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.

Dealing with unknown problems

Over the past few weeks, I’ve discussed how our innovation endeavour has become too focused on known problems. We have submersed ourselves in the bubble of the known problems to an extent that we are largely unprepared to deal with the unexpected. And that self-imposed myopia creates serious challenges. My argument essentially went through three steps: our established structures work very well for […]

Tremendous resources – well balanced?

We commit tremendous resources to innovation, no doubt. Just look at the sheer size of the Research & Development departments of the big players across many industry sectors, and consider the multi-billion budgets they invest. For example, consider Samsung’s R&D budget for 2016 (around 13 billion US$) and compare with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) achieved around […]

How our innovation structures deceive us

It’s no surprise: for problems that have been around for a while, we usually develop certain structures to deal with them efficiently. Think about structures as organisations like companies or research laboratories, or processes like quality assurance or even the scientific method. Each of these established organisations and ready-made processes are designed for a purpose: to solve a specific known problem. And that’s what […]

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 […]