Innovation: Part of human nature

By José Luis Álvarez

The question about innovation in organizations and companies can be divided into two broad areas. On the one hand, there is the long-term theoretical development that is in the political-ideological area. In contrast, there is a more practical and direct aspect that is in the political-economic area.

When we talk about ideas, creative ability, capacity for construction, we talk about people. Innovation is the most human characteristic of economic manifestations. It is an activity that we can not delegate to machines, routines or agendas. Innovation is about thinking and acting differently from what has been done before. It is hard to imagine anything more human than this.

People think. That’s what we do. The ability to think and generate new ideas is our great biological advantage. We humans have many weaknesses: our teeth are miserable, we can not run especially fast, we are not good swimmers, we freeze at low temperatures, it is difficult to work hard in very hot climates. Nor are we especially adept at climbing trees or camouflaging ourselves in nature. In general, humans are poorly endowed to make great physical efforts, but we are endowed with a great brain.

Fish swim, birds fly, humans think, create and innovate. Thinking is not something that people do because we like it, we do it because it is our way of surviving.

It is not possible to be for or against innovation, because innovating is something that humans do in a natural way. We are constantly looking for new ways of doing things, new options for shaping things, new things to do. People have the ability to question ourselves, ability that no other animal has.

Another characteristic of people is our ability to understand that the environment in which we live today will not necessarily be the same tomorrow, so we are prepared for change, to adapt quickly to different environments. We can move to other places, learn new languages ​​and learn to live in other cultures.

The first cornerstone of an innovation policy is to enable people to be people, to allow and stimulate autonomy of thought. Organizations and companies must believe in people’s ability to create new ideas and transform these ideas into real and useful applications for business and society.

When we talk about innovation, we do it about new ideas applied for the benefit of people, so it is necessary to approach them from a broader, more human perspective. When we say that we want a more innovative society, it is not enough to stimulate scientific research, technological development or to promote specialization in postgraduate and doctorate degrees in areas related to technology. It is equally important to stimulate musical creation, colors, forms, sounds, movement, communications, etc. Many of the great innovations of the last decade are in the area of ​​machine-person interaction. In this area the cultural sector has been tireless in injecting new innovations that are changing our current digital lifestyle. When thinking about the contribution of art to technological development, it is impossible not to remember Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, who in a talk to Stanford University students entitled “Connecting the dots”, said that the idea of ​​creating a Computer with a user-friendly interface had it while studying a calligraphy course at the university. This kind of friendly interface was Apple’s legacy to the information technology revolution.

Finally, the question remains: how can organizations and companies stimulate innovation? The idea “necessity is the mother of invention” was advocated by Plato in his work The Republic. In principle, the lack of resources inevitably leads to invent and sharpen the ingenuity, but you can also think the opposite, that is to say that only with ample resources and economic funds the results are obtained.

Organizations that want to innovate are looking for creative people who think differently, unconventionally, outside the box. Usually these people also behave in an unconventional way, outside the box, therefore in this context, being creative becomes a social risk. Organizations have to be able to socially integrate all kinds of people.

Today there is enough cumulative practical experience to ensure that innovation needs stimulation and well-targeted policies.

It is necessary to allow people to be human, to stimulate the search for new solutions to old problems. Create an organizational culture in which the only constant and

Avoid your Atlantis and the loss of knowledge

By José Luis Álvarez and Jorge Martínez

One of the most fascinating historical myths is the existence of Atlantis. According to mythology, more than ten thousand years before our time, there existed a people who lived in an island where a high level of development was achieved, in the art of war, in the intellectual, cultural, spiritual and technical. We are passionate about thinking that Atlantis really existed where people lived in peace and happiness because of the level of development achieved.

According to mythology, this island was struck by a natural catastrophe and plunged into the ocean, where all the knowledge gained was lost. Curiously, there have been few scientific and military expeditions that have tried to find this mythological island, all without a successful result. The motivations to find Atlantis are diverse, but the most exciting thing is to think about the possibility of rescuing all the lost knowledge, and even more to understand how it was reached that level of development at that time.

The existence of Atlantis is part of a mythological history, but our fear of losing the knowledge and development of a society is real. Why are we worried? Because humans are the only animals that we understand the concept of development. We have been trained to understand that the society in which we live today will not necessarily be the same in the future. History has also taught us that the road to development is not obvious. When we look back on history we see a lot of knowledge and social development that has been lost. Clear examples are the Mayan culture, Inca, among others. In short, knowledge can be created, but it is also possible to lose it, whether in society, in organizations or in companies.

There are numerous examples of large organizations that, during lean times, decide to offer early retirement plans (eg Boeing) or simply lay off hundreds of employees to adjust to their economic reality. Many of these employees are often elderly, with many years of experience. Generally, organizations control the expense of such employees and their level of productivity, but not the knowledge they possess. And so, once you cut staff and cut spending, you realize that many of the people who have fired have valuable knowledge, which is not transferred anywhere. It has been customary to see cases in which companies have had to stop production, rehire many of the dismissed, or request their advisory services.

There are tools, techniques, methodologies, aimed at ensuring that organizational knowledge is maintained and transferred to the organization, whether in physical or intangible form. But for this it is fundamental that the organization defines knowledge as an asset to manage, whose result directly impacts the results through more efficient processes. In this way, at the moment of events that negatively impact the organization (as it happened to Atlántida with the natural catastrophe), we would not lose one of the main assets of income generation.