Perhaps the strongest argument for innovation is sustainability. The resources of the Earth are limited and we know that the vast majority of our products and practices actually are unsustainable over a longer period and on a global scale. To some extent, we can improve the situation by improving efficiency, stop waste and work smarter. But it’s not enough, not at all. To a very large extent, ecological, economical and social sustainability will require us to solve problems and create welfare in totally new ways, ways that are not yet tested and most often not even thought of. Sometimes these solutions will be the result of individual geniuses, scientists and inventors, but in most cases the new and sustainable solutions must be created by the people who right now are busy with common tasks in ordinary organizations. "Business as usual" is no longer a realistic option for either management or employees.
There is no longer any safe "home market". No matter what industry we’re in, public services or private products, there is an almost cut-throat competition. Sometimes someone suddenly and without warning pops up from the other side of the globe, sometimes more figuratively as when patients in health care or students in school start comparing what they get at home with what they read about, or hear about, from other parts of the world.
Whether the competition is literal or more abstract, the consequences are the same. A few decades ago it was enough to measure yourself against the local standard. A standard which sometimes was so tolerant that most anything passed. Those days are gone. You need to develop your business at the same rate as the best in your industry or you’ll be walking a slow road to ruin.
We have, for better or worse, become a bit like mental nomads. It seems like we demand change for the sake of change itself. When we’re consumers constantly looking for new products, new fashion trends, new destinations or new food, we’ve made development and continuous improvement a natural part of everyday life.
Similarly employees expect tasks and the work environment to constantly change. We’re not content with having the same tools, methods, or even colleagues year after year.
Those who want to keep their customers, or their employees, must therefore constantly change and improve their business. Otherwise, they will be looking for a new supplier and a new employer.