10+ Questions On Innovation to Dennis Tsichritzis
I am interested to learn how innovaton can be supported and if possible created. Large research centers do (sometimes) innovate and/or facilitate individual innovation. Read what Dennis Tsichritzis has to say on this. Dennis was previously President of GMD and later senior vice president at Fraunhofer, after Fraunhofer and GMD merged to form one of the largest research center in Germany.
Dennis Tsichritzis got his PhD from Princeton 1968 in Computer Engineering and he spent 40 years in different positions in North America (US and Canada) and Europe (Switzerland, Germany and Greece) doing Research and Research Management. His main Research work was in Data Bases at the University of Toronto and in Object Oriented Systems at the University of Geneva. His main Research Management positions were in Germany first at GMD (as a President) and then at Fraunhofer (as senior vice president). He published extensively and was a University Professor and a business consultant throughout his career.
1. What is “Innovation” for you?
Dennis Tsichritzis: It is the process of creating value by combining ideas, old and new, to improve products, processes and overall environments in economic activities. The emphasis should not be in the novelty of the ideas but at their application to
solve real problems. In Research it is the new idea that is important. In innovation it is the new application.
2. Who are your favorite innovators?
Dennis Tsichritzis: I prefer to talk about favorite innovations rather than favorite innovators. It is sometimes hard to pin point the advancement to one person and only Historians can attribute the credit appropriately.
Just to name a few.
1) The combination of the keel (used for boat stabilization) and the sail (used for boat propulsion) to invent the sailing boat capable of sailing against the wind. Attributed to the unknown sailors who first noticed and then perfected the sailing ship transporting people and goods around the World.
2) Harnessing energy to produce motion. All sorts of engines from the steam (Watt) to the modern combustion engines powering autos, planes, etc. which leverage human muscular strength and allowed widespread transportation.
3) Bringing together Computers and Communications which produced Internet, the Web and made information readily available throughout the World. Only half a century ago the study of Computers and Communications were separate with even a different mathematical basis, Computers used Discrete Mathematics and Communications used Continuous Mathematics.
3. What do you consider are the most promising innovations of the last 3 years?
1) The smart phone combining Telephone, Media device and Computer to bring mobility, power, versatility and ease of use in a small affordable package.
2) Sensors of all kinds which identify objects and communicate their properties. This allows an unprecedented and open ended host of applications connecting real world objects between themselves and with Human beings.
3) Revisiting the whole energy scene with new ways of producing, storing and transmitting energy. Most of the alternatives may prove unrealistic but the whole activity will modify the patterns of energy production and consumption.
4. What does it help to become a successful innovator?
Dennis Tsichritzis: To understand the world and its real problems and have a wide palette of interesting technologies which may be applicable is a necessary precondition. You also need focus and persistence over a long time frame and appropriate economic conditions to light the fire.
5. Is there a price to pay to be an innovator? Which one?
Dennis Tsichritzis: Once you are obsessed with an idea you neglect everybody and everything including your own private life. You have to live through many dissapointments without giving up.
6. What are the rewards to be an innovator?
Dennis Tsichritzis: Nothing material, few innovators become rich. They seldom have the right entrepreneurial characteristics. Fame, if it ever comes, is late and is a small consolation. Most innovators do it for the pleasure and self satisfaction. Other people around them reap the real benefits and sometimes the fame too.
7. What are in your opinion the top 3 criteria for successful innovation?
1) To be economically relevant.
2) To be widely applicable.
3) To provide a better quality of life.
8. What would you recommend to young people who wish to pursue innovation?
Dennis Tsichritzis: Observe the World and listen to other people. Most of the ideas are around if only you take the time to discover them. Do not get easily get sidetracked or discouraged. Do not follow any fads and directions where everybody is going.
9. In your opinion how can we create a culture that supports and sustains innovation?
Dennis Tsichritzis: By admiring the new and the chances that it brings as opposed to thinking of the risks and the shortcomings. By rewarding lavishly everybody who tries to innovate as opposed to the successful ones. By encouraging young persons to think differently as opposed to learn what is widely accepted.
10. What do you think stops/slows down innovation?
Dennis Tsichritzis: Backward mentality, vested interests and fear of the unknown.
10+1 .Do you think becoming an innovator can be taught? If yes, how?
Dennis Tsichritzis: No I do not think that becoming inovator can be widely taught, the same way as painting or poetry writing. What can be taught is the appreciation and the support for innovation.
10+2. What is in your opinion the influence that a “location” (country/region) plays with respect to the possibility to be a
1) The right general culture
2) The acceptance of the need for innovation (otherwise we will not make it)
3) The right economic conditions so an innovation can be promoted at a global scale
10+3. What would you recommend to make a “location” attractive for innovation?
1) Attract top talent around the World by giving them the best working conditions and living environment.
2) Revamp the education system to promote free thinking instead of recipes
3) Support financially innovations and promote them world wide