Around a century ago, innovation was firmly linked to groundbreaking discoveries by scientists — often isolated from the rest of society, only immersing themselves in lone experiments or in assisting big corporations, like Johnson and Johnson and Bayer, with their research and products.
So it comes as no surprise, then, that many saw innovation as having a direct correlation with consumer demand.
But this theory is somewhat flawed. Rampant with innovation, the arrival of Britain’s modern economy was, by no means, based on an increasing army of men in lab coats, complete with test tubes in hand — nor by the profits they might have boosted with their produce.
Instead, it was largely based on those who asked the right questions; those who possessed the drive and the nerve to do something different. Characters such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel were known risk-takers. Although an engineer and, therefore, part of a profession that still entails an element of playing it safe, Brunel could see past the conventional and the mundane. He wasn’t afraid to shake things up.
The true characterisation of innovation involves change — the implementation of new practice, not invention. Some of the most life-changing products known to man come simply from being creative with existing technology — think Henry Ford’s inexpensive automobile.
Or take a look at the Apple iPod, another perfect example of something we already had — the MP3 player — until creative design made it something much more desirable and useful to our everyday lives.
These examples demonstrate that the concept behind leading innovation should be about taking risks with creative ideas that make life easier and exciting. Ideas can come from anyone, from anywhere, at any time. But it’s all about taking a creative leap into the unknown and preparing for potential failure.
In the process of recovering our battle-scarred economy, it’s important that we recognise and play to our strengths. In the midst of the recession, creative industries silently outclassed other sectors and have continued to do so, with official government reports stating a growth by 10 percent in 2012 alone.
In the words of British economist Gerard Lyons, the countries that will succeed in the future will be “those with cash, commodities or creativity”. With lessening amounts of cash and fewer commodities, it has never been more important to cultivate and nurture our creative industry.
Georgiana Foster works in Business Development at gyroLondon.
Follow Georgiana @giorgianafoster