How innovation solves a requirement in a new way

The Cleveland Police Department was one of the first to use fingerprints for identification purposes, one of the first to have radio communications in police cars and the first in the world to capture a bank robbery on film.

This month’s Uniquely Cleveland tells the story of these and other innovations that helped advance the fight against crime.

You can’t ignore the connection between crime fighting and invention. As long as there have been thieves, swindlers and killers, there have been efforts to outwit them.

As the old saying, based on a quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson, goes, “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” The power of innovation is a strong one, and I venture to say that fighting crime with the latest innovations stands at the top of the priority list of society.

Witness the growing use of DNA tests in forensic investigations. Police have the ability to store the DNA profiles of repeat offenders and by using technology, can compare the profiles with DNA samples from unsolved crimes. Every person has a unique DNA profile. Once the DNA profiles are matched, it speeds up the search and conviction of the perpetrator.

On the other side of the coin, individuals convicted of crimes and serving time have been released following new DNA evidence submitted in court. Unfortunately there are backlogs of samples waiting to be analyzed. It takes years before the DNA in some cases is analyzed.

It’s easy to see that governmental entities need to develop faster methods for analyzing DNA evidence. Equipment is outdated, laboratories are understaffed and more training is needed for law enforcement officers as procedures improve.

Another technology on the rise is the use of video cameras. Surveillance, dash and now body cameras are seemingly everywhere.

Don’t forget stun guns and Tasers. The list goes on …

As I mentioned earlier, there is so much interest, rightfully so, in innovations to help fight crime. But that interest doesn’t have to be overly focused on that field. Many other industries and sectors deserve similar enthusiastic support for innovation. It just takes someone who is inspired and driven to invent and innovate. It’s amazing what one person can do.

One of our Smart Business columnists, Lois Melbourne, recently put it  in one of the best ways:

“The true nature of innovation, solving a requirement in a new way, is taking a risk. An improvement is just doing something better, but an innovation is changing the game. Sometimes people don’t like change. Sometimes the innovation is ready before the market is ready for it.

“But progress depends on innovation, so giving an environment that allows risk-taking is critical. It is actually mandatory, to get real innovation. It is never enough to only give the R&D department the risk taking reins. Allowing voices to be heard throughout an organization fosters engagement and the comfort level that the leaders embrace innovation and the risk that comes along with it.”