Monday, October 22, 2007


This is a very neutral article, so I'll sneak it in before Tuesday.

I was just reading my Economist, when I was struck by their innovation article. It seems everybody wants to pay lip-service to promoting innovation, and some countries are investing huge sums of money. Having worked in an industry that is notoriously lacking in innovation, I can make some comments.

Firstly, most of these countries have decided to create their own Silicon Valleys out of nothing. They pour in tons of money, and attract the brightest minds. But most of these countries have either a stultifying or repressive government. This is the same as a large hide-bound corporation opening up a research centre.

These various centres can come up with a million ideas, but none of them have really done much for the world. The key thing is that a good idea is disruptive to the existing bureaucratic power structure, and no bureaucrat gives up power without a fight! Let's say an innovative idea, or new scientific thought actually eliminates a department, or merges two together. This simply can't happen, by bubbling up from below. It requires an act from the very top of management, who are usually clueless about innovation.

A country or a corporation usually grasps innovation when they are on their last legs. As long as they are 'comfy' where they are, all the bright ideas won't matter.

The other problem with very political countries or companies, is that there might be a new idea championed by someone down in the hierarchy who is related to somebody at the top. This idea gets a lot of support, and starts to roll, but on this train there are no brakes! In a political system, nobody can admit they are wrong, so this eliminates the possibility of a Silicon Valley 'fast failure', with no major consequences on the originators. The project steamrolls to its ultimate stupid finale. Still, nobody will admit it is totally hopeless, so it dangles on its hook, discouraging any further innovation.

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