“Innovate or Die”
According to their owners, an increasing number of businesses focus on innovation. Pavel Csank,
of the MSIC, believes that the word “innovation” is massively overused. It often refers to
a growing range of phenomena related to enterprise and is gradually losing meaning. People
sometimes wonder what it means even though innovation has a serious impact on the lives
of each of us. We asked Mr Csank what motivates companies to innovate, what are some typical mistakes,
and what is the prospect of innovation in the Moravian-Silesian Region in the decades to come.
Innovation is an indivisible part of
development. What do you think of
companies reluctant to innovate?
For over a century, companies who do not
innovate have been considered doomed.
There is a popular and frequently quoted
saying, “innovate or die.” Numerous
analyses of many companies support that.
Some businesses can be successful and
are interested in innovation but very often,
once they have grown to a particular size
or stage of development, they struggle to
continue innovating. It is connected to the
general discomfort most people feel when
About a third of businesses operating at
the NY Stock Exchange come in with an
innovation of a new, very particular kind. The
word innovation is perceived as a foreign
expression, not associated with real content
because the innovation per se comes in
various forms. It may represent a change in
the colour or shape of a chair or it might refer
to a newly developed medical treatment.
Even though the word’s connotation is not
quite clear, it consists of exactly the issues
transforming the world around us.
What is the current greatest driving force
I believe that the obligation to minimize
carbon emissions is the principal drive of
innovations. The first Industrial Revolution,
which began in the 18th century, started
up the carbon economy. If we analyse its
chemical and material composition, it was
based on fossil fuels. Without energies, there
is no industry, and industry has brought
a great surge in productivity and allowed for
all the current material wealth. We obviously
cannot operate without a significant change
if we want the planet to remain habitable.
Data show that the scale of high-risk
investments in environmental technologies
is growing rapidly. New companies offering
technologies with a proven positive impact
on the environment report a dramatic
increase of yields and growth. They often
rely on public investment. All modern
technologies somehow connect to public
investments, which is not a generally known
fact: the internet or smartphones would
have never existed if it had not been for
public investment in their research and
What mistakes do businesses typically
make once they decide to innovate?
They will not delegate responsibilities and
decision-making--that is the greatest and
most frequent mistake in small businesses.
Their owners often focus on too short-term
planning. They have low ambitions in growth
and innovation. There is a tension between
the financial and process propropsects
on one side and the creative humans on
the other in every enterprise, especially
if the company is at the stock exchange.
Then there is an immense pressure on
the short-term financial result. And when
you focus on the short-term financial
result, you start missing on the means to
support significant elements of the internal
innovation environment which affects the
company culture and how the company
allows experiments and implementation of
novelties. Much innovation is the side effect
of something completely different.
What seems to be a good innovation at first
sight turn out to be a failure?
It certainly can. Firstly, a great majority of
good ideas have already been invented,
discovered, and tried out. Secondly,
numerous innovation projects do not meet
expectations. Financial managers and other
people responsible for finance then become
very suspicious about innovation.
Nowadays, the problem is that too much
emphasis is on technology. Innovation
is a phenomenon a bit different from
invention. Many people connect innovation
with technology, which may be important,
but if it is not used properly, it has no added
value for the customer. Therefore, they will
never bring the desired effect and profit.
How much of its capital, time, and attention
should a company spend on innovation?
There is not a single correct answer to this.
There are countless ways to understand
innovation. It basically depends on what the
change is based on. It can be the search for
a new product; the company may struggle
for higher productivity and to be more useful;
the innovation may be in the relationships
between the company and customers. If
I were to respond in one sentence, I would
say it depends on what the company wants
There are many kinds of company owners:
the level of their ambition reflects the
operation of their enterprise. How it works,
if it is or is not successful, greatly depends
on how much the owners invest, how they
manage company finances, and where they
spend it. That is connected to the company
culture and employees, too.
Do you have a vision where innovation will
go in the Moravian-Silesian Region in the
decades to come?
A regional economy is like a living organism
going through evolution. I believe that the
hot topics will be new energies, production
methods, and energy management. There
will be an increasing number of companies
focused on the development and assembly
of components and units for power
production, distribution, and management.
The carbon economy is at its end; it will
not exist in some fifty years. Looking ten
to twenty years ahead, changes will come.
More and more companies wonder about
hydrogen as the energy resource for the
future. Hydrogen is believed to be the right
direction, and we all understand that the sun
and wind is not enough. The whole of the
energy system needs to store energy, as it
becomes basically useless once it cannot be
stored. The current competition, therefore, is
in who develops the most efficient energystoring technology.
Automotive industries are going through
significant changes. Thirty years ago, the
greatest export of the Moravian-Silesian
Region was steel; now it is the automotive
industry which keeps growing. The best
examples are the transformation of new
fuels and autonomous control of vehicles.
Our great advantage is that we stand close
to where the trends are born; we can watch
them happening, and make use of the
business opportunities they bring.
Thank you for the interview.
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