Sunday, October 15, 2006

breakthrough innovation

"... breakthroughs help define our species - without them, we get boredom and mediocrity and low expectations for the future ..."
Crisis, threat, survival, fear, fun, embarrasment, nonsense, risk

It mightn't always be comfortable but at these times we know we are alive and often we are creative in response to the challenge

Government will never be at the cutting edge of innovation because it is always trying to regulate or eliminate crisis, threat, survival, fear, fun, embarrasment, nonsense and risk

Government schools are one of the worst institutions for doing this and hence one of the least creative, despite the best efforts of many teachers (not all) who try to be creative and innovative

"Space Ship One, Government Zero"

I love this description of breakthrough innovation by Ethan Zuckerman based on a presentation by Bert Rutan, the inventor of the suborbital rocket plane SpaceShipOne:
Rutan’s focus in this talk is the environment that allows for breakthrough innovation. He argues that breakthroughs help define our species - without them, we get boredom and mediocrity and low expectations for the future. Breakthroughs come from crisis, he believes - a real or percieved threat. Breakthrough innovators are trying to survive (as we might innovate around global warming), to respond to the embarrasment of perceived defeat (the Apollo space program)… or because there’s nothing quite as much fun as having a breakthrough! He believes we’re creative when we’re scared - “we went to the Moon in bad times”, the height of the Cold War and racial tension within the US.

Breakthroughs require confidence in nonsense, and accepting risks that others might not consider acceptable. You get breakthroughs, Rutan believes, by accident when you’re doing something else. We know you can’t get breakthroughs through massive funding - the goal of the space shuttle program was low cost space access, and in those terms, it was an absolutely terrible failure.
Ethan's comment at the end is great too:
Frankly, I could care less about going into sub-orbital space - if it becomes cheap and safe enough, I can imagine doing it, but it’s not even remotely a priority for me, something I’d need to do before I die. But much faster, cheaper, more accessible air travel is something that would revolutionize the problems I work on, making it far easier for people in different nations to actually see how each other live. To me, at least, that’s a much more interesting problem to solve than making it possible for me to float in space for a few minutes… But hey, that’s why people work on different problems and in different fields
Can do attitude plus social awareness is a great combination.

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