Saturday, June 16, 2012

Innovation Management Aimed at Sustainability

Sustainability in InnovationThis is a more personal post for me due to the fact that it relates to how my specialization has changed me. When I was younger I had a tendency to be quite idealistic. As I aged, like many people I migrated from being idealistic to being significantly more cynical. This conversion is not hard to explain due to the burdens put on us by life in general.

In reflecting on the process I just went through for my specialization,  I realized that it had awakened a piece of me long thought lost. That is the concept that by understanding innovation and innovation management  people do have a means of changing the world. Now this doesn't mean that I have completely given up cynicism, it means that by understanding the innovation process we can work towards sustainability. It also encompasses the concept that doing so is not necessarily mis-aligned with the needs of business.

In the modern world, businesses need to understand that image is very important. Given the advances in global communication and the ease of access to information organizations can and often do damage their existing  brand image.  The concept of sustainability can be a powerful tool in building strength and image in an organization and managing this challenge. Although I should add, sustainability is not a cure all for businesses. We are all well aware that it is impossible to satisfy the needs of all stakeholders and when working towards sustainability you should focus on finding a balance where the majority of stakeholders are satisfied.

One of the greatest challenges organizations face in this regard is the simple fact that sustainability, quite often, is a very long term process. The rewards may not being seen for many years and to be quite honest targeting the future is extremely difficult given the economic challenges we face today. The problem is that if we continue to always focus on short term initiative things will not change. For organizations to focus truly on sustainability a longer term approach needs to be adopted. Though challenging if properly implemented it has the potential of building a more robust organization.

At the same time businesses should never be expected to completely solve issues of sustainability. Governments, international organizations, and the communities themselves are just a responsible for their own futures. With out this dedication no business can be expected to solve these problems. As it come down to a balance in an organization it also comes down to striking a balance in these other areas especially government. For the United States this becomes even more challenging in the sense that US politics has become more driven by separation than collaboration. Without collaboration a balance cannot be struck in regard to sustainability. Without the leadership finding a means of breaching this gap and trying to actually solve these problems communities and businesses cannot find guidance in the proper direction.

Sustainability is a significantly important concept not only for future success but also in regard to correcting issues in our economies. It is my personal belief that businesses need to strike a balance between being profitable and being socially responsible. At the same time governments need to find a balance between being fiscally conservative and socially responsible. Though these challenges seem insurmountable, in my opinion they are not impossible. The key to success in this is being able to understand the give and take required for individual stakeholders aimed at creating moderate levels of sustainability.


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