Words are tools. Some say that the spoken word was the first co-operative tool of man. New words are created when new distinctions are made so we can efficiently communicate.
What does innovation mean?
An innovation could be defined as a step change in the effectiveness in how humans do something. This could be a process, a tangible product or a service. It somewhat differs from invention, which is the creation of a new way of doing something (often, but not always, in the form of something tangible).
Buckminster Fuller (Bucky) was an architect, philosopher and futurist. He had a way of thinking that today may be described as “systems thinking”. He always started with the biggest picture, the Universe, and proceeded to observe what he called “special case scenarios” within a Universal context.
This macro to micro thinking saw the creation of a new distinction, ephemeralization. Ephemeralization is the “innovative” path humans are continually walking. It is the process of “doing more with less” and Bucky believed we would continue this process until we eventually had the ability to do “everything with nothing”.
Humans are continually trying to get a greater output for less input. This input could be physical, metaphysical or materials based.
How does innovation happen?
Regardless of the form of the innovation/invention everything is created twice.
The first time the innovation/invention is created, is in the mind. The second time it is created may be a physical example. Some inventions or innovations have the ability to completely change the existing paradigm. Examples of these are the car, airplane, typewriter, computer and the internet. I like to call these types of innovations/inventions “structural changes”.
Structural changes create a step change in human thought, understanding and behaviour. You may have loved your old horse and cart but when you experienced the motorcar you knew it was only a matter of time before this was the predominant mode of transport.
These structural changes are the highest form of innovation and invention and they start in the mind. As Albert Einstein once stated “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”.
Innovation and invention are how humans solve problems and they are solved utilising a process of perturbation that is essentially stressing the structure of the brain.
These evolutionary transformational processes were discovered a Nobel Prize nominee, Hans Selye, and a Nobel Laureate, Ilya Prigogene. Selye was working on “stress and learning” and Prigogene worked on “laws of dissipative structures”. The human brain is a classic dissipative structure.
I believe the true wealth of the planet is “know how”. The second law of thermodynamics states that “energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it can only change from one form or another”. Innovation means that humans are utilising their expanding “know how” to more efficiently transform their physical reality (supported by E=mc2).
In my experience innovation can be rapidly incubated using a process of “dialogue and discussion”. The dialogue process is a co-operative way of sharing experiences and suspending assumptions with the underlying theory being that “there is an element of truth only available through the joint interaction of minds”. The process and outcomes are very different to “debate” which is competitive and non-synergetic.
“Standing on the shoulders of giants” is a quote that might accurately reflect how innovation happens. We are all leveraging of the experiences of those before us and we are essentially standing on their shoulders. Google was not possible before the internet, the internet was not possible before the computer and so it goes.