EZ Innovation 2 – Start with The Purpose

In the business world, startups are invariably innovative, emerging out of an entrepreneur’s purpose or passion. They scale up into a business with formal structure, which then slides into the abyss of financial objectives. Unfortunately, the purpose now gets buried under some ‘mission statement’ that very few employees understand. Most of them frequently walk past the mission statement on the wall to address their boss or customer’s immediate need. Innovation becomes an enabling tool with emphasis on speed and cost. The larger the organization, the deeper this abyss gets.

And then comes the annual cycle of updating the business strategy; supposed to guide the teams on how to compete successfully in the marketplace. New products, services, or new markets is one of those guidelines. Innovation and strategy are often mistakenly viewed as separate approaches, and I hear CEO’s saying “let’s get our strategy first, and then we will work on innovation.” That is as good a sign of an aging organization as any.

Purposeful Innovation is the Best Strategy.

It is not a keyword or an action item to support strategy. Purposeful innovation is the way for an organization to be forward-looking and deliver true lasting value, besides financial responsibility and sustainability. Ray Stasieczko says, “Innovative organizations understand the importance of relevant products; while dying organizations stay obsessed with selling the relevancy of their soon to be obsolete products.” Innovation is the most important factor in economic viability, technology adaption, social well-being, and sustainable development.

The purpose generally comes from the heart of the leadership, and it can be at various levels, broadly classified below:

Purposeful Innovation

Financial Drive (Exist and Thrive)

Where the purpose is to provide enough sales and profit margins, to stay in business, and perhaps grow. I find this to be the lowest level of purpose, although mostly described, justified, and referred to under the context of ‘business decisions’. I would prefer to call it merely an objective so you can exist for a larger purpose, … to create value in some form.

Technology Push or Industry 4.0

When the purpose is to successfully develop, leverage, enable, exploit the cyber-physical integration into process, product, service, or business application. It is OK to have a technology development as a defined purpose, but it makes a lot more sense to connect it with an impact on everyday living.

Social Pull or Society 5.0

When the purpose is to create a better life for human beings. This is the Japanese perspective and response to Germany’s Industry 4.0; Cyber-Physical-Human confluence to create a smart society. This is the onset of purposeful innovation and it now begins to make sense. Technology for the sake of technology or money only brings us halfway. Application for the benefit of humanity is where it ought to lead us.

Sustainability and Sustainable Development

This is where your purpose goes beyond humanity and addresses the sustainability of life on our planet for a long time to come. The focus includes protecting the environment and all of life; both on land and underwater. As of 2019, humanity is consuming 1.7 times what Earth is giving us, annually. Imagine, if your budget needs were 1.7 x Revenues.

Some Examples

Amazon Mission – To build a place where people can come to find and discover anything, they might want to buy online. Lead with 3 core ideas – Lots of choice, Fast delivery, Competitive pricing.

Apple Purpose – To empower creative exploration and self-expression.

Apple Mission – To bring the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software, and services.

David Packard’s speech to Hewlett Packard in 1960 – Purpose is like a guiding star on the horizon – forever pursued but never reached. Yet although purpose itself does not change; it does inspire change. The very fact that the purpose cannot be fully realized means that an organization can never stop stimulating change and progress.

Google Mission – Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible & useful.

Tesla Mission – Accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable transport energy.

Volvo Purpose – An Automobile is driven by people. Safety is and must be the basic principle in all design work. – Cofounders in 1939.

Let’s Summarize

Your purpose is your choice. I do not expect you to rewrite your purpose in terms of planet sustainability, but I do sincerely hope that whatever innovation purpose you may choose to pursue next, you are at least aware of its impact on sustainability, and will do whatever possible to conserve the only earth we have been blessed to live on. In other words, you would try to pursue responsible innovation.

Let’s Take a Selfie

# Up until now, my purpose has been _______________________,
whereas it could be__________________.


If you wish to learn more please read my book – “Inspiring Next Innovation Purpose” available on Amazon or visit Inspiring NEXT Series

EZ Innovation 1 – Welcome to the Innovator’s era

After a keynote lecture on Purposeful Innovation in 2019, a very graceful executive walked up to me, introduced herself as Cleo, the CEO of a services company, and asked, “Do I need to hire a Chief Innovation Officer?” My response was, “Only if you want to grow! … If you want to wait and watch, a Chief Risk Officer will do; … and if you are comfortable with the current state, please hire a Chief Prayer Officer!

The 4th Industrial Revolution has put innovation at the center stage of discussion across the world since 2015. The technology-driven change has already been fast and furious, coming from all directions.  We need an open mind and a suite of processes to develop, adapt, and apply digital technologies that are fusing with the physical reality.

Innovation is the need of the hour. The global pandemic Coronavirus has just pushed everyone out of their comfort zone. Within 9 months of incubation, it has infected over 25 million people, killing nearly a million in over 200 countries (  Every country is scrambling to manage the health of the population, while trying to juggle the economic realities from widespread lockdowns. Creativity at home and innovation in the workplace are witnessing enormous opportunities coming out of human survival instincts. It is as if the world has gotten a crash course on crisis innovation.  The next three years will be an era for the innovator to bring a new normal to the world, fueled by novel business models, Industry 4.0 technologies, and a social purpose.

Innovation is hard. We perceive it to be hard because of the uncertainty and risk of novel ideas and experimentation. Thinking and attempting something different, with potentially little or no short-term reward, can be emotionally draining. Our natural tendency is to fall back on known methods to arrive at solutions. In most of the work environments, we tag not making mistakes or avoiding an embarrassing failure as outstanding performance. However, this is an unavoidable part of experimentation. In my experience, the biggest barrier to innovation is leadership lacking the courage to go with the minority opinion or weak market signals. The moment we fall into driving the consensus amongst a group of responsible managers, we end up with an average acceptable next step, that everyone can see; at the cost of disengaging the visionaries and their opinions.

Innovation can be made EZ (easy). If we could agree on a process where the risk of exploration can be managed, and a mindset where ideas and learnings (failures) are welcome, we can bring innovation into our culture. We can take a portfolio approach where the total output is way more when accounting for some of the failures (learnings), as compared to limited attempts with guaranteed success.

EZ Innovation from Inspiring Next is a series of posts that we will bring to you on a weekly basis, covering dozens of interrelated topics helping you with demystifying innovation. These will include strategic innovation and tactical execution within a common framework that has evolved from decades of practice in solving tough problems at high-tech companies, several Research and Development (R&D) turnaround assignments, and partnerships with the best of the schools around the world. More recently, engagement with global experts on the subject, while writing ISO 56000 series on Innovation Management, has been a precious exercise in bench marking and validation of the approach to be discussed in this series. Throughout the series, I will occasionally share my current thinking with some raw models, that are still under research, and are unproven. I will disclose them appropriately with an intent that you might find an application to experiment and derive value; after all, this is all about innovation, written to inspire your exploratory side of the personality.

This series is all about rebuilding the innovation muscle, which you had as a child, and which you have demonstrated in the face of the recent pandemic. We have structured the series to address your next need. It could be a search for the next purpose (why?), execution of your next project (what?), building your next innovation profile or mindset (how?).

innovation book

If you already have a well-functioning innovation engine, you can treat this series as a tool chest, where you can pick the tool you need and just use it.

If you wish to start or accelerate your innovation journey, you can use this series to align your entire organization with purposeful innovation. Occasionally, we will provide an opportunity for introspection or self-assessment.

Please appreciate that innovation capability development is a long and hard journey to build the mental muscle. Just like building the physical muscle requires regular visits to the gym, proteins for months, adequate rest, and a coach; The mental muscle requires discipline, consistency, commitment, patience, and coaching. Once you are on your way, please give this muscle enough time and energy to develop.

Failure to Explore and Learn is Not an Option – Ripi Singh

If you wish to learn more please visit Inspiring NEXT Series

How to Find the Path Forward?

The unprecedented, sudden changes wrought by the Covid-19 crisis have deep and wide implications across business and civil society.  Read more