The Fifth Blade and damn the torpedos.

I recently read an interesting abstract from the New Yorker about innovation, a much bandied-about word. Read it here. What is intriguing is the suggestion that in times of real stress, there is little energy to innovate – we just use whatever solutions we have that work…But after we have more resources at hand, we have time and space to innovate – often for a problem that is either already solved (as with 5 bladed-razors, hardly better than 2 or 3 blades) or less of a problem, like mice:

Only complacency drives change. [The author] relates this idea to the mousetrap, noting that during Medieval times, when mice were much more of a nuisance, there were hardly any varieties of mousetrap as compared to the proliferation in more recent times, when mice have been increasingly absent.

So what is innovation? Is it frivolous change for change’s sake? Is it personal expression? Or are we perfectionists? Or is the New Yorker right and we innovate because we have nothing better to do?

Read this article from the Onion for a different perspective on innovation.


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