Today is Labor Day in the U.S. Many people have today off as a day to rest and bid a fond farewell to summer as fall is creeping up on us. If you’re like me, you’re thinking about grilling up something good to eat. (I’ve got pork chops resting in a lime juice, garlic, ginger, and cumin marinade.) Yet amid the festivity, we should take a moment to reflect.
It’s interesting to think of the impact that innovation has had on labor over time. Some of the effects have been good. Worker safety has improved substantially. But in some cases, workers have felt pain as innovations devalued or made irrelevant their jobs. Think of the evolution of the economic landscape as each new wave of innovation changed the rules of engagement and selected new winners and losers. This cycle continues today.
Usually, there are unforeseen outcomes produced by innovation. This is what I’m reflecting on today. What unintended consequences were produced by the innovations you drove? On balance, were these innovations positive or negative?
We often say innovations are by definition good because they deliver value to an audience in the form of a solution to a need. The adoption of the solution by its intended audience is proof of its merit and hence its status as a good innovation.
What we sometimes forget is that these same innovations may affect audiences other than their intended adopting audience. The great benefit we deliver to one group may create problems for another group. In truth, there is nothing wrong with this. This is simply the way of the world. Change is always happening. Changes favor some and bring hardships to others.
Nevertheless as innovation practitioners, we should give some thought to the constituencies that our innovations may touch. There will always be someone disadvantaged by the change we create. Insofar as we are able, we should consider the entire system of benefit and detriment that our innovations will create. We won’t be able to foresee all these elements, but perhaps by considering these things, we can improve our innovations. Perhaps, we can become better innovators.