World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2008

  • Update 2008: Defining Innovation

    Wednesday 23rd January 2008 - 9:00am - 10:15am

    Download PDF

  • Update 2008: Defining Innovation

    Tim Brown · Kigge Hvid · Larry Keeley · Kiyoshi Kurokawa · William E. McGlashan Jr

    Moderated by

    Bruce Nussbaum

    Wednesday 23 January

    Whereas most people today think of innovation as intimately associated with high tech, this is not the case. High tech is driven by innovation, but so are improvements in the simplest, most ordinary products such as cooking equipment and means of delivering information. Successful innovation emerges out of answers to "what if" questions.

    Some of the insights from this session:

    • The innovation-driven corporation produces 20-50% more results than firms not dedicated to innovation.

    • How to innovate is in many senses less complicated than discovering what to innovate.

    • The question asked is the most important step, not the answer. Without the right list of challenges, innovative talent is wasted.

    • The tipping points of innovation are usually cultural.

    • Entrepreneurs succeed when they address higher goals.

    • Sometimes "de-innovation" – doing something with nothing, without artefacts – is what is called for. Less can be more and KISS (keep it simple, stupid) can result in wider dissemination of the new.

    • The public posting of problems, the most challenging puzzles, will attract responders who will solve them.

    • To encourage innovation, trust the talent and "get out of the way".

    • Web collaboration is distributed collaboration. Open source results in robustness but not innovation.

    • Creating prizes for innovation within a genre (blogs) or a topic (healthcare) will generate innovation (in accordance with the "if you build it, they will come" principle).

    • Disruptive innovation most often comes from reframing the system and/or space.

    Examples of innovation:

    • The traditional three-stone cooker – the cheapest possible way to provide reliable, safe cooking

    • A portable, inflatable screen system to bring news and entertainment (and learning) to locations in less technologically-advanced countries

    • The "tongue sucker" – a simple, colourful device to both clear a person’s airway and at the same time alert emergency personnel that this important resuscitation step has already been undertaken

    Important innovation waiting to happen:

    • Much longer battery life and unified charging systems and/or "an intelligent charging device that extends beyond the prongs"


    The all-important first step is the question we come up with, not the answer.


  • Tim Brown Tim Brown
    Chief Executive Officer, IDEO, USA

    BA in Industrial Design, University of Northumbria; Master's in Design, Royal College of Art. Former...

  • Kigge Mai Hvid Kigge Mai Hvid
    Chief Executive Officer, Index: Design to Improve Life, Denmark

    Since 2002, current position; develops, tests and implements new concepts; leads Danish government's...

  • Kiyoshi Kurokawa Kiyoshi Kurokawa
    Academic Fellow, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS), Japan

    1962, MD, Univ. of Tokyo. 1979-84, Prof., UCLA School of Medicine; 1989-96, Prof., Univ. of Tokyo; 1...

  • William E. McGlashan Jr William E. McGlashan Jr
    Founder and Managing Partner, TPG Growth, USA

    BA (Hons), Yale University; MBA, Stanford Graduate School of Business. Former: Senior Associate, Bai...