We probably spend too much time debating terminology and labels, but as we transform ourselves, we should not get stuck too much on traditional models of innovation.
Following from Schumpeter, an entrepreneur is able to convert a new idea or invention into a successful innovation(not necessarily a business!!), but an entrepreneur without a brilliant widget or concept is a lonesome soul-innovation is commonly a team game!
Innovation is part of a broad, inclusive spectrum of research and application activity that links in fairly non specific order:- Discovery (new knowledge), Invention (seeing potential application in knowledge), Applied research(developing applications) and impactful creation and delivery of a solution or application to society(Innovation). Solutions encompass a wide variety of forms, including but not limited to, commercial applications. Entrepreneurship makes it all happen, but those skills may not always reside in one magical individual.
Innovation is often a team game and the broad skill sets needed, often require diverse teams that may variously include researchers, inventors, technicians, administrators, technology architects, developers, lawyers, artists, and entrepreneurs. Some team members may only be interested in part of the innovation process. The most successful research to deployed technology stories in the PSE system (polytechnics, colleges and universities), are variously driven by students, postdocs, technicians and academics. In industry, inspiration and critical thinking can also come from a variety of sources, not just the formal positions of leadership and invention. As seen in many posts to this site, many new models of cross sector innovation involving new combinations of players (industry, government, PSE, citizenry), that break down traditional institutional cultures and resourcing models are also being proposed. They should be encouraged, supported and tested, as one key to transforming our innovation system, is to greatly increase volume of effort and activity.
The key to innovation is to start with lots of good ideas and select, focus and deliver on a few, which can function in whatever target environment is chosen. We must not be too prescriptive about which models of innovation work, or key skill sets of individuals, the key is that the team overall, has the necessary ambition, energy, inspiration, focus, diversity and delivery skills combined with good internal communication. Teams overall, have to be entrepreneurial and focussed and having a charismatic leader often helps, but is not always necessary for success! Diversity of teams and new and different models of innovation are needed. They will need to be matched by new models of resourcing.
There is a great potential and much greater potential volume of innovation, from diverse entrepreneurial innovation teams, even when a classical entrepreneur appears to be missing. Doing is more important than stereotyping and to succeed in the innovation game, Canada needs more innovators, many of whom will not match the standard entrepreneurial stereotypes. Classical entrepreneur driven innovation will always occur, but it is important that the new models of innovation that are being developed, are also recognised by and supported by government and investors. Innovation, requires taking risks and being tolerant of failure and to succeed, we must take risks with non-traditional innovation models, encourage new partnerships and provide flexible funding and mentoring mechanisms to make it happen. We should also make a call as a nation to celebrate innovation-a National Public Holiday of Canadian Innovation perhaps?
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