Lewis Hyde in The Gift illustrates a divide between commodities and gifts.
Commodities can be priced and sold in a market place. Commodities have value. Gifts have worth. In a commodity we can see the cost and quantify the value in dollar for dollar terms. It is effortless to do this with commodities. In many cases a commodity is last years innovation we just understand it enough through use, repetition and experience to see how much its impact is worth for trade in the market.
I see innovation as a gift.
Innovation a mix of thinking, talking, doing, contributing, building, shipping and using.
A heady mix of 'gifts' from people who give above themselves. Gifts by their nature are worth more than their return in benefit.
True innovation like gifts have worth and their value is hard to quantify.
Google Cardboard is a key example that comes to mind here - cardboard, glass and mobile device seen as commodities. Folding that cardboard, applying new software ideas and communicating its immersive potential seen as gift and innovation from some pretty incredible people at Google.
Can we quantify the value of affordable and accessible Virtual Reality on the world? Its impact to little hearts and minds finally being immersed in their imaginative worlds and the realities of its use in medicine, leisure, politics, education.....
I am seeing time and time again people making decisions around the acquisition of strategy, people and technology for their organisations through a cost benefit ratio in the search for a dollar for dollar return of their investment.
The Cost Benefit Ratio is dead. What we should turn to to guide our acquisition of strategy, people and technology is a new ratio searching for what is missing if we don't innovate.
How do we quantify the worth of innovation? How do we define the worth of a gift? Gifts of brand perception, speed, future proofing and substance.
We need to focus on a newer kind of ratio called the Revenue Lost Ratio. We will consume much less energy as organisations if we look for what doing nothing will cost the business. What gaps will be left in our foundations, customer service and experience or in our speed to market?
Who knows we might move into a space of possibility to innovate, use, adapt, understand and market our new capability.
We may then find ourselves in a fortunate position to see our gifted innovation emerge as a commodity that can be quantified, sent to the market for exchange and profit.