Thomas Edison didn't invent the light bulb. In fact, his patent application for it was rejected because it was too similar to a patent filed 30 years earlier. But Thomas Edison was an innovator and he recognized that innovation only mattered if an idea was adopted and created true change.
By finding away to make the light bulb something that could easily be integrated into daily living and accepted by normal people, Edison created enormous change in the way we live. So what are the lessons we can take from this when it comes to innovation in terms of energy efficiency?
Andrew Hargadon, a professor at the Graduate School of Management at University of California - Davis, sees innovation as a process of connecting, not inventing and expects that the real innovations in energy efficiency will be a result of existing technology being applied in new ways. Hargadon shared his insight with nearly 300 individuals who attended ictQATAR's Connected Speaker event, held 19 October 2009.
"Innovation is really finding new combinations of old ideas and building a network of people that can find these new combinations," said Hargadon. During his talk, he highlighted numerous examples of inventions created for very specific tasks that were later applied in different ways to create tremendous change, such as the steam engine, which was never intended to be used in locomotives. Hargadon stressed that revolutions truly chart their own course, and that it is impossible to predict what technology will truly emerge as one that creates change.
In regards to energy efficiency, Hargadon sees a great deal of room for innovation, especially when one examines the amount of energy that is currently wasted. He noted that nearly 61% of potential energy is wasted because of current approaches, especially on the supply-side. By exploring existing methods and looking at different fields for ideas, Hargadon believes that this waste can be reduced dramatically - it will just take innovative people to connect the old ideas.
Prior to his Connected Speakers lecture, Hargadon met with approximately 75 students from Qatar University's School of Engineering. He encouraged the students to think of innovation as connecting ideas, as opposed to inventing the "next big thing." He also encouraged the students to expand their social networks and include people from other fields in these networks to help increase their chances of being innovators.
Hargadon's research focuses on the effective management of innovation and the strategic role of design in managing technology transitions, particularly in the development and commercialization of sustainable technologies. He has written extensively on knowledge and technology brokering and the role of learning and knowledge management in innovation. His research has been used to develop or guide new innovation programs in organizations as diverse as Hewlett-Packard, Avery Dennison, Clorox, Edmunds.com, Mars, Canadian Health Services, and Silicon Valley start-ups
This was the second event in ictQATAR's Connected Speaker Series. The first event featured Dr. Soumitra Dutta, who discussed the Web 2.0 revolution and how social networking is changing the way we communicate both personally and professionally. Through the series, ictQATAR aims to bring global and regional thought leaders to Qatar to address some of the hottest issues in ICT and how technology is changing our lives.
For more information about the series, visit www.ictQATAR.qa/connectedspeakers.
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