Making Sense of Innovation

Over the last two or three years the concept of innovation, and the desire to innovate, has become a metaphorical reference point for a wide range of different activities and practices. This emerging expectation has progressively manifested itself in many different forms and situations. According to most, individuals should to be doing it, organisations most certainly need to be doing it, even national governments are keen to be seen doing it! But what is it that they need to be doing and how should they go about it?

Despite all the recent interest, the need to innovate, whatever the context, is both necessary, and in most cases, positive. Innovations enhance the lives of many, by enabling economies to function and grow, by increasing the quality of people’s lives and by (sometimes) simplifying the complexity of the modern world. The thirst for innovation is the fuel for our apparent progress; so how do we make sense of innovation and begin to quench this thirst?

To start to make sense of what innovation is and how it’s developed we must first take steps to remove it from its place of abstraction and position it in a context of production, because the notion of innovation as an abstract generality is neither practical nor useful. Even though we often use the term ‘innovation’ in a generalised form to describe an activity, when we examine this critically, we realise that there is no ‘innovation in general’, but only specific innovations tied to particular people, places and times. Meaning that, all innovations are situated in specific environments with a particular social and cultural history.

Innovations are driven by people and ideas, but people and ideas don’t exist in a vacuum. The material environments in which they exist, and the social and cultural practices that they participate in, are all integral to understanding how ideas are generated and how they are given the opportunity to succeed as innovations.

Developing innovations, in whatever field, is a complex process where the dynamic interaction of an ecology of parts is not only crucial, but integral to the process. Having a broader understanding of how both material environments and social and cultural practices influence and affect these parts, and their interaction, will begin to provide those who are tasked with developing innovations with the significant reference points and pathways they need to guide their processes.

Create Innovation is a UK based organisation specialising in innovation research and training. We support commercial, educational and non-for-profit organisations in identifying and developing the social and cultural practices that enable the creation of innovative products, services and processes.

Our approach to the question of innovation is both practical and philosophical. Practical, in the sense of working to create, adapt, and develop new forms of innovation, and philosophical, in the sense that to achieve this objective requires us to transverse a diverse range of subjects and disciplines.

In our research programmes, workshops and seminars we explore areas as diverse as the Arts, Humanities and Sciences to support the development of concepts, practices and environments that promote and amplify the possibility of cultivating innovative ecologies.

We offer half or full-day educational workshops and bespoke seminars that deliver practical analysis and training to support individuals and organisations in the process of identifying and understanding a range of factors that both hinder and promote the development of innovation.