Without doubt, the launch of Apple’s iPad was another over-hyped media circus. Yes, it provoked some debate about the nature of innovation today. (For example see this piece in the New York Times in defence of ‘elitist and individual’ innovation versus this piece in the Guardian which attacks Apple’s proprietary approach as ‘stifling open innovation’). Interesting, but this is small potatoes. What is notably absent is a serious public debate about innovation and the future of economic growth. Which is precisely what Big Potatoes: the London Manifesto for Innovation aims to do and which will be publicly launched at the end of this month.
WHY BIG POTATOES?
The Credit Crunch has so far failed to spur any major innovations. Worse, there is no public debate on innovation. Instead, our political leaders focus on symptoms — ‘greedy bankers’ and the parallel financial universe, lack of ‘consumer confidence’. They also prefer dying business models to the great and necessary challenge of creating new industries. What we have is a great evasion – a systematic failure to face up to the innovation crisis that threatens to rob future generations of economic growth.
This is why a group of us decided to come together to create a new 14 point Manifesto for Innovation which we hope to make a key issue in the forthcoming UK general election. Beyond that we hope to make this a global debate, for innovation is an issue that faces humanity. The Manifesto authors are: Nico Macdonald, Alan Patrick, Martyn Perks, Mitchell Sava, James Woudhuysen and myself.
We believe innovation is an indispensable premise for improving the quality of life. It is first, a means to a better life; but it also dignifies human beings, and sets them apart from animals. In innovation, humans find uses for things that seemed useless, and new uses for things they thought they knew the uses of.
During today’s economic downturn, innovation will be more important than ever. The sooner far-sighted strategies are developed and implemented by government, business and other agencies, the more a better world will be within humanity’s reach.
It is not innovation that creates inequality, but the social choices of institutions. We distinguish innovation from fiscal, regulatory, legal and cap-and-trade responses to today’s challenges. Unlike these technocratic measures, innovation has the potential, at least, to increase wealth and opportunity for everyone: it is not a zero-sum game.
The Big Potatoes Manifesto is call to arms: for leadership and risk taking, for accepting failure and unexpected outcomes as the necessary and inevitable path to success, for bold and ambitious experimentation and an end to the instrumentalist short-termism which has institutionalised a culture of limits. This Manifesto is designed to improve the climate for innovation and represents a clarion call for a new generation of leaders that can inspire new gymnastics in the mind and new ingenuity in the lab and factory floor.
14 points to raise the debate
The Manifesto consists of the following 14 points:
- Think big!
- Go beyond the post-war legacy of innovation
- Principles, not models!
- In praise of ‘useless’ research
- Innovation is hard work
- For success, expect lots of failures
- Regard chance and surprise as allies
- Take risks
- Innovation demands leadership
- Innovation is every body’s responsibility
- Trust the people, not regulation
- Think global, act global
- The spirit of innovation knows no limits
- By, with and for humanity
The Manifesto will be publicly launched at the end of this month. If you are interested in reading the Manifesto and/or getting involved, or attending the public launch, please visit us here and register your interest.