The Nature of Economies – What Jane Jacobs tells us about innovation

In ‘The Nature of Economies’, Jane Jacobs provides a view on a number of important aspects that often go unrecognised. Starting from her insights on an economy’s main processes, the control mechanisms at work, and the fitness of an economy, we can take a comprehensive look at innovation targets, i.e., the types of problems our society needs to solve.

What’s an economy – According to Jane Jacobs

Lots has been said and written about the economy and how it works, most if it in the specific terminology of economics. It took somebody with a very broad spectrum of interests, insights and ideas to develop a more natural narrative, somebody like the journalist, author, and activist Jane Jacobs. In “The Nature of Economies”, she offers a conceptual description of economies that is entirely based on the very same natural principles that govern chemistry, mechanics, and biology, and a fresh perspective on how economies thrive or fail. This post is a tribute to her work.

The limits of complexity

In our daily lives, we are engulfed with complexity. It is all around us: just think about business transactions, global trade, health care systems, jet engines, the energy grid, the tax code, computers, … Many would even add the remote control of their stereo or the radio in their car to that list.  Yet despite that almost permanent […]

How efficiency can kill you – in simple charts

In the previous post I’ve investigate the antagonistic relation between efficiency on one side and resilience on the other. As that is a pretty abstract subject, I tried to draw up a few simple charts to underpin the story of how efficiency, when taken to extremes, depletes resilience and ultimately promotes system failure. First, let’s think of a simple task, the […]

Efficiency will kill you slowly

Our western societies are obsessed with efficiency. Just think about topics like lean production, just-in-time logistics, energy consumption, time management: we are always trying to make things cheaper, to use less resources, to pack more action in less time, you name it. While these considerations are usually driven by good intent, I’d argue that they can pave the path to desaster […]