Saturday, April 21, 2012

Innovator as Sculptor

I don't mean the plastic arts per se. Erwin Schrödinger said:
The task is ... not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.
There is talk that innovators create disruptive technologies. Iron oxide may sizzle and flare, but it quickly burns out. A flash in the pan may momentarily disturb, but not likely disrupt. Disruption follows transformative innovation, not simply novelty or difference.

Not all that glitters today will be the light bulb, telephone, or computer of tomorrow. What most we can learn from nineteenth and twentieth century inventors is their commitment--the unrelenting drive to define new problems and solve them often before the world had even awakened to the possibility of their existence.

It is common to see a setback as a sign of defeat, to read an obstacle or hurdle as an impasse. The process of deconstruction may be easy if the focus is simply on identifying the flaws in what has come before. We can all complain with little effort or engagement about the failings of one technology, process, or another, like clicking thumbs-up or down on a website.

But this is not innovation. Destruction is simple. Innovation requires the emergence of something new out of what was before, or even what didn't appear to be; it is sculpture in its most essential form: to envision and realize potential out of raw substance.

There is a long, deep view required for true innovation. It is a willingness and ability to see beyond the amorphousness of yesterday to the form of tomorrow. It is not simply seeing in a child's eyes the glimmer of accomplishments to come; it is imagining that child in the raw soup of chemistry and cells from which they may someday emerge.

In practical terms, it is creating a vision of tomorrow, based in sound ideas, backed by knowledge and evidence, but challenged on every side and at every turn. The difficulty is not the envisioning, but holding fast to that vision, through the fog of quotidian existence. It is the patience of the planter, who sets an apple tree for their grandchildren to climb, along with the forethought and perseverance to align the tree and property today with what will be in fifty years.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your interest in Research Entrepreneur. I trust that your comments will be germane to the topic under discussion.

I welcome differences of opinion, but I do require that your comments contribute to open and honest discussion. If not, I retain the right to delete your contribution.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.