Sources of innovation

Published on August 30, 2022   11 min
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My name is John Bessant and I'm Emeritus Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Exeter in the UK. This talk is all around the question of where do innovations come from. The sources of innovation.
Here's a simple question. Where do innovations come from? Chances are when you think of a question like that, this sort of picture comes into your mind. It's Archimedes in his bathtub daydreaming when, all of a sudden, an idea comes to him in a flash of inspiration. He shouts, "Eureka, I have it!" And he jumps out of the bath, runs off down the street, telling the world about his great idea.
Of course, innovation doesn't really happen like that. Although there are occasional Archimedes Eureka moments, most innovation comes from different sources. Let's ask that question once again. Where do innovations come from? Well, one source of innovation is what we call knowledge push, involving new knowledge creating new opportunities. Another is what we call "need pull" innovation, essentially necessity as the mother of invention, pulling innovation through. But there are many other triggers. Government regulation, user needs, imitating others and adapting their ideas, accidents. In fact, the more we look at it, the more we realise there's a whole range of sources. We probably need to look a little more systematically to try and understand them and to ensure that our search approaches are sufficiently varied and well-developed to pick up on them. Broadly speaking, sources of innovation fall into two classes. Push and pull. Push essentially is around knowledge, where new knowledge creates new opportunities. Pull essentially discovers opportunities through market or social needs. They're both very important. Innovation isn't about one or the other. They both play a role. Different sources matter at different times in an innovation's history.