Our means for innovation

The innovation engine is the centrepiece of our innovation capacity, yet we have more means at our disposal – ranging from basic to sophisticated.

At the most basic level, we innovate by ‘tinkering with what worked in the past’. We use pre-existing recipes and adjust processing times or sequences. And we employ available ingredients, sometimes using more (or less) of the known building blocks, sometimes exchanging the tried and tested for something that we did not use before. In principle, we employ variation and combination to build novel things that serve our needs.

At the most sophisticated level, we create a class of complex things that appear to lead a life of their own. Think about organisations and institutions, such as companies and markets, cities and nations. We create them out of nothing, is if giving birth to them. And we nurture their growth towards maturity. These forms of organisation are human-made: they are artificial, not natural. And yet they follow natural rules of development, similar to living organisms.

We employ all these means for a purpose: we strive to establish order,
so that ’the things around us’ work to our benefit.
We innovate to transform our environment for it to fulfil our needs.

This collection of means for innovation is as impressive as it is powerful. And powerful it had better be for us to stand a chance when confronting the unrelenting destructive mechanisms that shape our enduring needs for innovation.

This is the third in a series of short posts on the origins of innovation.

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