Best practices and pitfalls to avoid for a successful innovative project.
Silos vs. Interactions
New ideas arise from the mixing of several information flows from very different fields. Innovation arises from the links and synergies exploited between areas that have a priori nothing to do with each other. Nature is without
doubt our richest source of inspiration. Let us quote, for example, the aerodynamics of the Japanese TGV which is inspired by the shape of the Kingfisher. Among the technological examples, Isaac de Rivaz was inspired by Volta's pistol to build the first internal combustion engine. In short, we give birth to new ideas by going elsewhere.
Being aware of our thinking biases
We all share thought biases. Our brain is made that way, no one escapes it. Even if these thinking biases have been studied in depth for a long time, notably by the famous Economics Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, we often remain their prisoners. By being aware of our biases, we minimize the risk of getting lost in our hypotheses and analyzes of results. Paradoxically, this danger wreaks havoc in science, where it is assumed - wrongly - that objective scientific methodology makes us immune to these biases. How many incomplete assumptions? How many biases that lead us astray, of shortcuts taken to support the initial hypothesis, at all costs?
Celebrating our Failures
Unless it is caused by thought bias, we should celebrate our failure. It is when the result contradicts the initial hypothesis that the researcher is most satisfied. It means he is about to make a discovery. Now is the time for him to continue, to go further, to understand a new phenomenon that will open up new horizons for him to innovate.
Yes, but when time is running out, the budget is already depleted, the unhappy customer is getting impatient, the researcher is often told: “It's impossible! You made a mistake in your manipulations! ”. And bye bye innovation… We remain stuck in our initial assumptions. So we “optimise”, we make a minor improvement, and if nothing else works, a re-branding. Too bad, innovation was almost within reach.
Daring to invest in the unknown
We can understand the imperatives of business. It's not easy to say, “OK, we're almost there, let's invest big sums in the unknown” (yes, the result contradicts the original hypothesis in which we had placed all our hopes). However, by persevering, we will understand a fundamental phenomenon. We are going to make a discovery that will give birth not to innovation, but to innovations, which in turn will give rise to a multitude of solutions and products, in many and varied fields.
If we try to look beyond the initial cost, and see the potential for new inventions, which we can adapt to multiple applications, we can justify the investment in the unknown. For that, one must have the luxury of being able to act in the long term, but it is worth it.
Techno-centrism vs. Holism
When we think of innovation today, we mostly think of technology. Yes, we are in an era of technological disruption that puts pressure on the functioning of all of humanity. We hear engineers, researchers, tech companies telling us that we need to adapt to technology and how to get there. And that is why we need philosophers, jurists, linguists and artists more than ever ... With technological disruption come problems of ethics, law, intellectual property and the protection of private data. We need the lawyers to get hold of it. We need linguists to enlighten us on this technological jargon that has established itself as our default language. We need philosophers to alert us about the opportunities and the dangers that lie ahead. We need economists and managers to enlighten us on the best strategies so that technological innovation brings the maximum benefits to as many people as possible, including our ecosystem. The technological push must therefore be accompanied by a multi-disciplinary pull where a constructive dialogue reigns. This is how innovation becomes useful and beneficial, how we understand its dangers, benefits, limitations and how we get the most out of the investment made in research. This holds true both company-wide and society-wide.