When a new innovation appears, we often “ooh” and “gasp” and wonder how soon we can bring it into our lives. But often, what we take for innovation is simply a recycling of an idea within a new context. When Derek Jenkins linked to the image above, it made me wonder how many contextual innovations like this we could find from the past.
Of course, what any innovation is attempting to do, is solve a problem – and any solution is going to be bound by the limits of available (or scalable)technology and the willingness of the society to absorb and adopt the innovation.
As a child I expected the 2000s to be a time of robot housekeepers and flying cars. But I have a feeling that such expectations are to do with linear thinking – identify problem, extrapolate issue, propose solution. For me, the most interesting aspect of innovation is the discontinuous type – where a product or idea seems to come “out of the blue”. But when I really think about it, I find it hard to find a real example that cannot be linked to something else – some thinking, a predecessor or some contextual innovation.
Maybe there really is nothing new under the sun.