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Innovation is dying. Please discuss.
Too many people equate innovation with change alone. Our firm, 2thinknow, looks at innovation as positive change, we’ve even been known to define it as a change for the good of humanity in our wilder moments.

So technological change whirs along, but is a new technology really innovative? Does it allow humans to do more things than they have done before? Are the things technology allows overwhelmingly positive and helpful for most people? Email was a positive innovation, as was the phone. I dislike cell phones, but I think we can agree they have had positive effects.

But does 10-dozen varieties of chemically flavoured burgers or a new variety of fried chicken equal innovation? Does it have positive effects? Our answer is a resounding NO. It’s inane to call a new flavour of chicken, or a new burger, innovative. One of the burger chains in Australia famously deep fried it’s grilled chicken burger, and had a roller to paint on the grill marks. Was that innovative? No.

I might as well bring it up now; can you explain, in simple terms, exactly what “fried chicken innovation” is and why it’s bad?
I have coined a name for pointless, useless change, Fried Chicken innovation. Fried Chicken can be often recognized in large organizations by a free coffee cup, polo shirt and a training session attached to it.

In cities Fried Chicken Innovation is one of those change programs where no one has really thought about the benefit in human terms: new ticketing systems, pointless studies instead of fixing public transport, more expensive services that deliver less functionality than equivalent cities globally.

I was struck by the observation especially in all my years of government and corporate work, especially for State governments and large corporations. But really pointless useless change, and stupid ideas can happen anywhere, but small businesses and individuals with stupid ideas are eradicated quickly!

So I created a website www.friedchickeninnovation.com where time by time I will be posting stories of stupid pointless change stories.

Other key content for the fried chicken blog will be dumb ideas governments put forward and implement, and these doomed to fail programs I will write about from time-to-time. Bearing in mind, most government are about politics, and very little is about achieving results for the citizens. Because citizens keep voting for stale governments with not a single idea, in Australia state governments have in my opinion, seen the single greatest destruction of infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, in Australia’s history whilst giving the citizens economic growth and high capital gains.

Citizens have accepted governments are bad at delivering services, and by accepting low standards, they have provided a fried chicken excuse. It’s a fried chicken excuse because when you make global comparisons, transport and healthcare are better delivered in most of France and Germany than either UK, USA or Australia.

It’s a fact healthcare in France is mostly free to consumers, and costs less per capita than US healthcare, which US citizens pay for.

So would you say that formerly celebrated centers of innovation and culture (London, New York, etc.) are now in the backseat?
The hottest emerging area for innovation is Eastern Europe, which unlike other emerging economies China and India has European systems of civilization, which in many cases were put ‘on hold’ by the Communists, as well as the huge opportunity of the EU. I am particularly excited by Czech Republic and Poland, which historically have been strong countries, before the anomaly of Communism.

And I am one of the few people in the west with ‘on-the-ground’ knowledge and contacts in Eastern Europe, as well as strong research into the region, as the basis of the Global innovation Review 2007. I am also developing a network of agents also in North America and the UK.

I am interested in the USA cities as innovation hubs, with the huge US domestic market as well as the undeniable world-leading American business prowess, means sensibly one could not deny New York, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles the utmost consideration. We’re keeping an eye on Canadian cities in 2008, but it’s hard to beat Boston and New York, which are ranked #2 and #4, as they are 7 hours direct flight from all major European cities, have great infrastructure, and are magnets for creative talent and places where cultural exchange is critical and core.

I am really interested in Boston, but not for the usual line of Bio-technology being pushed by the City Government. Even with the Big Dig, I think Boston has inspired great ideas since 1630s, and has been home of many firsts. In fact, New York may beat Boston on some indicators, but the proximity to New York, and easy global connections to Europe, and institutions like Harvard mean Boston has the benefit of proximity to New York, but at the same time many positive inspiration and implementation indicators that come from mid-sized cities. Mid-sized cities often can innovate more.

London is too fully priced to implement innovation, and has so many strikes in terms of food, culture, and the hubris of Londoners, that I coined the word Lon-dumb and Brit-diot. I really believe Edinburgh and Scottish/Irish cities will be the big stories in innovation, although coming from a far lower base, as London becomes more and more about City Bankers making money, and less about innovation.

I also blame Tony Blair, whose crushing ideology-driven nanny State coupled with British Socialism distorted market incentives for innovation. I heard a rumour that Blair was a Mao-ist Communist at University, and whether it’s true I don’t know, but I’ve copped a fair bit of flak for bagging London. So to Londoners I say stop ripping everybody off, stop being tossers and get some decent food!

On the other hand, Vienna is the big story, rating number 1 in our Global Innovation Review 2007, out of all innovative cities. Vienna inspires, and is relatively low-cost to implement with access to Germany and Eastern Europe markets with good English, French and German language skills. These 3 languages will be increasingly important to global commerce, and English speaking cities will fall behind unless they become bi/tri-lingual. Chinese will be in the mix as well across all of Asia, but that language still has to standardise as dialects vary as much as 17th century French.

I would say Paris also has a huge upside and is the world’s most inspiring city in our Global Innovation Review 2007, something which its history certainly supports. The recent elections will change the landscape substantially, so how great an effect that has time will tell. I have my private view.

On your Global Innovation Conversation Blog you posted the following: “I am not saying technology is bad, or baby boomers are bad…” C’mon, you can say it. Please? (BTW, I’m 32 so maybe a little bias.)
In generational terms, one of the big problems is the tendency of those in power not to let go. This applies to world leaders, as well as corporate chiefs, and even middle-managers. I believe most people under 40 (with a few notable exceptions) don’t have the experience and skills to run a country or a Fortune 500, so I would never suggest irrational generation handover.

That said, Baby Boomers are hanging on for grim death to the power in business, church and state. It needs to change. They have a world view that needs to be informed by the younger generations, I don’t say relinquish power, but they need listen to global trends and new voices from the younger generations. There is a real cultural/generational language barrier unprecedented in history, and a skill barrier as many baby boomers tend to hang on to what worked in previous generations. Remember people didn’t live such long lives years ago, so this power grip is unprecedented in history.

The big corporations, flooded with baby boomers at the top, and outdated models run the risk of being totally out-of-step with the cultural zeitgeist, and getting blind-sided like record companies were by Napster and telcos have been by Voice Over IP. Cataclysmic chnage events, arising from innovation pockets, can sweep all that goes before them. A series of books have been written assigning this different terms such as Gladwell’s the tipping point and a confluence of change factors ‘global warming’, ‘energy wars’, ’social disconnection’, ‘asset bubbles’, ‘generational divides’ and others are creating a perfect storm of change.

At the same time those in their 20s could do to appreciate that really economic booms come to an end. Of course, this is a global problem, manifesting in different ways as our research in the Global innovation Review 2007 has shown. But the age transition is going to be rough, and the current generation over 30 is in many cases totally missing the zeitgeist of those between 16-28. The over-30s are trying to capture it with trash culture, without understanding that talking at is not the same as talking with the 16-28 year old generation, who will be the most important in history as they face the baby boomers legacy of climate change, over-priced property, global poverty, over-priced education, falling literacy, social disconnection and over-consumption, as well as a strategic vulnerability created by the selling off the production of critical goods and products to countries with strategic interests not aligned with each persons home country. Global supply chains are complex.

And personally, the worst thing is all those ‘hippies’ who lecture the young generations on ’social commitment’ from their waterfront property!!!

Ok, plug time. What is 2thinknow’s ultimate aims in terms of impact?
2thinkno is creating a global network of agents to enable global ideas to be implemented, as well as comparative studies of cities in the USA, Australia, Eastern Europe, France and Germany, basically in all the cities we have identified as innovation hubs. So we are putting our money where our mouth is by building networks in these cities. Our idea is to work with local start-ups our home city Melbourne and cities where we have are working with agents like, Boston, San Francisco, Vienna, Prague, and all across Eastern Europe. Personally I will be giving presentations at conferences and workshops as well as more Media interviews to ’spread the message.’

2thinknow’s primary aim is to stimulate an arts, creative and culture innovation, not more ceaseless and unquestioning technological change. How we get there is a work in progress, and we are seeking ideas and feedback from creatives. So let us know!

The Global Innovation Review 2007 is available from www.2thinknow.com/gir for order for a special price of USD$99.00 for Oddpodz readers delivered anywhere in the USA, and details our research, recommendations and ground-breaking Global Innovation models applied to cities and organizations. To read more and join the conversation check out the main innovation blog Global Innovation Conversation.