The Next Big Innovation is...Innovation Itself?

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How can we supercharge innovation? (Photo by Mark Sebastian, Creative Outlet. CC license)


Even innovation itself is ripe for disruption.

Innovation has always been the engine of American prosperity. Inventive genius has brought forth countless life-improving services, products, and solutions, and fueled the American dream. But what about innovating innovation? What new ideas and approaches are helping to keep invention flowing?  Here are four areas where novelty is being harnessed to keep the nation’s innovation ecosystem fertile and strong. 

Intellectual capital

Well-prepared minds are innovation’s most important ingredient. That’s why we must foster excellence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in America’s under-performing student body. To achieve this aim, educational pioneers are seeking new ways to engage students in learning with entertaining and hands-on techniques using the devices that students know and enjoy.

In fact, videogame makers have developed new and engaging video games that help students grasp STEM-related skills, theories, and concepts. For example, Reach for the Sun, designed by Filament Games, requires players “to balance the rightamount of starch, water and nutrients to enable their plant to grow and reproduce.”[1]

What future life-changing breakthrough will be achieved by minds prepared with STEM knowledge?

Financial capital

Basic research is innovation’s incubator—where Eureka moments are born. It creates knowledge that applied research transforms into new industries and engines of economic growth and opportunity. The United States has traditionally relied on corporate, government, foundation, and university grants to fund basic research.  

Say hello to internet-based platforms such as Petridish, RocketHub, Experiment, Walacea, and USEED that crowdfund basic research. The platforms won’t replace the National Institutes of Health anytime soon, but they supply a fertile new resource for funding knowledge and insight. Might industries and companies someday fund their applied research going directly to crowds and customers using internet-based platforms? 


Because “great ideas can come from anywhere,” IBM stresses that organizations must find new ways to engage all its assets and human capital in the innovation process.[2] Technology-based methods for providing seamless integration of digital content from different sources, pipelines, and devices is being developed to promote richer collaboration among organizational stakeholders. Such convergence is taking place in the form of “extranets”—born of the Internet and Intranet. They provide a novel way of enabling organizations to securely link their customers, clients, partners, vendors, suppliers, alumni and others into inventive communities.  

Every company might ask itself: how are we enabling collaboration among all our stakeholders and multi-disciplines to stimulate creative energy?

Business practices

According to McKinsey, 94% of corporate managers find their company’s innovation performance lacking.[3] Harvard Business Review (HBR) found that “innovative employees must be taught four skills”— challenge invisible orthodoxies; use a wide angle lens to look for underappreciated trends; see the enterprise as a set of competencies and strategic assets, rather than products; and address “unarticulated” needs and wants by closely observing customers and clients who often won’t or can’t articulate their requirements and frustrations.

HBR highlighted Whirlpool Corporation that trained more than 15,000 of its employees to be “business innovators…and see the world with “fresh eyes…”[4]  What innovations might you think of to help your organization be more creative?

To innovate, let’s keep innovating!