‘Forced Innovation’ – The problem of our Times
One day an Indian king was passing through the forest when he came across a mediating hermit. He was surprised that, despite such huge entourage, the Hermit remained unmoved. Feeling insulted, the king asked his minister to confront the hermit.
The minister approached the hermit and called out, “Hey Hermit, the great king, lord of this land, is passing by and you don’t even bother to notice that, forget about standing up in his respect. Are you not disrespecting the king?” The hermit smiled and spoke nothing. The minister left and returned back, this time with the king himself. The king stared at the Hermit and thundered, “You fool, how dare you disrespect me, the king, your lord?”
The hermit adorned a broad smile and said, “Oh King, your greatness is no great than a speck of dust. Your greatness should be felt, not proclaimed.” The Hermit’s words shocked the king. A deep sense of guilt engulfed him and he retreated, his head hung in shame.
Technology today plays out pretty much like that. Although we are empowered by diverse forms of technologies, there are many that are trying to overwhelm us. Technologies are thrust on us with a vengeance, all in the name of ‘innovation.’ It’s perhaps this reason why I term all such technologies and systems as a product of ‘forced innovation.’
Let’s revisit some recent examples of forced innovations. There are wearable glasses that provide real-time information, mobile screens that fold, wearable technologies that can be stuck to any part of the human body, and intrusive systems that try to rob us of every bit of our privacy. Such technologies are not fundamental to human existence but exist because of the hype and the novelty value they showcase.
We surely have come a long way and so it’s time we start distinguishing between contextual innovation and forced innovation. A good way of doing this, perhaps, is to create a new model of technological innovation, much like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Innovation should be defined on a scale of significance – what is significant now and what is not. We cannot afford a mindless technological jamboree anymore!
2014 and beyond, we are witnessing a demand for innovation that impacts our everyday lives. There is an increasing demand for technological innovation in areas such as citizen services, healthcare, banking and mobility. These are the areas that are impacting millions across the world today.
Such paradigmatic change in the way we perceive innovation requires revisiting the technological ecosystem. In doing so, organizations will need to abandon their penchant for being in the rat race of ‘innovation’, which merely seeks to keep them ahead of competition. Participating in meaningful innovation is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity that can help organizations sustain their credibility as innovators. Like the proud king who was shown the mirror by the hermit, it’s time innovators returned back to the drawing board.