Is Bond right to say youth isn’t a guarantee of innovation?

Probably since the Stone Age and the invention of the wheel, mankind has been striving for invention and innovation. Every single piece of market research I have done with customers – in every sector I have worked in – has pointed to a demand for innovation; and in my current business, it is the one criticism that I hear most from our customers. Despite pointing to the many examples of where we believe we have pushed the boundaries, our customers want more.

I think we’re pretty good at innovation in this country. Look at Formula 1 – over half the teams are based in the UK and each week it seems the team leaders are talking about this or that latest tweak to their car. From the electric kettle to the World Wide Web, the sewing machine to the humble pencil, Britain has given the world some fantastic inventions.

This week I went to see the new James Bond film, Skyfall (another fantastic British contribution to society). It was a great film and the cinema experience was fantastic, but I’m not here to give you a film review. More pertinently, the film has a line when Bond meets the youthful new “Q” for the first time, and Bond says: “Youth is not a guarantee of innovation”.

Never a truer word was said: while the saying goes that anyone in a company can have a great idea (whatever happened to the Staff Suggestion Box?), there is a lot to be said for experience to spot a gap and to know how to exploit it. Or is a fresh pair of eyes, the ability to look past the sacred cows and ask all the dumb questions the key?

Consider the umbrella – an invention that surprisingly did not originate here but rather in Egypt, Syria, Greece and China. While it has done us well for over 400 years, isn’t it time that a James Dyson or a Tim Cook at Apple had another look at the design? Autumn is upon us, a reminder how much I hate the contraption that has little resistance to a gusty day. If it doesn’t insist on turning inside out or threaten to lift you off the ground, it tries to take the eye out of the person next to you. We Brits need someone to look at this essential product – young or old, British or foreign, it doesn’t matter – just innovate!

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