Innovation in a time of plenty
I was struck, thinking about the discussion at a later date, about how far we've come, at least in the US, from where even our grandparents were in relation to food. My grandmother lived through the Great Depression, and scratched out barely enough food to eat to live. Food choices or considerations about authenticity or how the food was grown was beyond anything they cared about. That was only 80 years ago.
The next evolution, once there was enough food to eat, was in augmenting and improving food. We added supplements and "fortified" the food to make it taste better or provide more nutrients. Then, once we had extended the existing food, we sought out new food types. Suddenly Thai food, Sushi and other foods that had been extravagances became mainstream. Then we innovated with existing foods, creating new "fusions" of food - mixing different cuisines. Now that we've run that gamut, and we have in most cases enough food to worry about obesity rather than scarcity, and enough selection that a trip down a grocery store can literally flummox most shoppers, we are now innovating and differentiating around authenticity, the "roots" and history of the product and the intent of the product.
Using food innovations as a metaphor for innovation more generally, we can easily see that the next wave of innovation is not product innovation, or service innovation, or even business model innovation, although business model innovation still has a lot of legs. No, the next iteration of innovation is in customer experience and authenticity. People want their products and services to have "meaning" and to understand the origin, history, purpose and intent of the product or service. They want to buy from firms that have a purpose, not nameless, faceless organizations. They want innovation that ties them back to genuine issues and creates meaning in the acquisition, use and ownership of the product or service. As conspicuous consumption falls, meaningful, purposeful acquistion will arise. We may have less things, but those things will need to have purpose and meaning - will need to provide a worthwhile experience for the consumer. It's not enough to have the lowest priced product, or the highest priced brand for that matter. Your product must have an authentic story, and create an experience that ties the customer to something that's meaningful. See the next wave of innovation about to unfold - the innovation of authenticity, purpose and meaning.