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LEAD Innovation Blog

Read our latest articles on innovation management and innovation in a wide range of industries.

Date: 03-Okt-2018
Posted by: Wolfgang PAUSER

Peak Innovation: Why you should pay attention to this phenomenon


An innovative innovation path branches off and leads down...


Peak Innovation, what would that be? We already know Peak Oil and supposedly we already had that - the time of the peak of crude oil production, the peak, the apex, the peak at which insight becomes inevitable: From now on it's downhill! If oil production can no longer be increased, it and the oil with it disappears. In recent years, this thesis has lost credibility, the shortage has not yet occurred and the oil price has fallen. How long this trend will last and whether it will go down in history as an optimistic interlude will only be known in the distant future. At the latest when only snacks and souvenirs are available at the filling stations.

Paper Measuring Innovative Strength

Recently, such a peak was announced, the "peak food". The production rates of 27 globally renewable and non-renewable key food resources were evaluated in a scientific study. As a result, food production can no longer keep pace with population growth. It has passed its peak, the peak food era has begun.

With "Peak Innovation" I would like to throw a provocative term into the debate. I am not saying that we have before us a saturation, a limit value, a shrinkage of innovation. At present, it even appears that a number of key technologies are sufficiently advanced to be integrated into the industry and its products. A tremendous boost of innovation is likely to lie ahead of us. 

At the same time, however, a new type of innovation has developed in some sectors, which branches off from the long-term evolution of technologies and should be seen as a decline. We are talking about product innovations that do not serve the interests of consumers, but run counter to them. Products for forced consumption that are "sold" not in competition but through lobbying. Outside the market economy, a new sector of the forced economy has been established in which bureaucrats and lobbyists cooperate according to their common power interests.

The legislative trend to ban more and more freedoms and consumer wishes on the grounds of "security" and to technically monitor these restrictions has called this new type of industrial innovation onto the agenda. Now many engineers no longer think about what invention they can use to further increase product benefits. They are thinking about how a product should work that corresponds to measured values that could be proposed to politicians by means of lobbying and standardized as new standard values. This approach makes it possible for powerful large companies to undermine competition and impose an "innovative" generation of devices on the entire market, to the detriment and annoyance of consumers.

One could certainly call this kind of inventiveness, which is also at work in the obsolescence technologist, a "negative technique" (if one is less friendly, also as a crime against the population, which is pulled thereby only money out of the pocket). Or as a competition for dysfunctionality. Bureaucrats love such innovations because they allow them to produce another standard for the ostensible protection of people and thus to have legitimized the maintenance of their position, commission, body or office for another year (although the peak legislation has long since been exceeded!). The industry is forced by competition to make full use of the innovative distribution channel of standardization lobbying and to generate special innovations for the needs of politicians.

This decline, this decadence fits into the picture of a peak, because before that the entire history of technology development followed a principle and thus a steady line that ran upwards, for the better, more efficient, more comfortable, functionally superior. For certain devices that have long been operating to the complete satisfaction of consumers, the chances of further improvement through product innovation seem to be limited if not exhausted. The pressure to replace the decreasing will to buy with coercion is correspondingly great.

Peak Innovation means the phenomenon that in some industries the yield for the consumer decreases above a certain saturation level of product qualities. Where innovation leads to less and less improvement, technology development exceeds its zenith, the curve of useful innovations moves downwards and is overtaken by the up-and-coming curve of dysfunctionalizing product developments.

Perhaps a highly developed consumer society can only be maintained above a certain point (peak consumption?) through forced consumption, anti-consumption, renunciation, negative luxury and ascetic equipment. In this larger context, viewed positively, the peak innovation would then only (in the sense of Schumpeter's creative destruction) be the death of an outdated model of product innovation in favor of a newer model of innovative dysfunctionality development, anti-technology technology, product control technology and forced purchase initiation technology.

Measuring innovative strength

Wolfgang PAUSER

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