Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Reflections on speed

I am now spending a 4 week summer holiday and have tried (at least) temporarily to make some adjustments to my everyday practices. I have tried to put focus on doing things thoroughly (not always quickly), and have engaged in basic practices that represent a kind of opposite to the hassle of work life and technology; basic things as wood work, handicrafts, preparing food from basic ingredients, watching plants grow, reading thick books. That is probably what most Finns do during their holidays, but nevertheless it made me reflect on the “normal” life that is very different and supposedly more efficient. Is speed really important?

I saw yesterday a historical documentary in TV about autobahns in Germany. The commentator said something like “progress requires fastness”. This commented related to problems the Germans had with people driving rather to slow than to fast on autobahns, and this creating problem for other drivers. Basically, autobahns were a means for increasing the speed of the whole country both concerning trade and warfare. In the beginning, citizens were not able to keep up with the speed. Highways, technology, fast food, fast internet and many other technological innovations has increased the speed of our lives (the lives of those people that engage in these fast practices – many people are not).

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Trivial innovations

Innovation is currently a buzz word in Finland. As usually, buzz words are inprecise and hard to define. Innovation is usually referred to something new that results in economic success for the innovators. An invention as such is not an innovation. This seems to be the most important content of the innovation discussion.

Innovation has become the strategy for Finland to compete on a global market. The new government recently elected has emphasized the need for Finnish companies to be innovative. The word innovation is mentioned over 20 times in the program for the next 4 years laid out by the government. The term innovation is followed by a whole myriad of complex rhetoric of innovation landscapes, innovation politics etc.

A small country as Finland needs to focus on being innovative. In the day to day talk about innovation, it is seems that the word innovation and invention is mixed, although the differences of these words are often pointed out. Invention is a novel thing that is believed to have practical value in the everyday life, whereas an innovation has a practical value in the everyday life of consumers or business and is thus worth money, and give return on investment. Innovations become a part of the everyday life of people and companies.

Technologically speaking the innovation may not be the most sophisticated. It is more important that the innovation is used, and is optimal in its way it is put into practice in everyday life. Here we can find the most challenges in Finland. Finns seems to be quite successful in coming up with new inventions, whereas the simple practical applications that move everyday life forward is more problematic to achieve. We get lost in complexity, whereas innovation in most case requires simple solutions that move everyday life forward.