Real and Imaginary Innovation

Laurel King's picture

If only the vast amounts of talent and energy that have been applied to creative accounting, boosting CEO bonuses and financial derivatives had been applied to real innovation in America. Fortunately, the current market uncertainty may now discourage some of our promising mathematical minds from choosing banking and finance as a quick way to earn their first millions. But then again, maybe I am too optimistic. Short-term thinking seems to be the norm in most organizations.

It makes you wonder how we came to this level of self-interest. How can we tempt these clever minds to apply their knowledge and creativity to other innovative pursuits that would help solve the many overwhelming global problems we face? Or are these problems so daunting that these bright young minds would rather profit and live in the present than try to be part of a solution or attempt at mitigation? To be fair, there are many who choose career paths that do not lead to such wealth, but our society values financial success more than anything, regardless if it is built upon imaginary and not real innovation and solutions.

The US needs real innovation. Imaginary innovation that serves only a few may be financially rewarding, however, these imaginary bubbles will always burst as we have seen. How can our culture move away from short-term thinking and profits? The goal of increasing stockholder wealth should be averaged over 5 or 10 year periods before being linked to bonuses. Published statistical comparisons may not be as shocking when they are compared to rolling averages, but they will cause less alarm. Maybe we should not be expecting growth every year. Maybe that isn’t what sustainability can be based upon. We need innovation that really improves the quality of life.