It is a bit odd, I think, that we usually think of innovation as something produced on a micro, or individual, basis. The conventional wisdom is that some very smart person comes up with a great idea, starts up a company, and off he or she goes!
We think less, unfortunately, about the ecology that supports individuals and the role that ecology play in promoting or retarding innovation. That is changing, to be sure. Awareness of how innovation has surged in certain places got people shaking their heads and asking “why there=” And “Could that be copied?”
On the surface, it seems easy enough. Put together “clusters” of people who seek out new knowledge, financing agents, and entrepreneurs and you have all the ingredients you need, right?
Well, it is not that simple. The above ingredients are important — even critical — but arraying them side by side in a cluster does not mean that they will create a dynamic process, a self- replicating process of building value added from new ideas.
Recent research suggests one of the reasons why. Folks who may want to develop better ways of doing things are easily daunted by systemic barriers, like shortages.
… as New Scientist points out, (trying to accelerate innovation too quickly) often fails because supply chains—whether they be for power, labor, raw materials, or something else—in poorer countries can be too chaotic to support jumps in technological complexity. Power outages happen. Workers don’t show up. Parts get stolen.
And the big new thing that was supposed to provide jobs and prosperity for all starts to turn into a beached whale.
And this idea pops out
The finding … helps explain “why ‘big push’ policies can fail and … underscores the importance of reliability and gradual increases in technological complexity.” To that point, this MIT Technology Review interview does a wonderful job of explaining how light-touch technological interventions can often have some of the biggest impacts on poorer countries
And I think there is a social dimension to this approach. If more folks “buy into” the process, it becomes easier to identify where the potential disruptions will occur and develop strategies to deal with them.