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Innovation and Intimacy

What does the great innovations our times teach us? Whether it is the printing press, electricity, the computer or the internet; they all have solved a great human problem. The “human” is at the centre of innovation. Great innovators have always understood a great human need. There is a feeling that great innovations aren’t quite happening anymore. What we witness today is a spate of small innovations that are incrementally improving our lives. Meaning, the cars are getting faster, the internet renewing itself in various versions, the computer is cooler but there is radical, world changing innovation happening. What can be the underlying reason for this?

Big tech companies who’re at the centre of innovation these days are coming out with statements that innovation is being hampered due to lack of human interaction these days due to the new remote work culture forced in by the pandemic. Microsoft has come out with a report that teams became more siloed and interacted less outside their immediate circle. The study also reported that employees maintained less contact with workers in other business unit with a 25% drop in collaboration. This has hampered information sharing between teams and individuals impacting negatively innovation.

Tech companies are known for making the world a smaller place. They pride in their digital tools and programs that enable people to connect with one another in a click of button. But even they are worried about the long term impact of empty offices.

The truth is nothing is good or bad. Everything has its place. Technology has done a tremendous job in connecting people from all over the world but it has reduced intimacy. Parents and children, couples sit next to each other engaged on their phones having nothing much to say to each other but have plenty to share with the world.

Companies understand this distinction. In the coming years they would certainly not entertain everybody to return to office but certain key components of an organization that deals with human issues, namely, innovation need to be present with each other, to discuss and argue of over points, catch non-verbal cues, brainstorm intensively for unearth a new innovation.

The lack of big, breakthrough innovations can be also pinned down to the lack of intimacy in organizations. Intimacy means to understand something or someone on a deep level. There are lots of things yet to be innovated and we haven’t come to saturation point yet. We should not be content with the superficial, glossy innovations of today but forge a deep love for humanity if we wish to making an impactful and lasting innovation.

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