1969, the year that humans successfully landed on the moon, was in an era of unprecedented development in technology, science, and research. The computing power used in that mission was about equivalent to that of a pocket calculator today. As humans, it’s in our very nature to stay curious and question — what is our purpose? Why are we here? Are we alone?
Questions about time, space, and life itself have gleaned much scientific, philosophical, and metaphysical debate. There are many different answers to these momentous queries. Elon Musk may have sent his cherry-red Tesla to space, but closer to home, I learned of the Mars One expedition and what it stands for, and it inspired me to write this blog.
Namely, because two of my work colleagues are shortlisted in the last 100 candidates. The final selection will embark on a one-way mission to Mars and begin a human settlement on Mars. Just to reiterate — it’s a one-way mission. There is no return. The aim is to explore the solar system, the very origins of life, time, our purpose, and how we fit into the universe. It cemented in my mind that as the human race evolves and hyper-modernization takes place, projects like this reflect how we humans are constantly fueled by our quest for ingenuity and driven by the need to use our creativity to help future generations. Technology has been a perfect aid in enabling this.
Innovation enabled by technology is redefining our lives. Our capability and our expectations are being reset in every walk of life. While we all agree that evolving technology has created new potential for everyone, it is human ingenuity (HI) on which true transformation rests. It’s on point, therefore, for us to say that in an organization’s quest to lead and innovate, nurturing its human creativity, and human ingenuity will be its greatest strength.
Gordon Moore observed in 1965 that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuit boards had doubled each year since their inception. His hypothesis — that this rate of expansion would continue into the foreseeable future — is popularly referred to as Moore’s Law. It’s a great example that encapsulates the breakneck pace of evolution in processing power. It simply means that in every new generation of technology, machines with processing power can do significantly more than what they did previously. Each advance in processing power has generated entirely new products, applications, solutions, and interfaces. But, despite these advances, the truly transformative force in our world has been human ingenuity. Technology is simply the enabler.
Similarly, while technology enables more leeway for innovation, transformation itself is ultimately driven by human application.
The challenges in harnessing HI
Although we all agree that we need to value expertise, experience, and innovative thinking, there are challenges in doing this successfully. While technological breakthroughs in AI and machine learning are multiplying every day, human upskilling remains a comparatively slow process. To truly innovate and lead, organizations need to emphasize empowered creativity amongst their employees. The effects of an engaged and innovation-focused workforce will be felt not only in internal efficiencies but in the solutions and services delivered to market.
Looking beyond traditional models
Structure creates form in an organism — but flexibility allows it to exploit its environment. This is equally true of organizations. Emerging technologies, processes, and approaches are allowing workforces to collaborate as never before and a far more agile, proactive, and collaborative association between employees and functions has become possible in a modern organization. Connectivity and processing power are enabling human insights and creative inputs to converge into a sum greater than their parts.
It is important to remember that innovation is often inherently disruptive. Finding a balance between structure (enabled by technology), and creative disruption (driven by human innovation) — is critical to an organization achieving its optimal potential. A good first step would be to look inwards to enable creative processes to function effectively. Organizations can achieve this by looking at the following:
- Leveraging creativity: Identify and engage the problem-solving and innovative potential of your workforce.
- Enabling collaborative processes and feedback: Individual brilliance is great, but you can get even more from creative collaboration. Creation of platforms and processes that allow innovation and ingenuity to thrive is central to the success of organizations.
- Identifying expertise: Identify and empower apparent as well as unconventional expertise. No source of innovation should be left untapped. The non-expert can often generate a transformative idea missed by the experts, and it’s important to give avenues of expression to all creative input.
Enabling external synergies
So, how do you put this into action? A great example is when you’re considering how you can leverage path-breaking technologies — such as AI — to enhance your business. A few steps to take:
- Infusing human thinking: How will you humanize your solution or offering to make lives more meaningful?
- Making purpose a human endeavor: Technology itself is agnostic in ethics, vision, and purpose. But proactive human engagement is the basis and lifeblood of path-breaking innovation.
- Transfer of capabilities: What are the core strengths of your workforce? Are you able to think through and see how these capabilities will be reflected in your external business?
- Platform scalability: Are you supported by a technology backbone that can scale with your creativity? Can it help you reach out and achieve?
The defining feature in our quest for greater efficiencies, higher profitability, and unique market presence will be human creativity. At the end of the day, every human is a creator and explorer — and as technology leaders, it’s an intriguing time for us to embrace and celebrate this.