Do we have to innovate? Can’t we just do the same thing better?

When the same challenge comes up in two completely different classes in one week, it is worth writing about. In this case the common point for me was the choice between re-designing and improving how we already do conservation or inventing new methods.
Tuesday, entrepreneurship class: two businessmen from high-tech industries spoke about how to gather resources when starting a business.  Their emphasis was on new technology and this seemed to be a key driver for them to pull together the resources to build their businesses. I drew the parallel to funding a new conservation initiative and it got me thinking about the challenge of funding the ‘same old thing’ and the problem of inventing newfangled approaches.

Question: Can businesses or conservation organizations attract funding for old ideas done better or do we need to innovate and come up with new approaches?

Friday, corporate (strategic) planning: our course director asked whether strategic plans are a cover up for work that hasn’t gone well. Organizations may be tempted to stop doing what hasn’t worked and try something completely new (especially if it is trendy and seems like a good way to get funding) rather than try to improve their current practices.

Question: how do organizations balance the use of traditional approaches with new conservation techniques that may work better, but haven’t been tested yet (e.g. paying for the maintenance of ecosystem services)?

Do you think conservation requires fundamental innovation to develop new approaches and the phasing out of old methods? Or can we make the staple activities work if we just do them differently (and if so, how do we do them better)?

One Reply to “Do we have to innovate? Can’t we just do the same thing better?”

  1. Having been in high tech companies all my adult life, let me assure all your readers that good execution trumps good ideas every time. Ideas are the easy part. Implementing them, and persisting through the inevitable roadblocks and failures – that is what make the real difference. If your potential donor is a successful businessperson, chances are good that they will respond well to a presentation that shows your track record at implementing. If you also have a great new idea, all the better. But show the donor why they can be confident that their grant is likely to bring results. As to your course director’s musing about whether strategic plans are used to cover up things gone wrong… Set yourself apart by showing how your team learned from and moved forward from setbacks.Please keep this healthy dialogue going!

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