I just read an interesting post over on Innovation Economy relating the discussion at a brainstorming session on how to better communicate New England’s contributions in the area of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship. This would be an interesting discussion at any time in any place since the long term economic health and growth of a region is tied to its innovation achievements. This discussion has a more topical interest because in today’s challenging economic climate the need to drive innovation is as great as it has ever been for individuals, businesses, and communities. It has personal interest to me because I live and work in New England.One thing I found rather curious about the notes on the meeting was that there was not statement of the underlying goal. In other words, why do we want to communicate New England’s innovation prowess? Perhaps the participants felt this was a given, but as any innovation practitioner knows, the first step to finding the right solution is to understand the real problem you are trying to solve. What is the problem to which blowing our innovation horn is the solution, and what are the outcomes we are trying to create as a consequence?Since nature abhors a vacuum, I am going to fill in the goal with what I would assume to be the unspoken goal. We wish to drive more regional innovation because that will in turn drive local economic growth. So with this goal in mind, we can posit some specific desirable outcomes:
- We want to attract and retain the human resources which are the engine of innovation. This includes both students and professionals that are needed to do the every day work of innovation.
- We want to attract greater investments in innovation to the region. This should include attracting entrepreneurs to start new businesses, established companies to form units that leverage regional human capital, and investment funds from venture and other funding providers to help finance innovation.
- We should also want to create an innovation friendly business climate. By this, I mean influencing public policy to create a favorable tax an infrastructure environment to support the businesses that drive innovation.
Is the goal I have stated the right one? Are the target outcomes correct? What do you think? What is certain is that establishing the goals is essential as a rush to implement a solution without know what you want to accomplish is simply a waste of time and energy. Not to say that some good concepts weren’t captured in the note from the meeting, but how can you say that the audiences identified are the right ones if you don’t understand how your goals map to constituencies? For example, the investment communities were noticeably absent from the audience list mentioned in the meeting notes. Also, how do you know that the quick actions identified will have any impact if you don’t understand what are the audience specific value messages that need to be conveyed and subsequently which vehicles are most conducive to the delivery of those messages?
I think the purpose behind this initiative discussed at this meeting is a very good one, and its pursuit is important to everyone in New England (and given New England’s innovation history and contributions, I would argue important to those outside of New England as well). Kudos to Scott Kirsner who I believe organized the meeting; the success of these efforts could have a very positive impact. Hopefully, the agenda will take more shape, and execution, not merely ideation, will be the result.