Why innovation?

Innovation was pretty much born in the light bulb (Photo: Colourbox)


My first job after I graduated in 2007 came with the title ‘innovation consultant’. My job was to convince all the employees at a large international engineering company that innovation was the key to long-term success. I failed shortly after. 

When the crisis hit, it was decided to focus all resources on the core business and streamline the organisation, leaving no space and motivation for developing new business opportunities.

A welcome comeback
But seven years later, innovation is slowly “coming back” – or at least according to Peder Holk Nielsen, the president and CEO of Novozymes, which plans to double its growth rate through innovation.

Josef A Schumpeter, the Austrian economist, saw innovation as a key driver for economic growth. He defined five types of innovation – product, process, business model, source of supply, and mergers and divestments – that would help executives like Nielsen to formulate their strategies on ‘how’ to deliver the expected results. In Novozymes’s case, all five types of innovation.

The ‘why’ in innovation
Knowing ‘how’ is not enough to achievelong-term economic growth. According to management guru Simon Sinek, knowing ‘why’ is the key to long-term economic growth.

“It’s about feeding the fast-growing population in a sustainable way,” says Nielsen – a statement that makes me want to jump on board and be a part of the Novozymes innovation team.
And that is – as I see it – your key to economic growth. Having a clear and well-communicated ‘why’ driving your innovation motivates and attracts the right people and improves the odds for success.

Why not?
I don’t blame the ones I convinced to join the innovation team in 2007 for thinking it was a waste of time. Few if any of the initiatives, tools and methodologies introduced back then are used actively today. And looking back, I see how the reason for joining the innovation team wasn’t there.

I blame myself back then and managers today for not finding the ‘why’ in innovation and thereby eroding the term innovation, leaving employees with no motivation for succes.

And I want to warn companies off jumping onto the innovation train – if you don’t know why.