A New American Competitiveness, Fueled by Relative Innovation

capitol1Innovation is in the eye of the beholder. The solution offered by the American Competitiveness Initiative focuses on absolute innovation, but does not consider relative innovation. Catalyzing relative innovation still requires a capital investment, but will focus less on the basic R&D issues and more on the issue of appropriate technology, even within the host country.

My Proposed Two-Pronged Approach to a New American Competitiveness takes these factors into consideration, and recommends two things we should do as a country:

1: Provide Practical Innovation Education to Everyone – We must educate EVERYONE on what innovation really is – the act of making ideas and inventions useful and relevant to people and social groups. Innovation is always relative, not not always absolute. Innovation is about creative problem solving that improves efficiency or productivity, expands capabilities, or enhances quality of life. We can all innovate in our local communities, even if we don’t come up with the complex or high-tech ideas ourselves! The key question is: How can we make individuals’ lives better? Innovation is not a mysterious practice reserved for scientists, engineers, or people with creative ideas. We can all be innovators.

2: Implement a National Quality Agenda – This idea, originally raised by ASQ President Robert Saco in the October 2008 issue of Quality Progress, embraces a “systems thinking” approach to resolving key social and sustainability issues at the national and international levels. How do we look at long-term issues through the lens of “systems thinking”? How do we transform our government’s budgeting process to accurately enact strategic themes and priorities, and promote real collaboration and cooperation that is not confounded by fictitious budget partitioning? How do we embrace innovation to make things better for all people? Saco introduces it this way:

What is to be done? Mr. President, in brief, we need a National Quality Agenda to broaden our thinking in terms of systemic and long-term issues and solutions. You cannot afford to ignore longer-term stealth issues like healthcare, energy, infrastructure and education. Ignored, these matters will ensure the accelerated decline of the nation. Government must not do everything, and with a looming federal deficit of $500 billion, it simply can’t do everything.

Yet, by promoting initial conditions that frame an appropriate long-term agenda and nurture an environment of possibility and collaboration, the stage is set for real progress in the months and years to come.

New is not always better. Innovation, however, always seeks to make things better! (In case this seems like a paradox to you, the missing link is invention – inventions are always new, but they don’t necessarily need to be useful to many people to retain their novelty.) Sometimes, just looking at how to change our perspectives, simplify our existing structures, and take a quality-driven approach, we can uncover new ways to innovate. Are you ready to take the leap?

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