Is ethical innovation a recipe for growth?

On one hand, WalMart - the largest retailer has been improving its fleet fuel efficiency by 69% and becoming the nation’s leading commercial buyer of solar energy. Sustainability initiatives like putting pressure on its 100,000 suppliers to improve their environmental performance — has changed how thousands of products are innovated, made, packaged and sold globally. Consumerism driven cut throat competition on the other hand has paved the path of a gigantic endeavour of maintaining market supremacy. This unfortunate and mis-aligned focus has led organisations into innovating at a higher pace beyond the ethical boundaries with implicit global costs.

Institutionalising innovation with the aim to improve people's lives at no implicit cost to the other parts of the globe demands attention. 

"Ethical innovation is not only a survival tactic - it actually is a recipe for growth."
Incorrect focus for GDP as a measure of income at any cost

The fatal flaw in the 'profit at any cost' approach is a hidden root cause of societal detrement. Instead of growing organically and maintaining the pace of sustainable development - market forces have pushed the ethics out of the equation.

"Companies are competing & innovating for market share ruthlessly while making profits at any cost."
If we continue on the same path - another economic collapse and disaster awaits us in an even shorter cycle than ever experienced in the history of mankind.

GDP driven growth is neither sustainable nor real. When growth of countries is measured as an income statement (GDP) instead of wealth creation - there is an inevitable impact on the minds of business leaders and common consumption driven public.

We need to reinvent GDP at a policy level to ensure that it does not promote income at any cost. The fundamental change is required in converting the income statement to a balance sheet.

Here is the copy of my recent webinar on the topic - delivered at

One of the eminent ways to address this conundrum is with fortune companies taking this seriously for the sake of sustainable growth. Suppliers to corporates should be encourage, supported and coached to rethink their approach towards greener and value driven initiatives.

"Irrespective of the model or level of innovation we adapt, the focus has to shift from 'profit at any cost' to 'collaborative growth' with the wider society."

Whether we see this happening in our lifespan is another discussion - a fundamental change in transforming the traditional mindset of larger corporations is on the horizon.

Who will sustain, grow or perish - only time will tell.

Thinking out of the box in 'User Generated Innovation'

Have you ever wondered why, once famous robot pets - disappeared from the market? Sony was the market leader for many years and still decided to exit the market. 

Why was AIBO discontinued?

In 2006, AIBO was added into Carnegie Mellon University's "Robot Hall of Fame". 
Robot Hall of Fame at CMU describes AIBO as:

"the Sony AIBO represents the most sophisticated product ever offered in the consumer robot marketplace."[1]

AIBO (Artificial Intelligence Robot, homonymous with aibō (相棒?), "pal" or "partner" in Japanese) was an iconic series of robotic pets designed and manufactured by Sony. Sony announced a prototype robot in mid-1998. The first consumer model was introduced on May 11, 1999. New models were released every year until 2005. 

Some enthusiastic underground communities got together and hacked AIBO to perform actions that were not within the recommended guidelines for this pet. 

What do you think Sony's response should have been?

a) Collaborate with hackers or
b) Sue them for violating the guidelines

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Sony made a fatal mistake by not leveraging the tremendous potential of this amazing product.

Instead of opening doors to 'User Generated Innovation' and leveraging the unimaginable potential of the product, Sony sued the hackers who made the robot to dance instead of behaving like a pet!
A more win-win response would have been to collaborate with the communities and come up with a platform to enable further innovation with the enthusiasts.

If you come across any such situation, don't treat it as a threat to corporate values. There could be a enormous potential in such initiatives and end-users love them these days.

Some of the suggestions to thinking out of the box include:

  • Introducing local volunteer clubs 
  • Design you own box and we will package it for you forums.
  • Enable prototyping of your own robot pets
  • Sell prototypes on club sites

Companies ought to find lead user innovations instead of just depending on voice of the customer. We want to have some research around here that does not regard these users as outliers, but goes out and finds them. Thus, enormously empowering for the user. 

Sadly, on January 26, 2006 Sony announced that it would discontinue AIBO and completely closed the doors for 'User Generated Innovation'.

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