The root of development is the innovative mind
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Hudson, Colin. 1993. The root of development is the innovative mind . Spore 47. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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Dr Colin Hudson is Chief Executive of Carib Agro-lndustries Ltd of Barbados, which is regarded as one of the leading problem-solving organizations in the Caribbean. He has acted as a consultant on innovative technologies throughout the region and in...
Dr Colin Hudson is Chief Executive of Carib Agro-lndustries Ltd of Barbados, which is regarded as one of the leading problem-solving organizations in the Caribbean. He has acted as a consultant on innovative technologies throughout the region and in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific. Governments, businesses, banks and aid agencies continue to invest very large sums of money in communities in the hope and expectation that this will spur innovation and development. I believe that they should invest much more in encouraging development of self-reliance particularly in agriculture. I believe that unless a community can pass what I would like to call the Innovative Management Fabric (IMF) test, most of such investment is wasted. The IMF test determines how well a community deals with criticism; how skillfully the community manages failure; and what the community's expectations for innovators and innovation are. I run a small problem-solving company in the Caribbean and my work has resulted in many contacts with a wide range of scientists, politicians and educators in diverse countries, many of them ACP States. Thirty years of experience and observation have led me to believe that the only consistent difference between what are termed 'developed' and 'developing' communities is their attitude towards innovators and innovation. Three things seem to me to be of particular importance in this regard: criticism, failure and expectations. It has been written of criticism that 'It is better to listen to a wise man's rebuke than to the praise of fools' (Ecclesiastes 7:5). No one likes criticism but if it comes from people of insight it is invaluable. All progress depends on criticism: criticism given, criticism analysed and criticism accepted. The best criticism is self-criticism, since this is usually easier to accept, and innovators must train themselves to be self-critical and to seek the criticism of others whose opinions they respect. Equally important, a community must learn to handle criticism of itself. And it must stop thinking that criticism is a commodity that is better given than received. Creative minds are delightfully dangerous: you cannot confine an innovative mind. A society that really wants creativity must be prepared to pay the price of sometimes being made to feel uncomfortable, in effect to be tolerant. Tolerance has been the distinctive feature of societies that are referred to as being 'open' or 'liberal' and such societies have always been associated with exciting new ideas and progress, culturally and politically as well as technically. Failure, or attitude to failure, is the second aspect of importance in the IMF test. Failure is one of the most potent educational forces. It is not possible to have success without failure and, since innovation involves risk, the innovator who never makes a mistake never makes anything innovative either. In one exceptionally innovative country, recent research indicated that the average successful entrepreneur has failed at least twice by the time he or she becomes a success. While the giant multi-national 3M corporation grew out of two major failures, each of which generated a major success. Sympathy for, and management of, failure is an important ingredient in harnessing innovative minds. I believe that there are many examples of so called 'developing countries'` that have lost a lot of potentially good innovators and entrepreneurs because of poor management of failure. Indeed, I have watched the virtual destruction by criticism of innovators in some countries because they were overbold in their search for solutions to problems which their critics had themselves failed to solve. Finally to expectations. Communities can be encouraged to have high expectations of innovators and innovations: for example, through TV programmes which emphasise local innovation as a supplement to innovations from elsewhere. And it would be breaking new ground if such programmes could be sponsored by the local Intellectual Property Office. I have never seen an advertisement in a developing country urging people to take out patents and so encourage local innovation. The status of good entrepreneurs and innovators must be raised to that of doctors, lawyers and other professions traditionally regarded as the acme of achievement. I believe that it was Aristotle who claimed that 'happiness is being well thought of by one's fellow men'. Nothing will stimulate innovation more that the right community attitude, expectation end appreciation. I am not thinking here of financial rewards, but of national honours and prizes. Awards are especially important for schools and other educational institutions, where there should be as much emphasis as possible on creativity and less emphasis on rote learning. Since developing innovation and entrepreneurship is essential to achieving a thriving and self-reliant society, we must ask ourselves how our community scores in the IMF test. Innovation in the field of agriculture is particularly important in our ACP countries and we who live in these countries must do all we can to encourage and stimulate innovation and endeavour. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CTA.
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