I travel very often to events: Automation, electrical industry, mechanical and plant engineering. Innovation is omnipresent there and if you listen to the speeches of CEOs and marketing managers, the words “innovation”, “transformation” and “digitalization” are uttered at least 10 times during a 15-minute speech. The tip of a pencil breaks off in the process, one might want to count.
But often the innovative products mentioned are merely newer versions of the previously offered solutions. A bit better, a bit more efficient or peppered with a few new functions. But this “new” is not necessarily synonymous with innovation. Kodak, for example, had managed to vaporize another layer of silver onto the film base of their analog film products to get even more brilliant images. This was new and advanced, but at that point no longer innovative – because in the meantime, digital cameras were already on the rise.
The film industry in particular – and camera manufacturers in specific – has been extremely creative in recent decades. Above all, manufacturers from Japan have excelled here: suitable products for the mass market, and always keeping the customer’s wishes in mind is synonymous with the success achieved here. From bulky professional SLR bodies to lightweight mirrorless compact cameras that you can even screw your old lenses onto. Innovative or new? Smartphone manufacturers are managing to fit more and more megapixels onto tiny chips and thus offer better quality pictures handled by a special software. Innovative or rather the next technical evolutionary step?
Did you know the Light L16 camera? This camera had several – namely 16 – smartphone lenses with focal lengths of 35 – 150 mm. Software decides which combinations of lenses are needed for the right image and the desired depth of field. In other words: innovative or even perhaps revolutionary? Nevertheless, the camera was quite bulky and heavy. But this is only a fraction of it compared to the many heavy lenses of conventional professional camera systems. And smartphone manufacturers have already jumped on the bandwagon with several lenses for some time now. In a few years, some sort of L16 will likely be built into every phone. And the camera manufacturers? Will we still need heavy lenses in the future?
The inflationary use of the term innovation is only funny at first glance. But if you look at the list of global unicorns (the world’s most successful startup companies), for example, there are already three Chinese companies in the top 15. Switzerland is in 25th place, and Austria and Germany are no longer even in the top 100. Yet just over a decade ago, China was still a so-called “third world country” with less than 25% of the GDP of the USA.
Innovation is the great, if not the decisive, chance of survival for the industrialized countries of the D-A-CH region without their own resources in global competition. And that doesn’t just apply to hip startups. It applies above all to established companies as well. Innovation must not become a buzzword. Every organization needs an existing and lived culture of innovation that involves all functions, integrates lateral thinkers of the company, puts the customer in the center, takes him along on the journey and treats suppliers as partners. Free your company from the feel-good trap, create space for rule breakers – to make trends from the future usable for your future in the present.
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Picture source: https://light.co/camera