Innovations happen within communities possessing existing and changing norms, knowledge, relationships, technologies, and beliefs. During innovation we begin to ask the question: Are we assuming a new community will react similarly to a community currently using the technology? What are the lessons learned from the technology’s current use?
Users are but one stakeholder to innovations. Innovators should seek to analyze the community impacted by their innovation. How is it different from the current users of the technology? Who will be impacted by this innovation? Who will impact the use and continuing development of this innovation within the community?
Ethical implications exist whether we acknowledge them or not. It is important to ask: Who is adversely affected by this innovation? Are we effective at achieving the given task? Are we maintaining the rights, autonomy, and dignity of the community by not treating stakeholders as mere means to the goals of the technology?
Responsibility is shared and cannot be placed solely in the hands of either the technology or the community. As innovators, we must understand our part in the ongoing use and misuse of the innovation. How can we make sure we can rectify eventual issues that arise from the innovation?
Innovations have a lifespan, while the needs of stakeholders change. How can we design and deploy the innovation so that we stay involved with the innovation?
Features matter for stakeholders, technological longevity, community impact, and innovative sustainability. How can we accommodate the many needs of the stakeholders in the design of the technology?
Defining innovation as the relationship between a technology and a community accounts for the many times a technology can be innovative as it is deployed to different communities. This focus on the relationship also highlights the shared responsibility for the consequences of the innovation.Many may question whether acknowledging the ethics of innovation would make the technology less scientific or objective. Ignoring the moral implications of an innovation, however, does not make the implications go away. The suggestions for developing an ethical innovation are just good business. Sustainability in the market, a goal for most innovators, requires acknowledging the relationship between technology and community with its ethical implications, shared responsibility, and mutual goals. Business has a tremendous role in being the engine of innovation for many communities. Acknowledging that role and the responsibilities it carries will allow businesses to create value for themselves and their many stakeholders. Ethical innovation produces a sustainable competitive advantage for the organization, creating good technology-community relationships.