Oct 212014
 

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Dr. Earl R. Smith II
DrSmith@Dr-Smith.com
Dr-Smith.com

A new way of looking at the world and humankind may start in academic departments like philosophy and sociology – but sometimes those futuristic thinkers produce ideas that find their way into the mainstream. Innovation and the process of innovation is one of those mainstreams that has been forever changed.

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Back when I was writing my doctoral thesis the idea that the world was moving from a modernist to a post-modernist paradigm was mostly limited to philosophers. The post-modernist thinkers – mostly from counties like Italy and France – and the hyper-modernist theorists in the United States were arguing that the way the world was working was undergoing significant change – that a new way of interacting was emerging that had very substantial implications for how business would be done and how cultures would either survive or decline. With the advance of globalization this idea has gradually moved from the philosophy departments to the boardroom.

No process seems to have been affected more profoundly than that of innovation. Changes in patterns of thinking and the assumptions which underlie those patterns now seem to be driven by an entirely new engine. In their book Six Billion Minds, the authors make the case – “The reality of a connected world is that the next idea that can make or break your company might come from anywhere”. 1)Six Billion Minds, Mark Minevich, Frank-Jurgen Richter and Faisal Hogue, BTM Institute, Published by Aspatore Inc, 2006, ISBN: 1-59622-427-4 This ‘reality; is unavoidable and it speaks to a new paradigm that is changing the face of how innovation occurs.

In his seminal work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions 2)The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn, By Thomas S. Kuhn, Published by University of Chicago Press, 1970 Thomas Kuhn argued that Science is not the steady, cumulative acquisition of knowledge that is portrayed in the textbooks. Rather, it is a series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions . . . in each of which one conceptual world view is replaced by another. But Kuhn also argued that as revolutions take place the ‘old guard’ retires and is replaced by those educated in the new paradigm. These times put that assumption to the test and place sever burdens on the so called ‘old guard’. The pace of change has accelerated to such an extent that revolutions are occurring within the productive lifetime of an individual – people are being forced to evolve at that speed or risk being sidelined as irrelevant.

For instance, in the post-modernist world – or as it is sometimes called, the post-Fordist world, nationalism is considered a minor – and often irrelevant – issue. The old tribal perspectives that drove the idea of the nation state are now anachronistic and a real barrier to participation in the process of innovation. Countries and individuals who are constantly looking to how their particular ‘tribe’ 3)Here read ‘nation’, ‘company’ or ‘ethnic group’ will benefit are seen as throwbacks – individuals or companies which are insisting that the world hasn’t changed and that ‘business as usual’ is the better way to go.

But in the post-modernist world creativity, knowledge, the ability to operate effectively across boundaries such as nationality, ethnic background or religious preferences are requirements for admission to the process. This is one of the reasons that the nation states are being effectively closed out of the process – their very existence is founded on a reinforcement of these barriers. In the post-modernist world there are humans who happen to believe this way or belong to that particular tribe – but individuals who are willing to let those considerations take a back seat to the process of innovation.

Many of the thinkers in this area are insistent – the problems which humanity faces – the crises looming on the horizon – are simply too dire to let such incidental things stand in the way. “We are all in it together – if we don’t collaborate to find solutions, we are all likely to be lost. The cost of letting nationalism block the process of innovation is simply to high,” was how an associate put it.

In their book Revolutionary Wealth, 4)Revolutionary Wealth, Alvin & Heidi Toffler, Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2006, ISBN: 0-375-40174-1 Alvin and Heidi Toffler envisioned the world as an automobile race with cars of various speeds competing. The fastest cars on the track were businesses that were operating trans-globally. These hyper-speed vehicles were trans-national and always speeding towards the next generation of innovation. The slowest cars on the track were the governmental agencies – followed by the even slower political parties. The implications for innovation are hard to miss. In the past, governments have been primary drivers of innovation – mostly through government sponsored labs and research centers. But the world has changes to such a degree that these are left with the least productive and most expensive projects – such as weapons research and the management of international conflict.

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References   [ + ]

1. Six Billion Minds, Mark Minevich, Frank-Jurgen Richter and Faisal Hogue, BTM Institute, Published by Aspatore Inc, 2006, ISBN: 1-59622-427-4
2. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn, By Thomas S. Kuhn, Published by University of Chicago Press, 1970
3. Here read ‘nation’, ‘company’ or ‘ethnic group’
4. Revolutionary Wealth, Alvin & Heidi Toffler, Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2006, ISBN: 0-375-40174-1

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