Roland Dürre
Saturday April 4th, 2009

… on Innovation

Everybody wants innovation, Politicians, entrepreneurs, simply EVERYBODY. It seems that the general public belief is that innovation will solve all our problems. Institutions that, like UnternehmerTUM (see also my article on UnternehmerTUM), promote self-responsibility and enterprise demand it. Sunday speakers tell us we should open up to technical advance and accept innovations. Since I hear the word “innovation” all the time, I start getting sceptical and therefore ask myself a few questions.

What does innovation actually mean? What is really behind the word? What are its connotations semantically?
Innovation certainly brings change, but who wants change?
Innovation causes destruction. I know no innovation that did not destroy functioning structures and corrupt existing values.

Innovation brings novelty, but then what is novelty? Change (and who wants change)?

So why does everybody call for innovation? Or is this just some media-inspired parroting?

I think innovation is both companion to and result of our human nosiness. It happens all the time and every day, no matter if we want it or not. Evolution is the sum of innovations, or, to put it the other way around, innovations are the mosaic pieces of evolution.
But now innovation is to be systematically generated in order to gain, for example, competitive advantage.

I would like to see if we will succeed in “goal-oriented innovation promoting” – sometimes I am sceptical, sometimes optimistic. I like innovation as “creative destruction” if it generates something new. However, I refuse to forget that, in the process, something old will be destroyed. Among those old things, there might be things that were valuable and much-loved. The additional value caused by innovation should exceed the loss generated by “creative destruction”.

Innovation has nothing in common with the goals of an enlightened society. Thus, for me, innovation is not an absolute and unquestionable social goal. Innovation is not “per se” good. We should be careful not to become innovation slaves. In the end, there is the danger that we might get some kind of innovation fascism.

(translated by EG)

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