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The Future of Innovation

The Future Of Innovation Will Have To Be ‘heart And Mind’ – Or Nothing At All

The future of innovation is in its essence a journey which needs to begin as much in the heart as in the mind. In my work in more than 30 countries and which spans two decades I have witnessed an overbearing close-minded perspective on innovation—as if innovation is predominantly a discipline of ‘things’. The shaping of a better planet for all of us is and will become even more complicated and unpredictable and therefore we will need a new kind of wisdom, courage and purpose-driven passion to innovate for the benefit of all.

Although we look back in awe and admiration to the groundbreaking innovations of the 20th century we also have to admit that most innovations served only the needs of a few. Naturally we have to continue our pursuit of cutting edge technology, ideas and systems but the context in which these innovations take place, is and remains the fundamental issue. Of all the innovations that I have been involved in or researched, the one that comes the closest to heart and mind innovation and the one that considered the context of the dramatic changes that the innovation would bring with immense sensitivity; is the creation of a new South Africa. In a television series that I wrote called ‘Creating a miracle’ I highlighted the critical factors which led to this unique societal innovation.

A rare integration of spiritual, creative and pragmatic leadership.

A bringing together of opposite visions into a single shared vision.

The creation of new symbols, values, attitudes, principles, customs and practices (and the letting go of the traditions, norms and conventions which would obstruct or frustrate the creation of a free and democratic society)

Respect for and inclusion of ideas from every group affected by the innovation (the term I used was that every chair around the table was filled— failure in whatever form of innovation is often the result of ‘empty chairs’ — through ignorance or arrogance critical role players and idea creators are ignored.

An extraordinary insight into the essence of the innovation that was required (there are times when adjustment or conversion innovation would achieve the desired goal—in the box innovation— But here only ‘beyondness innovation’ would had any possibility of success).

The future of innovation depends on a clarity of understanding regarding the WHY, WHAT, HOW AND WHO of substance and intent. The initiators and the managers of newness also need to be the producers of exceptional ideas (ordinary just won’t do it any more) as well as courageous human beings who understand that authentic innovation and crucifixion are never far apart. As my mentor Paul Torrance said many times: “Creative people can perform miracles but they are always in danger of crucifixion”

There will always be many levels of innovation and many definers of this concept. And we can still choose to keep on improving the lives of a few privileged people and making the ‘thing world’ a better place. But I believe that we also need a radically different kind of innovation that will not hesitate to find breakthrough solutions to poverty, diseases, international conflicts and the present destruction of our planet —-at the beginning of the 21st century our track record looks very average and mundane.

And maybe the time has arrived to elaborate on the words of Aristotle: “Innovating the mind without innovating the heart is no innovation at all” If innovation of the heart and mind could create a new society, why are we still lingering?

By Dr Kobus Neethling

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