Eight emerging themes

Eight emerging themes: Innovation


With the drivers of change transforming the world of work at unprecedented pace and scale, innovation becomes a major imperative for successful organisations.

In tomorrow’s world, effective innovation will mean not only embracing technological developments, but also harnessing imagination and creativity. In the words of Apple founder, Steve Jobs: “Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would’ve told me a faster horse’. People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Employers will need to have employees with the appropriate skills to embrace innovation while also imbuing a culture of innovation throughout their workforce. Innovation encompasses the mundane as well as the ground-breaking progressions.

Technological innovation will continue to be important in the future, especially staying abreast of the capabilities and potential of automation, big data and artificial intelligence (see technology – automation, artificial intelligence and data). But a strong focus on innovation in sustainability, resilience and flexibility will be critical as well (see sustainability; emerging themes - flexibility; and emerging – resilience).

As remote and hybrid working become increasingly common, they will require innovation to enable workers to adapt and successfully harness their potential (see Covid-19 – agile working).

Governments will need to foster a culture of innovation too. Take, for instance, the area of patent applications where the UK has some way to go. Unlike all but one of the top ten patent application offices, its number of applications fell over the last two years. This illustrates the growing rise of Asia as an economic powerhouse, with four of the top seven offices being in that continent (see globalisation – geo-politics). Looking at patent applications by country of origin, the UK comes seventh behind China, the US, Japan, South Korea, Germany and France.