Innovation Gap

Day 39 Week 6 Q1  Wednesday, February 8, 2023

When founding SVII, the Silicon Valley Innovation Institute in 2005, there may not have been any others. I am sure there were none founded not upon the same underlying principle, which was to address the Innovation Gap between innovators and decision-makers.   

These two special populations, the Innovators and the Decision Makers in general, do not spend much time together, as they have seemingly different priorities and proclivities. One group wants to change the world, and the other group wants to manage the world.  Decision-makers tend to be fairly risk-averse as, for the most part, they have power and want to keep it.  Innovators look around and say things could be better, and here is what we can do about it. You would think these two groups would have a natural affinity for each other, but they usually do not, except within dedicated innovation cultures. Dedicated innovation cultures are enterprises and institutions founded specifically with innovation in mind. They exist to innovate, and their founders deeply value innovation; at least, they do when they start out.

In order to better understand who innovators are, a simple definition of innovation would be worth putting forth. Since 2005 SVII has been defining innovation as applied insight. Yes, there may be many other longer and more complex definitions. Still, it has been my experience that comprehensiveness is not at all sticky, mostly because comprehension of comprehensiveness is low and reserved for those deeply intellectual individuals who can hold a lot of information at their fingertips to deploy. Still, these are not the mainstream of society, so their definitions are not that helpful.

For much of the world, innovation is about money, earnings and increased profits. At least, this is what they tend to write about. On the other hand, I find simple definitions are the most useful because most people can understand them, which is why I return to Applied Insight.

Innovation has not occurred if a person has an Insight and it is never applied. It needs to be manifest outside of the brain of the person taking about it in some tangible adoptable manner. If no one ever adopts it, the manifestation of this insight innovation has not occurred. In other words, rhetoric is not innovation. Talking about innovation is not innovation. Interviewing innovators is not innovation, and finally, innovation scholars are not necessarily innovators. They might be, but it is not at all guaranteed.    

There is another outlier population I call creative outliers. These people have ideas, and a small portion of them become innovators because they manage to apply their insights and adopt them. Most creative outliers do not. It is much harder to apply an idea than to have it, and it is also much harder to get it adopted than to apply it. And this is why there is such an innovation gap. Very few creative outliers are in productive relationships with decision-makers, enabling others to adopt their insights. 

The Innovation Gap is real and seriously handicaps society from solving its problems because the people with the solutions are usually dismissed and do not have the necessary skills and fortitude to push past the numerous obstacles in their way. But these skills can be learned and acquired through tenacity, experience, living and working within innovation cultures.