In order to crete the best possible setting for this debate, we had invited various individuals who all deal with the concept of innovation but who approach it from different angles. Participating on the night were Anders F.B. Jensen, who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. with Midtlab on the organisation of public organisations and teaching the class on Innovation and Business at the Faculty of Humanities, Allan Grønbæk of RUC Innovation, who is working on facilitating contact between students and businesses in and around Roskilde, Christopher James Lüscher, President of Stardust DTU, who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at DTU, and Martin B. Justesen, who is the idea and business developer of the CSE Lab. Acting as moderator for the night was Thomas Hammer-Jacobsen, head of Copenhagen Living Lab.
The debate started off with each of the participating men briefly explaining how they understood innovation and already at this stage it was clear, that four very diverse individuals had been invited; Martin B. Justesen noted that innovation should take it’s starting point in a specific problem formulation. While Allan Grønbæk championed the view that innovation should never be discussed in theoretical terms, Christopher James Lüscher presented a separation of the concept of innovation from that of entrepreneurship (as practiced at DTU) in that the former refers to new ways of thinking, while the latter refers to a commercial use of a new problem. Likewise, Anders F.B. Jensen warned that the term innovation has come to somewhat of a “cream word” in that it tastes good at first but one will become sick if overindulging on it. The problem, he stressed, was that people are too concerned with defining innovation before embarking on it thus rendering the term useless.
One main point which was raised and stressed repeatedly is the fact that society demands creativity and innovation and that universities must find a way in which to respond to this. This does not by any means indicate that we should cease all theoretical learning but that we must combine it with practical experience. Universities and business do not represent two incompatible worlds, although it may at times seem like it. According to Martin B. Justensen, universities need to become better at picking up on student initiatives. Many ideas appear bottom-up and these need support which the universities are in a position to provide, be it in the shape of financial support or a form of engagement.
Many students of the humanities and social sciences worry about the current lack of jobs awaiting upon graduation. While universities should accept a responsibility for preparing students for what awaits them, it will be up to the students themselves to seek their fortunes! There are so many disciplines and branches of competences nowadays that students need to learn how to sell themselves as individuals; they need to know and be able to communicate what their specialty is and how this sets them apart from others.
Does this mean we should focus on what we already know rather than taking a chance on something new? Should we play it safe? Or is being interdisciplinary the new black? While the need for interdisciplinary action amongst students was emphasised by one participant, another highlighted the importance of remaining specific in terms of skills. We must not believe everyone capable of everything. The happy medium was suggested, which calls for interdisciplinarity in moderation. It was suggested that the best way to truly create value for society as a whole is through synergy.
When asked to look into the crystal ball and comment on the future needs and demands, the four gentlemen focused on the need for students to become better at branding themselves and their skills individually. Furthermore, a need was identified for representatives of the business world to take on a more active role in shaping university educations so that students are suitably dressed for what awaits them.
So what is innovation? What can we conclude from this battle?
Many things were discussed and numerous concerns voiced. However, the battle on innovation remains unsettled. Perhaps it is a term best left to the individual? Or perhaps we need to be more cautious when using it? One participant compared innovation to a cake with many layers; a concept with more than just one definition. Innovation cannot be easily defined and classified - if it could it would already have been done. Can it bring value to society? Yes, of course, but probably not in a predetermined and planned manner. Perhaps that is the fascination? We cannot know for sure what the future holds but we know that things must change.
During the Suitable for Business conference we will further explore the theme of value creation with regards to students of humanities and social sciences. We hope this evening has provoked you to think about innovation and that it has motivated you to further investigate value creation.
Suitable for Business would like to thank the five gentlemen, who gave us food for thought: Anders FB Jensen, Allan Grønbæk, Christopher James Lüscher, and Martin B. Justesen, all of whom contributed to a fascinating evening, as well as Thomas Hammer-Jacobsen, who did an excellent job moderating the debate!