Innovation has different meaning to different people. For a hardcore gamer, innovation would mean an even more powerful gaming machines, new interfaces to play games and newer experiences like virtual reality. For someone in an underdeveloped nation, scraping for food and clothing, innovation would be a better and more efficient access to daily needs. For an urban teenager, maybe just a new chatting or flirting app. Sorry for the stereotypes but the point I’m trying to make is, innovation is not just a new technology. It is something that creates value for the intended person or organization.
Toyota’s process is an innovation, App store & Google Play store are also innovation. These App stores fundamentally changed the way software is delivered to consumers and enabled even individuals to easily create and distribute software which was unthinkable say 10 years ago.
Anybody can innovate, it doesn’t need to be taught. What needs to be taught is the management part of it. Innovation has to be local, targeted to a specific geography or market segment. This is not one-size-fits-all. My friends in Europe don’t even know what an inverter is or that a fully functional refrigerator can be brought to market for $69. This one was specially designed for rural Indian market. The reason they don’t know is because they don’t need to, there is no need for such innovation in the European market, yet.
Developed countries are dealing with other problems, like ageing population, healthcare, waste management, renewable energy, efficient public services etc. Small entrepreneurs and large organizations alike have to respond to the market needs and innovate. This innovation will not come from outside, no person sitting on the other side of the planet will solve problems that Central and Eastern European (CEE) region is facing. So the innovation has to happen here.
I can see so many problems that can be solved by technology that will raise the standard of living in the CEE region and improve public services. If governments were to pay some attention to building some knowledge clusters and centers of innovation, many local companies and entrepreneurs would be encouraged to set-up shops there and build solutions for the local market.
Innovation is not free. Money has to come from somewhere, from private investors or from state funding or some other sources. Large corporations obviously have an edge when it comes to access to finance, so what should the smaller companies do? They can innovate and even patent their technologies, but I’ve seen instances where even that could not stop larger corporations from infringing. But still there is hope that more entrepreneurs will take the innovation route in this region and one day be recognized at the global level as not just as an offshore call-center but as knowledge economy.