What’s wrong with focusing on known problems?

At first glance, there shouldn’t be anything wrong if a society focused its innovation effort on solving its known problems. However, if that focus becomes an obsession, this society will –over time– become increasingly vulnerable to the challenges presented by previously unknown problems. I believe that our structures, our resources, and even our mindset are so committed to solving the known problems that we are largely unprepared to deal with the unexpected. We’ve submersed ourselves in the bubble of the known problems. And such self-imposed myopia creates serious challenges.

The narrative continues from the previous post, in which I’ve analysed how useful knowledge, i.e., the key resource of the innovation supply chain, flows through society. Mapping that knowledge flow against the innovation landscape revealed how the success of our innovation efforts depends upon a delicate pattern of disseminating and generating useful knowledge. Building on those considerations, I want to take the story a step further: Could it be that we are too focused on solving the known problems?


Over the next few posts, I’ll argue that:

  1. our established structures work very well for known problems, but they make us blind for the unknown problems ;
  2. if we were to see the unknown problems, we still wouldn’t invest the resources necessary to solve them ;
  3. even if we were to see the unknown problems and commit substantial resources in their solution, our mindset would still be too deterministic to tackle our increasingly complex problems fast enough.

While there’s no reason to be content with the status quo, there’s no point in painting an overly bleak picture either. Throughout the upcoming posts, I’ll not only present the challenges as I see them. I will also address potential improvements that could help us create a more organic and inclusive culture for innovation, adopt a less deterministic mindset, ensure a more balanced resource allocation, and establish more elastic structures.

So stay tuned.


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