May 02, 2024

Embracing ‘wise innovation’: creating the next generation of innovators

Prof. Varun Nagaraj

Although it has long been acknowledged that innovation is a key factor in growth and prosperity, the search for innovative solutions has not always been in line with larger societal and environmental objectives. At SPJIMR, we promote a theory known as ‘wise innovation’, which aims to bring innovation and wisdom, compassion, and a comprehensive definition of success together.

Understanding that success cannot be determined exclusively by financial gain is at the core of intelligent innovation. Sustainability requires economic development, community well-being and environmental stewardship/care in equal measure. This is similar to the idea of the ‘triple bottom line’, which was first proposed by academic John Elkington and advocates taking the 3 P’s – profit, people and the planet into account.

But striking this equilibrium is no easy feat. Despite their financial success, many inventions have unintentionally harmed the environment or society. Consider the ubiquitous plastic water bottle, which has both increased environmental pollution and facilitated access to clean water.

Therefore, wise innovation aims to be ‘net positive’ in all three dimensions—profit, people and planet—to overcome this dichotomy. This calls for a mentality change that goes beyond conventional strategies like lean startup or design thinking. Rather, it advocates for the incorporation of more expansive viewpoints such as responsible innovation and systems thinking.

The goal of sensible innovation is embedded in SPJIMR’s corporate partnerships and curriculum. The Institute prioritises the formation of a wisdom mentality and a paradox mindset in addition to conventional innovation methodologies. The wisdom mindset encourages compassion and holistic decision-making, drawing from ancient philosophical traditions. On the other hand, individuals with a paradox mindset are better able to reconcile seemingly incompatible goals and come up with original solutions that meet multiple needs.

By adopting these mindsets, students and business clients can approach complex challenges with creativity and honesty. A fundamental component of the wisdom mentality, epistemological humility, serves as a constant reminder that there are always fresh avenues to pursue and viewpoints to consider. This willingness to consider different points of view enhances the creative process and promotes resilience and creativity.

Though the idea of prudent innovation is relatively new, ethical, purpose-driven innovators may strongly relate with its guiding principles. SPJIMR is positioned to pave the path for a future where innovation will be profitable and transformative for the planet and society, as long as it continues to champion this approach.

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