Innovation is praised all over the place. In order to let our economy grow. As a rescue from the climate catastrophe. In order to guarantee our future and save the world.
And how many start-ups do I already know that give everything in order to be innovative.
And they all want to become rich. And how many enterprises come up with innovation programs. In order to preserve their competitiveness. They profile their employees, separating the innovative class from the non-innovative class. Universities, politics, opinion formers and protagonists of all disciplines, and of course also the Sunday preachers: they all want innovation.
And I, too, believe that:
“This is how we always did it!”
is a very dangerous sentence in our language. We certainly should avoid using it. It is better to constantly try new things.
But I still do not know what innovation means. Another sentence comes to mind:
Innovation means creative destruction!
I first heard this sentence from Simon Grand during one of his grand presentations. And it is a sentence that makes sense to me.
Because innovation is a term which describes a fundamental event. It includes a relevant result as a consequence of huge change. Something new develops. Something old is destroyed.
The destruction is a massive one. As with every change. In fact, looking for examples of real innovation, I always find an enormous degree of destruction after innovation has taken place. Not just in technology.
Change and destruction are the two requirements sufficient for innovation actually taking place. However, we can never judge if the state of affairs after the change is really better or worse than what we had before. The components which might make a human life look a success are just too multi-dimensional.
Which is where, again, I have to think of my well-loved friend Bertrand Russell. He said:
»Every increase in technology will cause an increase in wisdom, provided it also means an increase in human happiness.«
Today, I would formulate the sentence as follows:
»If innovation is intent on adding to human happiness, it will also mean the same amount of added wisdom.«
And from this sentence, I would conclude that an increase in wisdom is a necessary dimension of innovation.
Which means I have come to terms with the word: innovation.
(Translated by EG)