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Johannes Suikkanen: One more time about innovations

I am often alienated by the discussion related to innovations. My argument is that innovations should primarily deal with creating new value for people.


The viewpoints on the future of the nation have reached a consensus over that a transition to an innovative demand and user-oriented operating model will be one cornerstone of Finland’s success. This theme results in discussion, working groups and reports on a continuous basis. In fact, the designing of perfect innovation models and processes our national special feature. To this end, Finland has a number of organisations which are difficult to outline and which we generally refer to as an innovation system.  

I am often alienated by the discussion related to innovations. It seems that the aim is to produce innovation quantity in the same way as new tonnes of steel back in the day – by expanding the productive machinery and adjusting the manufacturing process. My argument is that innovations should primarily deal with creating new value for people. It is very difficult to come up with anything valuable without specifying for whom, where, in what kind of situations, and what kind of new value can be created. In addition to operating situations, one must extensively understand the social relationships and the ambitions there where one wants to provide services and products. Processes alone will not help us understand the development of the cuisine of the Russian middle class, the everyday life of Indian welders or the idea of well-paid liberal Americans of good taste.  

The worlds for which we are planning our offering do not consist of individuals who only use one product or service at a time. The frequently discussed usability does not even matter in all cases. It is more important that the offering is significant. Investigating the functional procedures of customers is already natural for many Finnish companies, but it is often the case that we do not understand the various social and symbolic worlds. We must forget our ideas of Finland and the Finns as a testing laboratory for new technology, products and services. It is considerably more important to open up for the world and be able to work by using abstract information. Customer focus cannot be packaged in simple models and processes. We need a more international approach and a willingness to more extensively utilise foreign and Finnish know-how for also creating financial value in the future.     

Unfortunately, our old structures, or even reorganising them, do not support an idea like this. Not even a user focus based on individual needs will save us if we do not know how to combine business development with a more extensive idea of a person in whose world relations with other people and symbolic meanings are emphasised.    

Johannes Suikkanen

The author is the Managing Partner of Gemic Oy, specialising in the development of customer-oriented business. He is also a co-author of the Unohda Innovointi book published in Sitra’s series in March.