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Engineering Innovation Cannot Prosper with Too Many Finance Managers

Engineering companies are unable to innovate if there are too many bankers, accountants and finance managers. They restrict imagination and growth in the engineering industry.

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There is a saying: too many cooks spoil the broth. Yes, it is only a saying, but sayings do have some truth in them. Engineering innovation often fail due to finance people leading the decisions in product and research department.

We all know the story of Apple – Steve Jobs founded it and led it through its first products – to great acclaim – and was then asked to leave due to his lack of respect for the budget.

Jobs made three major innovations for the company, and then was ousted for using up too much money in his inventions, which was a puzzling move considering that his latest invention at the time – the Macintosh – had brought a new level of personal computer to the population at large. His situation mirrored that of Nikola Tesla, who in 1901 found himself without a financial backer after Pierpont Morgan withdrew his support from the inventor, offended at the suggestion that his actions during the financial crisis of that year had in any way affected Tesla’s work.

Engineering Innovation Failures due to Finance People (Image Source: IMBD)

The question of money becomes increasingly important when we look at the recent recession and the effects it has had on society and innovation – when does money matter more than innovation and imagination? When does it matter less? How do we strike a balance between these two positions? In all honesty, the thought occurs that we pay far too much attention to money.

We should have learned from the example of Tesla, Jobs, and countless others throughout history: money and innovation do not mix in any great degree. Having money does not mean that someone is inherently more knowledgeable about what is happening; if they knew how to come up new inventions, then they could simply get on with the process themselves, and leave the poor engineers to their own inventions.

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Engineering Innovation Failures due to Finance People (Image Source: Giphy)

Money has become something more than simply the means of financing new invention. Now it is something to be held out as a promise, as a reward for good behaviour; if the engineer does what they are told, they get the money. To some extent this has always been the case, as we saw with the Tesla example above (and also, more openly, in the possibly apocryphal story about Tesla overhauling Edison’s motors with the promise of a huge sum of money waiting at the end if he succeeded), but it has never before been as blatant as it is today.

Engineers and innovators are essentially extorted – they are promised money in the form of grants and donations IF – and only if – what they do fulfils the requirements laid down by the people with the money. The money is essentially both stick and carrot at the same time, leading to innovators feeling pressured to do and make things that perhaps they don’t enjoy making, purely for the hope that eventually they will be given money and time to do what they love.

Engineering Innovation Failures due to Finance People (Image Source: Giphy)

People who have money, but no innovation skill, have no business telling people who do how they should innovate. If they want something done, they should offer money, not as a bribe or an extortion, but to the right person – the person who wants to make what they want made. Even more ideally, they could remove themselves from the process entirely; simply offer the money up to whoever needs and\or wants it, and that is that. They might never see their technological dream come to fruition, but then again, they just might. And even if they don’t, they could see that they have the satisfaction of allowing somebody’s (or somebodies’) creativity to thrive and to find an outlet.

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Someone needs to be able to stand up and say that the current system has to change, but so far no one appears to be brave enough to do it. It’s easy to see why – they could end up like Tesla, alone, with no money and no backer. At least the way we do it they have the potential to receive some money.

So in the end, who do we look to for someone to blame in all this? Do we blame the finance people? Do we blame the owners? Or do we blame the engineer’s dreams?

Who killed enginering innovation?

Engineering Innovation Failures due to Finance People (Image Source Giphy)

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Margaret Banford
Margaret Banford, when not writing, spends her time reading and playing several musical instruments. She is also a fair baker and the CEO of C.M. Cornes, Birmingham UK

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