I recently read this John Quain article and he makes a great point. During the last 50 years of technological advancement we’ve lost sight of what innovation really means. Quain points out that one of the main reasons that true innovation has slowed is that it’s too expensive. In one sense, that’s true. Innovation does take numerous attempts before breakthroughs happen. One industry where the effects of this cost are extremely visible is pharmaceuticals. Researchers in the field will point out that the direction of their research is dictated by profitability. Since this isn’t in line with failure/breakthrough process of innovation, many ideas that could lead to potential breakthroughs in the future are left unexplored in an effort to capitalize on maximizing the profitability of current drugs. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, it certainly can’t be labeled innovation. So what is innovation? To quote Quain, “Innovation solves major problems facing humanity.” Next time you hear the word innovation used, take some time to think about if it’s being used correctly. There’s a very good chance it’s not. If we agree that this is the role of innovation is to solve humanity’s problems, then we must also agree that we as a society must demand more of those who claim to be innovators. It’s not enough that they find a new application for technology, but that application must do some good too.
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