I Hate "Innovation"

Here are some hard truths:

  • Your great idea is probably new only to you.
  • It probably won't work, or solve the problem. It might not even have a problem to solve.
  • There very likely are many people, who having read books about X, can easily tell you why it won't work (if you bother to ask). Those people are not "luddites" - or whatever - they simply know more than you do.

Innovation is extremely rare; it is very difficult, and it is becoming more difficult every day.

The solution to most problems are known, denial of this [the fetishization of innovation], is because you|me|people don't want to make the investment the solution requires.

Or we are profiting from not solving a problem. There's that too.

Most of the time you|me|people are only making contextual changes, or small incremental improvements, to a process. That's OK. Small incremental improvements are important. Adaptation is important. Neither is innovation.

Indoor and municipal plumbing was an innovation; it changed the landscape and the health of the population.

Steam power was an innovation - it liberated us from the transience of the winds.

The railroads were an innovation - they enabled heavy industry and the westward expansion.

The internal combustion engine was an innovation - it uncoupled power from location.

Electrification was an innovation - it liberated us from the day as well as the cost and danger of flame; once upon a time an hour of light cost a weeks wages.

The development of antibiotics was an innovation - in the modernized corners of the world the tide of plagues ceased.

The development of packet switched networks was an innovation - enabling world wide communication of any type of content.

One click purchasing on a website is not innovation, neither is a mobile application to count calories. Neither is the ability to turn off the lights without getting out of your chair. Neither is a heated steering wheel. None of these things are going to rewrite economies. Let's have a little bit of perspective.