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WHAT INNOVATORS CAN LEARN FROM 2017 AND APPLY IN 2018

Posted by Isobel McEwan 2 January 2018 Innovation Consultancy

Now that the new year is here, the holiday season is behind us and normal life resumes apace, there seems like no better time to look both backwards and forwards. Looking back on innovation throughout 2017, there are several insights that organisations can draw upon and take with them into the new year. 

Here are some key takeaways from last year that innovators can learn in order to build a stronger and more competitive innovation strategy in the coming year.

TECHNOLOGY HAS DRIVEN INNOVATION IN 2017, BUT MUST MOVE TOWARDS BEING MORE RESPONSIBLE.

Technology review website Tom’s Guide, an offshoot of US and Europe-based digital content company Purch, recently wrote an article detailing the ‘most innovative tech of 2017.’ Featuring new technology in the realm of augmented reality, drones and smart homes, the article demonstrates that, while acknowledging that technology is not the only form of innovation, in the minds of the public it continues to play a major role in pushing boundaries, generating new ideas and solving problems. MIT’s Technology Review concurs, naming the 10 breakthrough technologies of the previous year in the belief that ‘these technologies all have staying power. They will affect the economy and our politics, improve medicine, or influence our culture.’

When looking for insights and observations to take forward into 2018, TechCrunch suggests that if technology is to maintain its central role in innovation, it must move towards responsible innovation. Suggesting that those seemingly unstoppable innovations pouring from the likes of Silicon Valley originally aimed to ‘make the world a better place.’ TechCrunch argues that ‘somewhere along the way, however, making the world a better place became more of a punchline than an ethos.’  

In order to readdress this, TechCrunch believes technology innovators must become ‘empathetic entrepreneurs’ in order to tackle the social and ethical challenges that go hand in hand with technological development. Calling upon 2018 to be a year of increased transparency and integrity, organisations inside and outside of the tech industry can learn lessons and begin to build a more responsible culture of innovation. 

MANY HAIL THE AUTOMATION OF INNOVATION, BUT HUMAN INNOVATORS STILL MATTER.

According to AJ Agrawal, a contributor writing for tech commentators The Next Web, the ‘innovation race is getting automated’ and the business climate of the day is consequently ‘fraught with a justified sense of existential dread.’

Quoting Clifford Gross, founder and CEO of IP investment company Tekcapital, as saying ‘there is only so much creative production that can be demanded from a finite number of people,’ Agrawal believes that innovation is becoming something which is sourced from the outside as a service. Instead of relying on R&D departments, Agrawal suggests that organisations are able to crowdsource their innovation and access innovation practises and technologies through automated processes. 

And yet despite this move towards more automated processes, Smithsonian magazine suggests that individuals will still hold a central role as innovators in the coming year. Arguing that ‘while a lot of people have good ideas, […] only a few have the tenacity, discipline and single-mindedness to bring them to fruition.’ From innovators tackling so-called “fake news” by encouraging students to learn skills of critical reading and analysis to individuals working on the ethics of artificial intelligence and the biases inherent in its algorithms, Smithsonian makes the case for a human-centric innovation outlook going in to 2018. 

There is little doubt that innovation is constantly evolving across industries and marketplaces, with several trends worth monitoring as we move into a new year. Taking the time to look back at the previous year, and notably the impact of technology and automation of services which can sometimes feel unstoppable, innovators can ensure that they learn to respond to and pre-empt these challenges and changes.

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