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Gazing out over the Alps on a warm summer evening, philosophical thoughts start to surface. I feel like an artist without an art form, who nevertheless endeavors to give form to these thoughts through writing. When I write a column about innovation in this frame of mind I think: what a load of drivel.  

Here, three standpoints to muse over on such a balmy summer evening. 

1: Data driven innovation is pointless

Aside from the fact that data driven innovation upsets my moral fiber, data driven innovation is invariably based on the past. After all, by the time the data comes in, the time of its input has already passed. How can the past ever be the driving factor behind innovation of the future? 

Innovating on the basis of the past can lead in all sorts of directions. If you have no vision for the future, do not know what values are important to you, then bogus solutions can ensue. Or worse, innovation that undermines certain values. Data may well be a tool for innovation, but never the driving factor.

2: Process innovation is the same as organizational change

More and more often I hear the word “innovate” where the word “organizational change” might equally apply. Innovation as an all-purpose term has been divided up into separate categories. Such as: product innovation, process innovation, organizational innovation, service innovation, or the absolute worst: HRM innovation. A technology, like A.I. is also stamped ‘innovation’. Or rather, “an innovation”. As an aside, a technology can be innovative in itself but that does not necessarily make it an innovation.

Internal process innovation, or in other words, we are going to do/organize things differently, is simply organizational change. Can’t we just use the honest word for this kind of process innovation? I do get it. Nobody is keen on a reorganization, but everyone is willing to innovate. So, it’s a matter of framing it effectively.

3: Implementation is NOT a part of an innovation process

Implementation is included in innovation models as one of the last steps in the innovation cycle. A wrong location. Context is key to innovation. Innovation starts with vision and context. Such context is important for the actual realization of something new and hence crucial for implementation. Therefore, you could place implementation as one of the first steps in an innovation process. That is also the wrong location. As if the implementation is done after that. No. 

Implementation, as far as I am concerned, is not a part of the innovation process. It is a parallel process that is inherently linked to the innovation process. Possibly even fused together, just as a mountain can only exist through its being merged with the valley. 

Ending on a more poetic note, a piece of verse by the Dutch musician Spinvis:

Reis ver (Go far) 

Drink wijn (Drink wine)

Denk na (Think hard)

Lach hard (Laugh loud)

Duik diep (Dive deep)

Kom terug. (Come back)

(Spinvis, kom terug)

Have a great vacation!

About this column:

In a weekly column, alternately written by Eveline van Zeeland, Eugène Franken, Katleen Gabriels, PG Kroeger, Carina Weijma, Bernd Maier-Leppla, Willemijn Brouwer and Colinda de Beer, Innovation Origins tries to figure out what the future will look like. These columnists, sometimes joined by guest bloggers, are all working in their own way to find solutions to the problems of our time. So tomorrow will be good. Here are all the previous articles.