Innovation. If there is one word penned or uttered to inspire encomiums, innovation is it. Further, implicit in the word is the notion that innovation is always good. It is construed as evidence that the innovator is striving to introduce something that is now indispensable but that was previously missing. However, all too often improvement is lacking. There is only difference, but this does not inhibit claqueurs from leaping to their feat in enthusiastic applause.
Innovation comes in many forms. We have engineering innovation, design innovation, materials innovation, packaging innovation, marketing innovation, and process innovation. There are seemingly no limits to which the ambitious and the imaginative among us can explore the wilderness of the new, the better, or at least the different. The challenge, however, is to avoid rushing to market prematurely–a consideration that is sometimes overlooked.
If one wants to retain some measure of credibility or dignity–even in the generously forgiving pipe world–it is a good idea to create distinctions between innovations that are experimental and those where the R&D process has yielded a smart, mature solution.
Sometimes, conversations about innovation are a bit over the top in my opinion, and while I believe that innovative people are critical to aesthetic, technological, and social advancement, all innovation is not created equal. Some innovations are little more than outright Rube Goldberg-esque solutions like the pipe depicted at the top of this post.
Some innovations are not innovative at all. They are ideas that have been explored–and even made–long before. That the current experimenter is ignorant of previous attempts does not make the effort novel. It also does not make revising an idea or revisiting a solution unworthy. But don’t make untrue claims. Socrates’ observation that “There is nothing new under the sun” is almost always true.