Sunday, June 22, 2008

"Nature is Prodigal in Variety, though Niggard in Innovation"

While many recognize this observation from Charles Darwin's closing chapter in The Origin of Species, he had borrowed it from Henri Milne-Edwards.

Both of these naturalists were struck by the lack of dramatic innovation in the evolution of living things, and the preponderance of minimal variation and refinement of traits across species and time.

Looking at product development, modern observers see a repetitive pattern of trial and error -- dominated by the refinement and combination of existing ideas and technologies to create products and services that will be selected by consumers.

Interview with the author of "The Myths of Innovation"

If, in life and business, creativity and innovation are nothing but adjectives that accrue to those willing to try and fail over long periods of time -- what leads to our lack of patience in promoting trial and error, and letting creativity and innovation occur naturally?

How much has the belief that creativity is a personality trait cost businesses over time -- as they invested in ideas based on personalities, rather than consumer selection?

Or has it cost business anything at all?

Could the beliefs in dramatic innovation and creativity be -- like religious beliefs -- the stuff of thought that helps keep groups organized around a common activity, and committed to one another in businesses?