The Power Of Principled Innovation

Excerpt from Marc Stoiber’s November 5 post:

Innovation is a hot topic. You hear daily about its democratization, globalization and acceleration. But in the all the breathless wonder at our speed of progress, one question seldom gets asked: is every innovation good for us?

This is where the concept of principled innovation comes in.

I first heard the term from William McDonough, with whom I first spoke prior to the 2013 Sustainable Brands conference. McDonough introduced the world to Cradle To Cradle thinking, and is now pushing for a radical rethink of sustainability with his new book Upcycle.

In our conversation, he said the massive disruption we need to create companies that are futureproof (those that help create a better world, for example, instead of those that shoot for ‘less unsustainable’ output) will only come with a new twist on innovation.

In his words, “The most powerful enterprise is driven in the opposite direction of conventional business. The innovation methodology of conventional business – which begins with metrics, short term tactics and strategic goals – makes truly positive disruptive progress difficult. It’s designed to perform against – and is subsequently constrained by – benchmarks.”

“When I set out to innovate, on the other hand, I start with my values – I ask myself how this innovation will benefit all the children of all species for all time. Then I overlay the filter of my principles. Finally, I overlay the business goals, strategies, tactics and metrics the innovation should answer. That’s how principled innovation happens.”

Putting principled innovation to work – start with principles!

Clearly, principled innovation can’t happen without a foundation of principles. That means understanding why your company exists – what deeper purpose it serves (no, making money doesn’t count – that’s a result, not a purpose).