Sunday, January 24, 2010

Innovation's Impact on the Economy

Executive Summary: We have perspectives on measuring innovation's impact on a company and even on a sector. How do you measure innovation's impact on the economy? Would this information help government/ economic decision-making in any way?

The Background
There is some interesting an exciting work around innovation and organizations- The name Clayton Christensen immediately comes to mind. There also is some insight on innovation an industries- specifically clusters.

At CES, 330 companies joined 2500 existing companies in debuting 20,000 products. Now, given all the hype generated around the iPad and around CES 2010 in these tough times, how would you attempt to measure innovation's impact on the economy?

The Avalanche of Questions
* Does innovation make a significant dent on the economy (especially if the economy is driven by the Big C- Consumption)?
* Does innovation become more, or less, important during tough times for the economy?
* Does innovation help in economic recovery?
* What kind of innovation is best for economic recovery and well being?
* How do we categorize innovation- diruptive, incremental and something-in-between?

One Method to the Madness
Lets indulge in some rogue behavior and dive in approaches. We can then step back and evaluate value and ease of obtaining data elements of each approach. One approach would be to add up all the revenues of "innovative" products et voila! Given a consumption economy, does it really matter?

* You might argue that the revenue from some complex technique- say the legal mechanism that allows sovereign funds to invest in key infrastructure assets- may not easily be classifiable as an "innovative product" or service. Fine. Make an executive decision- in or out, or even halfway in.
* You might also argue that some of these products may have been manufactured elsewhere- well, then that shows up as trade or investments doesn't it?
* Why are we only looking at revenue? What about the rest of the financial statements of the firm in relation to the product?

Another Method to the Madness
Now, do you believe that the way out of a current economic quagmire is to focus on production of goods and services, and start saving?

How about trying to build an optimization function/ index that tries to minimize Big C (consumption) in the GDP?
The Model
Could we start by categorizing innovation with this objective in mind? Yes, it is a different way of thinking, and I am pushing the envelop a little, but I am sure we can come up with some sort of back-of-the-envelope index? It, tongue firmly in cheek, need not even be as rigorous as zero carbon footprint.
The Data
What do we really need for a rigorous approach here? Firm financial statments broken down by products? As easy as ABC (pun intended with Activity Based Costing)? Also, mapping these components to their net effect on the elements of the GDP?
What do you think?
Here's a crazy thought:
Would this sort of granular data help the government make more effective decisions in the interest of the economy?

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