Innovations – The Blue Economy Approach


Today’s world is characterised by quick and dramatic changes. This means that there is a constant search for new ideas. Yet, there is a difference between innovation and ideas. Most of us have ideas, some of them good, other not so good.

Miguel de Icaza, the founder of the GNOME and Mono projects makes the following distinction between ideas and innovation.

“Are ideas innovations?  Everyone has ideas.…  For an idea or an innovation to a have a practical effect, they need to go beyond the discussion at the lunch table with your friends and become a reality.”

Innovation means to introduce something new or a new approach to doing something. Creativity and the generation of ideas is only a part of the innovation process. Generating new ideas can be a conscious approach where you use methods such as brainstorming or more focused approaches such as random words to generate ideas. Out of 1 000 ideas, 100 may be good, 10 may be practical and one out of these 1 000 ideas may actually be carried out.

So innovations are implemented ideas and not acting on great ideas can have devastating effects for a company. The company Kodak developed over the course of a number of years many good, and quite a few brilliant ideas. They had a creativity room to inspire their employees to come up with ideas. And they did come up with ideas such as digital photography. Yet, these ideas were not implemented and they did not result in any innovation. The company wanted to be sure that the idea was brilliant enough to earn the company more money. This is a serious problem and not acting upon ideas can mean that a company is declared bankrupt and so can of course engaging in risky projects.

Inventions can be the fruit of a creative spark or the result of fixing a problem. It can also be the result of a focused approach where the search for new ideas is directed towards a certain area. The Blue Economy began as a deliberate search for 100 nature-inspired innovations. The innovation should provide basic needs for humans such as food and jobs. Many of these innovations are fascinating to study by themselves. The idea was to integrate them with real world economies.

The innovations had to be beneficial to the people.Criteria such as substitute something with nothing mean an active search for ideas that do not use any resource for the production. Moreover, waste does not exist and by-products are the source for a new product. These criteria may seem like huge restrictions to select ideas that can be worked upon. In the Blue Economy approach, the inspiration and source for the selecting ideas comes from innovations that are based on ideas that are generated by studying nature. This approach is opposite to what most of you reading this blog post may be looking for. You want to get the ideas so that you can discover an innovation.

So is it possible to work in the other direction? Set up the criteria for what you want and then actively open up the thinking by direction the focus at certain areas. It is possible to use random inspiration and then apply your rules. Linking two concepts and creating a new one.

Deliberately narrowing down the number of ideas that can be generated by putting up criteria for the ideas such as design a life-west that pulls a person towards the nearest coast. Using this criterion, you could use random words to generate ideas ways to search for the nearest coast. Many of the suggestions may not be possible directly to apply to a life-west. However, the idea is to work backwards and ensure that the criterion is included in the idea. Thinking process could be described as an opening and closing of doors. In some cases, you need to explore all possibilities, while in other cases; you need to close gates.

By setting up criteria for the idea generation you are limiting the effects of using a random word or picture as inspiration. However, by using knowledge and actively searching for a certain type of idea you may be able to get new insights. In the Blue Economy, the focus is on searching for ideas by studying nature. Restrictions helps to focus the attention and then random inspiration and the hard work can begin.

Photo: Transparent Globe by digitalart

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