Often we perceive innovation as the magical outcome of creative minds. For entering into an innovation economy, should we wait for the emergence of creative genius? If it is an accidental outcome or natural endowment, how can developing countries figure out a manageable pathway? Of course, many developing countries have the aspiration to have a sustained path of growth. They have already reached the saturation point in producing economic outputs out of natural resources and labor. Entering into an innovation economy is the only option for them for keep growing. How can they succeed in producing and trading ideas is now their development challenge. In addition to creative spark, can we design a strategy for them for entering into the innovation economy through redesign of existing products and processes?
All major products are going through a transformation. They are being redesigned in making them better, and also less costly to produce. Many companies have developed an institutional approach to this redesign exercise for profiting from ideas. The relentless journey of redesign underpins even Apple’s iPhone’s successes. They have been implementing ideas in adding as well as improving features of both products and processes. Instead of looking for Genii’s creative sparks, developing countries should instead look for a systematic approach of redesigning existing products and processes to start producing economic value out of ideas. How to proceed with the strategy of entering into an innovation economy through redesign is often an issue.
Establish a unified theory of innovation as a cornerstone of thinking and forming opinions–for entering into innovation economy through redesign
Innovation has many connotations. There are more than a dozen theories and schools of thought. Examples are disruptive innovation, radical or breakthrough technologies, frugal innovation, public service innovation, blue ocean, and grassroots innovation. Often some of them look conflicting in nature. The first challenge is to have a unified understanding about the innovation dynamics in the globally connected competitive market. Upon doing so, a critical mass of a country should develop comprehension about it. Such comprehension should reshape their thinking and opinion formation processes.
Shaping the minds of a critical mass about a unified theory of innovation is essential to profit from ideas in a competitive market. Often the journey of creating economic value is a long one. Many actors should work in partnership over the years and even decades to turn a redesign idea into profitable revenue. Moreover, invariably the journey of taking ideas to market starts at a loss. A series of rational decisions should be taken by multiple actors in the midst of uncertainties. Suppose a country’s critical mass does not have a clear understanding of the nature of the journey of generating economic value out of ideas. In that case, multiple actors will highly likely fail to keep playing their due role, even over decades.
Some of the actors are graduates, faculty members, families, Government, policymakers, financial institutions, entrepreneurs, and media. They need to keep taking rational steps in harmony in profiting from ideas. For example, Nichia corporation in Japan had to even make Nobel Prize-winning scientific discovery to turn the idea of redesigning light bulb with LED. Hence, shaping the minds of a critical mass is the first step for developing countries for entering into the innovation economy through a redesign.
Undertake exercise of technology monitoring, feasibility analysis, and forecasting
Along with the progress in developing common understanding and shared opinions about what it takes to profit from ideas, measures should be taken for technology monitoring, feasibility analysis, and forecasting. Often developing countries understand the importance of knowing technologies. However, they have a very poor appreciation for the necessity for monitoring and forecasting. The journey of redesign ideas will largely depend on the progression and future state of relevant technologies. For example, the success of the idea of redesigning automobiles in making them electric vehicles will largely depend on the chemistry of battery or fuel cells. Hence, they should develop a strong capacity in this area. Moreover, the critical mass of relevant actors should be made customers of the outputs of technology monitoring, feasibility analysis, and forecasting.
Perform redesign analysis of those products which are consumed and produced in the country
The 3rd step is to develop the capacity and apply it to analyze products and processes for generating redesign ideas. To minimize the risk, the focus should be on redesigning products that are consumed and produced in respective countries. Redesign exercise should target those ideas which have the potential of making products better as well as cheaper. To address these conflicting requirements, they should focus on leveraging emerging technologies. They should also investigate the scope of incremental innovation as part of the strategy of sustaining the redesign ideas in the competitive market. Their analysis should also take into consideration of technological, economic, and organizational feasibilities.
Select candidate products and develop a roadmap for showing innovation magic through ideas of the redesign
Upon performing redesign and feasibility analysis, the challenge is to select candidate products and processes. Instead of selecting many, the focus should be on a few to begin with. Moreover, a balance should be maintained between ambition and reality. On the one hand, some of the ideas which are imitation in nature should be avoided. On the other hand, ideas for fueling a creative wave of destruction at the global level should also be avoided initially. Instead, the focus should be on incremental innovation. The first phase of the journey should produce some profitable results from the redesign exercises. Moreover, those results should be produced through the collaborative task execution by related actors. This exercise is vital for developing the system capacity for pursuing increasingly challenging ideas of the redesign.
Strengthen actors and facilitate collaboration for having system response
In most of cases, actors need to be empowered to play their due roles. The Government should prime the pump. Instead of focusing on a few actors like academic institutions, the approach should optimally develop the system capacity. Moreover, economic incentives should be there for facilitating collaboration among those actors. Incentives may originate from sharing economic returns from ideas of the redesign, which actors collectively develop. There should be a focus on creating a market of ideas and the production of knowledge to nurture them. In the absence of this market, the journey of profiting from ideas runs the risk of failing. Moreover, there is a need of updating policies and regulations to increase the supply and create the demand for locally produced ideas.
Keep monitoring progress and fine-tuning the system capacity for entering into innovation economy through redesign
There should be an institution or a group of people who have the agenda to monitor the progress of the system capacity and keep fine-tuning it. In fact, this role is vital. In addition to the Government, some enlightened people or professional associations may take the anchoring role. Media outlets have an important role to shape the overall society as a whole. Hence, we should take a systematic approach for empowering a developing country for entering into innovation economy through redesign.