Innovating innovation

We now live in the belle epoque where thinking of ways to improve what we make and how we make it is not the exception but the standard. Continually focusing on better products and processes is a necessity in remaining relevant. So the next question is, and it purposely gets a little meta here, how do we innovate on innovation in order to stay ahead of the curve?

Workshop on Internet of Things dystopia at Topp.

First it’s good to take a look back on how we approached it in the past- often the role of innovation was delegated to a select few hovering near the top of the food chain; innovation managers and leaders. But what happens if we put it in the hands of everyone? What would that look like? How do you get people even interested? And then to act?

Look elsewhere

In the past, innovation was intended to best the competition and improve the bottom line, but today there is a new competition afoot- making the most of the limited resources available to us. It’s also not restricted to the business sector. Individuals and groups alike all over the globe are in need of continually streamlining their work in light of dwindling resources. Throwing our glance over to the ever shifting restaurant industry where staying relevant is an art that never sleeps, we find people who are inspired by making the most of limited resources. Matt Orlando, chef and owner of Copenhagen restaurant Amass, shares what guides his innovation principles with three equally weighted keys:

Responsibility
Change
Community
Matt Orlando’s talk at The Conference 2016.

Continually measuring what you do against these core principles is the North star that guides Matt and Amass. Horrified by the amount of waste the restaurant sent to the landfill was what set him on the trajectory to turn the restaurant’s byproducts into valuable resources. Having effectively inverted the numbers, the majority of waste is now being used in a variety of creative ways that improve not only the bottom line but use significantly less resources.

Their discoveries are breakthrough, and they’re done in a democratic fashion because the team challenges and inspires one another to go farther. Evaluating what already works via daily / weekly meetings and continually looking for what might be improved upon, is taking the Amass team on a singular journey, whose findings they are excited to share with the world to assist and inspire other establishments.

Guided by the words of TS Eliot:

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

Democratizing innovation

Getting people onboard the innovation train is not so tough when you’re a stakeholder but what about when you’re not? Architect Indy Johar discusses the importance of facilitating larger group discussions. Because it’s in this larger format that we understand how we are all in fact connected and stakeholders. Being able to understand the vibrational effect of how group impacts each individual of the collective is what enables the possibility to create practical change and improvement on a larger scale. Echoing Matt’s statement

The people that you effect will ultimately affect you

Explore the unknown

Another key to innovating on innovation is to look at what exists outside the viewfinder. Look sideways- look for parallels and common denominators that exist. And look backwards. Is the product of what we want to create best served by the method? As food innovator Isha Datar points out

if we want to make a chicken breast, why must we create the entire animal?

Why not throw our science and smarts into creating the product we are actually after? Looking at innovation head on and into its eyes.

Innovation is going to be about the exploration of what we don’t know in our chosen fields, especially meaningful when we’re considered experts in that field. It’s about thinking creatively.

In other words: “Art is not so much the way things look, but a way of looking at things.” — Samuel Rowlett

Words by Kathy Compton