Innovation for sustainability

To transform sustainability, “business as usual” does not function. In other words, if we continue current practices, we can not change anything(the limit to growth). We need innovations.

What is innovation?

Innovation is not only something new, but it can solve some people’s pains and be accepted by them and spread.

Are innovation high-tech products?

When we think about innovative product examples, we remind high-tech products something using a computer, GPS, or biotechnology. However, looking back on our history, real impactful innovations are something different.

Innovations in our history

Thinking about sustainability (economically, socially, and environmentally), we need innovations that use minimum energy and maximum impact. Therefore, we should find something to bring process and business model innovations rather than product or service innovation.

Our ancestors invented real innovative products. They are called “simple machines”.

Foster, Ellsworth D., ed; Hughes, James L. (James Laughlin) from Wikipedia

As you can see, historically, they drastically changed our process of work and invented new business models. For example, the wheel is a vital component of the transport industry. Even airplanes need it.
However, those Innovations are simple, not complicated.

Types of Innovation

If you think about innovation, there are three types;

  • Product or service innovation
  • Process innovation
  • Business model innovation

The above simple machines are product innovations and they drastically changed our work processes and are fundamental functions of most of all current business models.

Disruptive innovations

To challenge the status quo and replace it with a new one, we need disruptive innovations.

As the following graph explains, disruptive products initially target the low-end market that the existing players do not care so much, because it is the least profitable.

The product quality is below the current industrial standard but the price is cheap. Therefore the product can explore the low-end market.

By grabbing the bottom market, you can improve quality and scalability and prepare for the next market, the main market.

Reference: What Is Disruptive Innovation?. by Clayton M. Christensen, Michael E. Raynor, and Rory McDonald
Innovation for sustainability

For sustainability transformation, we need destructive innovations. those innovations should satisfy environmental sustainability and social inclusion, and the price should be affordable even in developing countries.
Therefore, hi-tech or bio-tech-based innovations can not be the ones. because sustainable innovations should square with the law of nature.
We need something simple and spend small energy input but revolutionalize.
Most people might say, “It is impossible”. However, real innovation means making the impossible possible.

Sustainable food system

I believe that a sustainable food system with healthy dietary habits and natural farming will be a destructive business model innovation.

Challenging to transform sustainability is our work and gives meaning to our life.
“Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

Reference: 9 Examples of Innovative Products by Kate Gibson, Harvard Business School Online