In the first post in this series, we discussed the needs for systemically open minds and systematically linked processes. In this post, we’ll discuss the importance of purpose in any innovative endeavor.
One of the most common mistakes people make in undertaking innovation is to think of it as an end, as the answer to the question, what?
“What do you want to do?”
“We want to innovate?”
But to determine the ways in which you want to innovate — the ends you choose to achieve — it’s more constructive to start with a different question: Why?
The why is your purpose. It’s your reason for wanting to innovate. There can be any number of purposes, of course. But unless the organization is democratized to some extent (or thorough some disciplined framework of processes and procedures), the purpose generally comes from the top down. And those purposes can be broadly characterized like this:
- Stability (Financial Drive). The purpose here is to provide stability through sales and profit margins, to stay in business or to grow financially. This is the lowest level of purpose, described, justified, and referred to as business decisions. I’d call it an objective, undertaken to enable you to sustain your existence in service to the larger purpose of creating value in some form.
- Technology Push (Industry 4.0 and more). This purpose is intended to develop, leverage, enable, or exploit emerging technologies into a process, a product, a service, or a business application. It’s okay to have technology development as a defined purpose, but it creates more value to connect it to benefits for individuals, communities, and humanity.
- Social Pull (Society 5.0 and more). To create a better life for human beings is the onset of purposeful innovation. Technology for the sake of technology or money only brings us halfway. Working for the benefit of society, community, and humanity is more sustainably purposeful.
- Sustainability (Planet Earth). This is where your purpose goes beyond humanity and addresses the sustainability of life on our planet by balancing economic, social, and environmental factors. From an enterprise viewpoint, sustainable development is defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. That’s what Conscious Capitalism is all about.
Purposeful Innovation as a Charter
Innovation and strategy are often mistakenly viewed as separate approaches And they’re almost never related to purpose. Particularly in top-down organizations, leaders will say, “Let’s get our strategy first, then we’ll work on innovation.” But responsible leaders realize purposeful innovation is strategy, not just a keyword or an action item to support strategy. It’s the way an organization becomes forward-looking and delivers lasting value beyond financial responsibility and sustainability. Ray Stasieczko, Founder/CEO TEASRA and Host of End Of The Day With Ray! and Ray’s Cafe! says, “Innovative organizations understand the importance of relevant products; while dying organization stay obsessed with selling the relevancy of their soon to be obsolete products.”
A sustainable planet and a smart society, through a balanced use of technology, should be a consideration in every innovation initiative, business decision, community activity, and personal action. Financial objectives may be an element in those innovation initiatives. But if sustainability isn’t an element of strategy, it must at least find a place in innovation initiatives to help teams address how decisions affect society or the planet.
In the next post in this series, we’ll share why the pursuit of a purpose in a competitive environment requires a process to convert ideas into value.