Traditionally, research and development is performed precisely at ‘Research and Development’ departments of companies and official institutes (Universities, for example). In recent times, what was traditionally called ‘Basic Research’ or ‘Blue skies Research’ has, in a sense, diminished; giving way to ‘Applied Research,’ sponsored by corporations for a specific, predefined aim.
The Applied Research is driven by profit, more than curiosity and hunger for knowledge. On the road to reach the pre-defined target, researchers may stumble upon insights that could be scientifically interesting, but out of scope with the commercial properties of the current aim. Needless to say, these avenues are often abandoned for the sake of retaining the hand that feeds. This poses a delicate situation and limits the path to insights that in turn may hinder and limit the capability of innovation.
In this modern age of transformation, rapid economic change and turbulent reality, companies start to realize that true innovation cannot be driven in the old Applied Research paradigm … ‘Differentiation’ being one of them. In order to stay alive, they have to come up with innovations that differ from the competition. That entails, thinking new and a new way of thinking.
The concept of ‘Think Tanks’ and ‘Innovation Chambers’ are quite in fashion; along with the phrase “thinking-outside-the-box”. My belief is that this can only be done with a large amount of freedom. Let the innovators innovate, driven by curiosity and the true passion for pushing the boundaries – within, outside, over, under, on top of or below the box. Let’s just get rid of the box altogether!
True innovation comes from passion. Passion, at its best, can’t be contained or quantified; passion is a purely qualitative attribute. There are no degrees of passion; either, you’re passionate about something or you’re not.
The ever-growing DIY communities and hackerspaces are places where innovation thrives. Take the chance to visit your local hackerspace and you’ll see what I mean. In these places, Applied Research shines with its absence. The very thought of some governing body limiting the freedom of thought, would instantly kill such an environment. These kinds of environments foster / nurture knowledge, which is openly shared between peers.
This sentiment constantly pushes the limits of the ‘possible,’ making it plausible and, eventually, a reality. This is a true incubation chamber of innovation, which is at the heart of the culture. This is where passion drives, motivates and makes things happen and materialize.
One important feature of such an oasis is the fact that they are cross-disciplinary, sharing knowledge across domains, inspiring insights from one field to another. These are the facets that need to be embraced by companies in order to successfully drive innovation in the future.
I strongly believe that there’s a need for a change at the heart of the culture. You agree?