create an innovation unit to be innovating. Innovation is the result of a team effort, agile and shared operating methods and initiative taking.

4. Take shape

To be shared and distributed within an organisation, innovation must be perceivable and within the grasp of employees. This is why innovation is often physically embodied in places such as labs, creativity rooms or even third places that are conducive to interaction with external players. As communication is becoming increasingly digitised, these spaces have a very specific role and companies should focus on their usage, their coordination and even their profitability.

5. Trial new methods

Lastly, the methodologies behind innovation should be reviewed. Generally speaking, design thinking has allowed for the introduction of related and promising initiatives. Through immersion in future life situations, fiction design and prospective design foster strong feelings and facilitate positions taken in the long term. On its part, system design facilitates understanding of a company’s global environment and is particularly useful at a time when its most direct competitors are not necessarily in the same industry. Lastly, circular design can be particularly useful in terms of impact as it focuses on each stage of a product’s life cycle from the point of view of the resources it requires. Innovation and the innovators behind it have a duty to trial these new methods and to move with the times.

These five avenues are neither exhaustive nor, by definition, set in stone. They simply encourage companies not to consider themselves innovative by default but to continually trial new methods and conduct their own experiments. Every innovation initiative is unique depending on data constraints (financial, cultural, or business) and objectives.

As innovation is a means and not an end, must therefore not be “daunting” or put on a pedestal. It is a tool for everyone and must allow individuals to progress and to prepare for their future calmly.

Auteur : Florent Gitiaux

Partner innovation & prospective et enjeux RSE