Travellers' Tales: Interviews with Thought Leaders in Innovation
Scott Anthony is a prolific writer in the field of innovation, and a key contributor to the Harvard Business Review. As a Managing Partner of Innosight Scott has advised senior leaders in large companies on growth and innovation. Prior to joining Innosight Scott was a senior researcher with Clayton Christensen, managing a group that worked to further Christensen's research on innovation.
GG: We use the popular phrase “the innovation race” as the title for our book, setting up a discussion for how this concept has shaped contemporary views of innovation as competitive economic growth at all costs. What does this phrase mean to you – if anything?
SA: My immediate reaction is thinking about the connection to the rat race – we are running faster but standing still. That’s a lot of the challenge of companies today. They feel innovation is important, everyone gets that, everyone knows they have to do something related to that, but they find that no sooner do they try to do something than the game and ground shifts. The flavor of the month changes. It’s the notion that round and round the hamster wheel we go. It’s a race that can never be won.
GG: Where do you think this concept is taking us?
SA: I think that the notion that you described of purpose driven innovation is very attractive. You have to go beyond the functional space. Innovation has to be more purpose driven and purpose inspired. If you don’t break out of that mindset it can be self-defeating. It makes anything creative rudimentary and boring. The mindshift is not because a competitor is beating us, but because we as an organization exist to provide value to society. It’s a fundamental change. If you are able to make that shift you can change the paradigm to where it should be. You can still maintain that play and creative part and not have to become a river of boringness. There can be an untapped jewel so the right person can have a field day.
GG: We introduce the concept of purpose-driven innovation in our book, with the idea that there should not be innovation for the sake of innovation or for unbounded growth, but rather that we need to be considering the values behind and impact of innovations - the social and ecological consequences. What impact do you think humans have had on the planet in the process of innovating?
SA: If you look at the world today compared to the prior world – people live longer, are more connected and so on. A lot of that is driven by scientific advancement and technological innovation. What once was the progress province of the few has become accessible to the many through the sharing economy. People in the rural areas of India are able to enjoy things they were never able to enjoy. The human cost means we never stop, we never sleep. There are now issues related to such things as climate change and over consumption. Innovation has brought significant advancement and abundance, but it has come at a significant cost.
GG: We also discuss the importance of building a culture that supports purpose-driven and sustainable innovation. How important do you think this is?
SA: We come out of the Clayton Christensen school of thinking, and as such are believers of disruptive innovation. You can now use disruptive innovation to bring access to water, healthcare, and education to people around the world who need them. Organisations can now drive democratization. It’s important this is purpose-driven – where you are doing this not simply for the sake of making more money, or hitting your KPIs, but for living breathing reasons. Christensen identified that we make a stream of decisions that doesn’t always lead us to where we had originally intended to go. don’t always lead to where we want to go. We recognize there is a balance sheet, every good thing that happens has a cost. You need to think holistically and think about the full impact, which integrates back with purpose. Think about what happens to employees, communities etc. Think about maximizing shareholder value. It’s self-defeating to not think about the full range of stakeholders that might matter.