A new start

Innovation seemed to be a trendy word before 2009. Apple, Google and Toyota leaded their way through new products and processes and innovation seemed the new mantra. Spend on R&D! Spend on market research! Foster a flexible, free and creative organization! Become Steve Jobs!

But what happened after 2009? No, I'm not talking about iPads or massive auto recalls. The financial crisis changed our whole business perspective. We had (and still have since we are not through) to tighten our buckles: sticking to core business, reducing costs and investments, having less access to credit and fearing loans, keeping only needed and sometimes over-exploited employees, among other preventive and reactive actions. I remember reading an article that talked about "how innovation was going to take us out of the crisis" and another one talking about “how innovation caused the economic crisis through poorly tested financial and mortgage products.” Was innovation our disease or our medicine? Were both articles right? This just proved to me how little we know about the matter and either the miracle or false-prophet illusions around the word.

Either way, I think innovation learned a lesson. It is not about radical transformations in order to assure future glory; it’s about creating new forms of value through strategy and being effective with whatever time, money and talent we have, even in tough times. That’s where true innovation resides. Some theories (such as WOIS) state that innovation emerges when two opposite requirements collide, for example, creating a light weight bullet-proof vest or a long lasting and bio-degradable material. Well, guess what? We have to innovate innovation. We have to learn how to identify and meet client's needs in a competitive environment with the most cost-effective procedures.

As an innovation consultant for Latin America where resources are scarce for most companies, financial crisis are not unfamiliar to us and innovation is not a top investment priority, this is part of my day to day challenge. I hope this blog serves as some kind of “trickle-up innovation” of innovation (that which is adapted from emerging markets because of its lean nature) and I hope to continue expanding our knowledge on the area in a fun and joyful way.

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