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Charles Leadbeater on innovation

“So the more radical the innovation, the more the uncertainty; the more you need innovation in use to work out what a technology is for. Our entire approach to patents and invention is based on the idea that the inventor knows what the invention is for; we can say what it’s for. It will be worked out in use, in collaboration with users.

So, you’re in a big corporation; you’re obviously keen to go up the corporate ladder. Do you go into your board and say, look, I’ve got a fantastic idea for an embryonic product in a marginal market, with consumers we’ve never dealt with before, and I’m not sure it’s going to have a big payoff, but it could be really, really big in the future?

No, what you do, is you go in and you say, I’ve got a fantastic idea for an incremental innovation to an existing product we sell through existing channels to existing users, and I can guarantee you get this much return out of it over the next three years. Big corporations have an in-built tendency to reinforce past success. They’ve got so much sunk in it, that it’s very difficult for them to spot emerging new markets.

More knowledgeable consumers, more educated, more able to connect with one another, more able to do things together - collaborators, people who, at work, don’t feel very expressed. They don’t feel as if they’re doing something that really matters to them, so they pick up activities and hobbies that create markets, create new technologies. This has huge organizational implications for very large areas of life."

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