【雙語】重新思考「創新」:它不是口號,是無情的考驗

【雙語】重新思考「創新」:它不是口號,是無情的考驗

【本文以中英雙語刊出/編譯:黃維德】

過去一世紀,製造能力一向有如台灣的非凡技藝;我們能以具有競爭力的成本生產貨品,並維持合理的品質。但在過往的成功之道再也行不通之時,我們並沒有徹底擺脫「準香蕉共和國式」的心態,深陷於有如精神分裂一般、自卑與傲慢交雜的苦痛。

自日本殖民統治時代至今,台灣經濟的特長一直在鄰近強權的強大政治影響與社會階級系統之下,出口資源有限的產品;這些特點亦全都符合「香蕉共和國」這個政治詞彙的定義。我們身處的奇特政治處境,讓我們過度高估自身價值,卻也甘於向強權的需求卑躬屈膝。

從蔗糖、稻米到消費性電子商品,我們滿足於順從外國需求、自相爭鬥以贏取訂單、儘一切可能將生產移往海外好降低成本,創造了無止境的惡性循環。

在此脈胳之下,許多人將希望寄托於創新和創業,然而,若現任和未來政府反覆強調這兩個主題、讓它們有如一切現有問題的解答,我認為是十分不負責任的做法。創新和創業不一定會成功,接受市場考驗的過程也漫長又無趣。

簡言之,創新是個有待進一步分類的模糊詞彙。我會將創新分為有形和無形兩種:無形創新源於改變一個人的心態,有形創新則是眾人反覆討論的那種創新,亦即在市場推出新產品。並不是所有的創新都極具突破性、足以改變世界,有些甚至可能連成功或永續性都沒有,也不是每個人都有能力「創新」。

我們必須更為務實,未來的政府應該將焦點放在打造足以吸引和培育人才的環境,以帶動成功的商業嘗試。例如,台灣的人才流失問題雖然廣受討論,這裡仍舊有許多人無法一展長才。許多人擁有穩固的財務實力,卻無法找到適合自己的角色或合適人才,只能管理自己的資產、成為閒置投資人。台灣當前的環境或許無法帶動創新和創業,但另一方面,我們亦身陷於平庸的煉獄之中。

我大學時代接受的是人文教育(liberal arts),缺乏科學或科技上的創新技能,但我也學會從不同的角度欣賞創新。二千年來,水泥一直是關鍵建築材料,而在消費性電子領域,變動總是轉瞬即至。對於大部分照本宣科、鼓吹創新的人來說,水泥等傳統製造業或許根本不值一提,但我學會欣賞持續精進的工匠精神,以及服務和品質在創造價值上的重要性,並致力於尋找改善製程的方法。我們不該忽視這類漸進式的進展,而是應視之為無形創新;無形創新與有形的產品創新同等重要,因為那代表軟實力提升,讓企業得以長保競爭力。

我亦曾親眼見證產品創新。我的哥哥取得工研院技術移轉、創立新企業時,我也參與其中;那 6 年裡,我看著他和他的團隊不斷調適,從象牙塔步入市場經濟現實。加入他的團隊之後,我有了許多全新的體驗,例如飛行時數多過停留時數的旅行、剛開始與人共事但隔週就發現他們被裁員、被根本沒試用過樣品的客戶(他聲稱自己有)羞辱數小時等。

無法通過市場嚴苛考驗的創新,永遠不會被視作真正的創新。如果創新不被市場接受,它真正的用途是什麼?沒有經濟規模和市場的創新,終將以失敗收場:例如鴻海的夏普併購案,那是擁有大規模生產能力、客戶基礎的公司,透過併購嘗試與具有工匠精神和創新的企業結合。

我們在 2010 年開始推銷感測器之時,並不知道大規模生產是條如此漫長又曲折的道路;當時,消費性電子市場正處於生態系統大洗牌,不幸的是,我們最先接觸的客戶是 Sony Ericsson、Nokia 與 Motorola。我們得學會與失望以及無法掌控的因素共處:並不是所有的科技都能帶來果實,但只要時機到來、而且你能堅持不懈,成功或許真的就在前方。

創新應該是種心態,而在我眼中,創新是種對於改變的渴求。我們不該只是獨善其身,我們應當竭力追尋更美好的生活、改善周遭的環境。那不一定得是突然降臨的徹底革新,因為漸進式的改變也可以成為大幅改變的基礎。

真正的產品創新並非一蹴可幾,而是一點一滴累積而成,因此,重點在於打造能帶動變革、又能容忍成長之痛的環境和論述。持續追尋變革、持續尋求改善的心態,正是產品創新的關鍵。我相信,徹底改變我們的態度和心態,才是最為可行的競爭力重建之道。我的曾祖父侯雨利先生常說 「再怎麼不景氣,也有人賺錢:再怎麼景氣,都有人虧損」,總歸一句話,一切事在人為。

【以下為作者侯智元撰寫之原文】

Rethinking innovation

For the past century, Taiwan's prowess has been our manufacturing capability, able to produce goods at a competitive cost while maintaining reasonable quality. As our previous method of success hit a road block, we instead have not completely shed our mentality of faithfully being a quasi banana republic, schizophrenically suffer from inferior complex and hubris. A forte of Taiwanese economy since Japanese colonial rules until today have been exporting limited resource products,  while having a stratified class system while under heavy political influence from neighboring powers, all fitting components of said political terminology .

Due to our peculiar political circumstances, we have been trained to overestimate our worth while at the same time kowtow to demands from our superior influencer. From sugar canes, rice to consumer electronic products, we have grown content and docile to foreign demands, fighting amongst ourselves to win orders, trying our best to offshore production in order to lower cost, creating a continuous negative spiral. With this as our context, there have been much talk as to levy our hopes on Innovation and entrepreneurship. Yet, I find it irresponsible for our current administration and future administration to mention both subjects ad nauseam to the extent as if they are the solutions to all our current woes. Innovation and entrepreneurship are not sure fire endeavors, and the process of it being vetted by the market is long and tenuous.

Simply put, innovation is a nebulous that require further qualification and categorization. I would separate innovation into tangible and intangible innovation. Intangible innovation stems from changes in one's mentality, while intangible innovation would be what public discourses discussed ad nauseam, introducing new products to the market. Not all innovations are grounds breaking, life changing or at the least successful or sustainable and not everyone is capable of "innovating".

We need to be realistic with our expectation, and instead what our future administration should focus upon is how to foster an environment that is capable to attracting, and properly foster talents that lead into successful business endeavors. For example, besides the talent drain that many have talked about, there are also underutilized talents in Taiwan. A lot of these individuals are financially sufficient yet they are not able to find a role that matches their training or talent so many end up managing their assets and become idle investors. I doubt that Taiwan's current environment is conducive to both innovation and entrepreneurship, yet we are also stuck in a limbo and purgatory of eternal mediocrity.

I studied liberal arts in college, so I lack the skills to innovate scientifically or technologically, yet I have learned to appreciate innovation from different standpoints . Cement has been a key building materials for two thousand years and while in consumer electronics, changes happen constantly. To most people who preaches innovation by the books, they might instantly frown at traditional manufacturing industries such as cement, yet I have learned to appreciated continuous refinement of craftsmanship, importance of service and quality to create value add, and at the same time looking for ways to improve our production process . These aspects of incremental improvement cannot be overlooked and should also be viewed as intangible innovation, something that is equally important as tangible product innovation as it is an improvement of soft power that keeps companies competitive in the long run.

I have also witnessed product innovation first hand as I participate in my brother's startup in which he spun off from ITRI. Over these past six years, I have seen him and his team cope with moving from the ivory towers to the reality of market economy. Before joining his team, I have never had travel experiences in which my total time in the air was greater than my time on the ground, I have never started work with people only to discover that they were laid off the next week and also never been humiliated by clients for hours who did not bother trying our samples (claiming he had).Innovation that have not passed through the gauntlet that is the market can never be viewed as true innovation. If one's invention cannot be accepted by the market, then what is it's true use?

Innovation without economy of scale and market is ultimately futile, which can be best summarized by the recent news of the acquisition of Sharp by Hon Hai, the merger of craftsmanship, innovation with mass production capability and customer access. When we started promoting our sensor in 2010, we were unaware of the long, winding road to mass production. At that time, the consumer electronics market were going through a large scale ecosystem reshuffling and unluckily, the first customers we approached were Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Motorola. We have to learn to cope with disappointment due to factors that were out of our control as tragically, not all technology can come to fruition, yet if the stars are aligned and one can persevere, success may be in order.

Innovation should be a mentality and I would view innovation as a desire for change. We ought to strive to improve not just ourselves, but our livelihood and our surrounding. It does not have to be a complete sudden overhaul since persistent and incremental improvement can be a foundation for future large scale improvements. True product innovation is a gradual change and does not happen overnight, It is important to foster an environment and discourse that is conducive to change but at the same time tolerant to growing pains. Having a mentality of constantly seeking changes and improvements to oneself is vital for one to pursue product innovation. I think an overall change in attitude, innovating our mindset, is the most legitimate chance to rebuild our competitiveness.

《關聯閱讀》
在新創公司工作自由又美好?過來人告訴你,五大重點決定你身處「天堂」或「地獄」
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執行編輯:郭姿辰
核稿編輯:張翔一

Photo Credit:Shutterstock

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