There are some words for which everyone has their own definition. What is creativity? success? None of us will answer the same way. Innovation belongs to this category of expressions.
What is innovation? Those who say they know are lying. Many of us have more of a subjective opinion than knowledge regarding this topic. But asking the right question is more important than having the perfect answer. Especially during the strong shift we are experiencing today. We cannot predict the future, everything is changing too fast, uncertainty is everywhere. The revolution is more psychological than technical. The tools are here, but who knows what we are going to do and create with them. That is why values and ideals will always be more important than any trends. There is no obvious answer in today's world, this is an exciting period. "The best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong" as said Tom Stoppard.
The future will be shaped by the questions we dare ask ourselves. Understanding what inspires and nurtures innovation is a very necessary interrogation our societies must embrace. The recession obliges our economies to reinvent themselves. "Whatever made you successful in the past won't in the future" affirmed Lew Platt, former chairman, president and CEO of Hewlett Packard.
I am always surprised by the artificial gap we build between the collective responsibility as a country, nation or movement to be "innovative" to thrive again and our personal abilities to adapt and deal with change. Both cannot be separated. Innovation cannot be delegated to institutions, politicians or corporations without us, as individuals, starting the renewal process with ourselves. Not only is it impossible, but it does not make any sense. Innovation cannot be proclaimed if our individual mindsets that shape our collective culture are not ready for it.
In his book "Self-Renewal: The Individual and The Innovative Society", John W. Gardner describes innovation as a phenomenon built on an individual level. There is no innovative society without people being able to cultivate a permanent state of resilience. We deal with change if we can replace our own fear with curiosity. Curiosity is a necessary behavior that keeps us excited for the unknown. There is no innovation without this desire for the future according to Gardner. "Renewal depends on many factors. I would point to one as uniquely important - motivation. If people are apathetic, defeated in spirit, or unable to imagine a future worth striving for, the game is lost."
Any revolution starts not in the streets or in a meeting. It starts in our mind. Nobody will never ever make you change if you do not want it. We experience it everyday as a person. Many people can tell you to give up a bad habit. But only once you decide that you really do want to give it up is the first step taken. Your willingness does not have any substitute, nobody can rescue anyone from themselves. Why do we expect innovation would be different? Why do we expect citizens to embrace it if we are not excited or passionate by what could be and not only what should be preserved? No political push will compensate any lack of personal desire for the future.
As a European living in the US, I have a noticed differences in the approaches to the innovative process. Innovation seems to be a political matter at least in France, not a personal responsibility to nurture. The impulsion is political, encouraging citizens to jump on the train of tomorrow, innovation being our wild card to create growth. The Innovation 2030 initiative was just revealed this week with the full support of our political and business leaders. Anne Lauvergeon who previously presented a report identifying the seven key sectors for the future of France was accompanied by the French President Francois Hollande. A competition has been announced, to help the most innovative project become reality.
The ambition is beautiful, even legitimate. But could we expect a punctual structure to change the mindset? An innovative society cannot be proclaimed. It has to be desired and implemented individually.
I was surprised to discover the very important number of incubators in Europe. Europeans have more than 100 incubators to help them make their dream projects become reality. It is a lot and many of them are well known. Unfortunately, the Silicon Valley seems for the moment to be a step ahead when it comes to the success rate on a global scale. The structures are available, but the success is still unequally distributed. Faith in yourself, your idea, the potential of what could be cannot be faked. The innovative personality is not afraid of change or of their own vulnerability to it. They know it is a necessary ingredient to make them think and go beyond what has been done so far. Innovation is about creating a new path, not identifying new tools. There is no innovation as a concept, there is only an innovative spirit.
Seeing the future of a nation as more related to the ability of its citizen to be in love with the unknown than a political responsibility is not the apology of liberalism or the cult of individualism. It is the opposite. When you are an innovative person, your relationships with yourself and others evolve immediately. The unknown is not the enemy anymore, others become your community, the crisis becomes an exciting transition, your crazy ideas the new normal of tomorrow, your imagination inspiration for your creativity. All your perspectives are transformed. Trust is the basis of our humanity.
Innovation can never be a global project if we do not first say to ourselves as individuals, do I decide to have faith in the future? Do I want to live in fear of change or do I trust my ability to reinvent myself?
What is innovation (for me)?
Innovation is not a program, a structure, a national cause, a political will.
We are a constant work in progress. Innovation is You.