Dr John Barker
Adjunct Professor, School of Sustainability, Murdoch University
“The process of transforming an idea into something useful”
Innovation is a process as well as a product and is distinct from invention. The innovation process is the “99% perspiration” that follows the “1% inspiration” of creating the idea- ie inventing- in the first place. Of course creativity is essential to start the process, then it’s the perspiration of applying both intellect and experience to bring the idea to fruition.
For solar-e.com, those ideas also include the establishment of global networks that lead to numerous joint ventures, various initiatives, and commercial opportunities in solar energy (in all its forms). We will be innovating to make these things happen.
Our approach to innovation is systematic- in several senses of the word. We see the world as a variety of systems- collections of interacting people and things that are connected by a common purpose- these systems can be technologies, buildings, organizations, industries, governments etc. This approach helps to clarify what we are talking about and what is important and what is the context when we are innovating. Of course, we believe that ultimately everything is connected, but some connections are more dominant in particular situations.
Our approach is also systematic in that we look for the underlying order, logic, reason and causation that drive a particular innovative situation. To understand innovation we must understand the present and likely future stages of development of the idea, the environment in which it is being innovated and the “market” in which it will be used. To help our understanding we often use the metaphors and analogies of life cycles, with ideas and systems emerging, growing, maturing, resurging and ultimately fading away.
And innovation is also not just about technologies- it’s about the way that we transform organizations, people, laws and even governments. To make these transformations we need to take into account a wide range of factors, which we call the “10 Ms”:
- Mandate- The rules, laws and customs that enable or impede innovation
- Motivation- Why the need for innovation arises
- Markets- Product, price, promotion and place!
- Management- Who organizes the innovation and how they tick
- Manpower- Who actually has their hands on the innovation
- Machines- The plant and equipment that is used
- Materials- The stuff that the innovation is made from
- Money- It comes in many shapes, sizes and conditions apply!
- Map-Space- How people and things relate geographically
- Map-Time- How things change as the process unfolds.
We see the character of each of these “Ms” being different at different stages of the life cycle of each system. This helps us to understand why some innovations are harder to make or implement than others.
This approach to innovation might seem more complicated than necessary- but experience tells us that many ideas fail to make it through the “valley of death” of the innovation process for reasons that could have been anticipated. Not only is innovation the 99% perspiration of the process, but about 99% of good ideas never make it to market. That’s a lot of wasted perspiration!
So solar-e.com is about innovation in a Twenty-first Century context- we are using experience and intelligence in the process of helping to make a sustainable world.