Is there a future for real innovation ?

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Have you noticed how tech savvy children have become but are no longer streetwise ? I read a friend’s thoughts on his own site last week and there was a slight pang of regret in where technology and innovation seems to be leading us all.

It was around the time I was trying to figure if I should get myself an iPad or a HP Netbook, so I asked my friend – seeing that he had both – what he thought was the right pick.

Friend: Ask him (pointing to the 11 year old) he’s addicted to both devices. And has some views on what’s better.

Me: So, which one is better, Friend’s Son?

11 Y.O. Kid: What are your requirements?

Me: (Silence. Jaw drops. Trying to fathom the significance of that question).

Innovation is one of those overused terms that has become diluted in it’s meaning. Nowadays all it stands for is an incremental release of similar products.

And I started to worry about where the concept of innovation is going for future generations. There’s an increasing reliance on technology for the sake of convenience, children are becoming self-reliant too quickly but gadgets are replacing people as the mentor. The human bonding of parenthood is a prime example of where it’s taking a toll. I’ve seen parents hand over iDevices to pacify a child numerous times now, the lullaby and bedtime reading session has been replaced with Cut The Rope and automated storybooks apps. I know a child who has developed speech difficulty because he’s been brought up on cable TV and a DS Lite, pronouncing words as he has heard them from a tiny speaker and not by watching how his parents pronounce them.

And I started to worry about how the concept of innovation is being redefined for future generations. I used my imagination constantly as a child and it’s still as active now as it was then but I didn’t use technology to spoon feed me. The next generation expect innovation to happen at their fingertips with little to no real stimuli.

Steve Jobs said “stay hungry, stay foolish and he was right. Innovation comes from a keenness, it’s a starvation and hunger that drives people forward to spark imagination and create, it comes from grabbing what little there is from the ether and turning it into something spectacular. It’s the Big Bang of human creation. Einstein said imagination is more important than knowledge, he was right too.

And I started to worry about what the concept of innovation means for future generations. Technology is taking away the power to think for ourselves and from our children. Everything must be there and in real-time for instant consumption. It’s junk food for the mind and we’re getting fat on it. And that breeds lazy innovation. We’ve become satiated before we reach the point of real creativity, nobody wants to bother taking the time to put it all together themselves any more, it has to be ready for us. And we’re happy to throw it away if it doesn’t work first time, use it or lose it, there’s less sweat and toil involved if we don’t persevere with failure.

Remember seeing the human race depicted in Wall-E ? That’s where innovation is heading.

And because of this we risk so many things disappearing for the sake of convenience. We’re all guilty of it, I’m guilty of it. I was asked once what would become absurd in ten years. Thinking about it I realised we’re on the cusp of putting books on the endangered species list. Real books, books bound in hard and paperback not digital copies from a Kindle store. And that scared me because the next generation of kids may grow up never seeing one, or experience sitting with their father as he reads an old battered copy of The Hobbit because he’ll be sitting there handing over an iPad with The Hobbit readalong app tee’d up, and it’ll be an actors voice not his father’s voice pretending to be a bunch of trolls about to eat a company of dwarves.

Innovation is a magical, crazy concept. It stems from a combination of crazy imagination, human interaction and creativity not convenient manufacture. Technology can aid collaboration in ways we’ve never experienced before but it can’t run crazy for us. And for the sake of future generations don’t let it.

Here’s to the crazy ones indeed.

(this post was brought to you by the power of my crazy imagination and the creativity of Clare Jeeves)

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One response to “Is there a future for real innovation ?

  1. I think your spot on here. I recall being in a role in my previous company where I was allowed to think! I had one great idea after another (well at least I thought so).

    Recently working means shoehorning in more and more, in less and less time, using ever more intrusive gadgets. It leaves you swamped with little time to take a considered view of what you need to do. It is so easy to just jump in and do it, with every wider range of tools, apps and methodologies that support this virtual instant gratification approach. I now have to work really hard to find the time to think up any ideas that could potentially turned into something innovative.

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