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'Innovation In a Flash' Is a Myth 163

Posted by Zonk
from the slouching-towards-greatness dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A New York Times article spells out what most of us probably already knew: real innovation takes lots of time and hard work to come to fruition. The article looks at the origins of new ideas, and attempts to dispel the myth that 'Eureka' moments create change. Comments author Scott Berkun, 'To focus on the magic moments is to miss the point. The goal isn't the magic moment: it's the end result of a useful innovation. Everything results from accretion. I didn't invent the English language. I have to use a language that someone else created in order to talk to you. So the process by which something is created is always incremental. It always involves using stuff that other people have made.'"
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'Innovation In a Flash' Is a Myth

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  • Exactly! (Score:5, Funny)

    by AlphaDrake (1104357) * on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:07AM (#22289238) Homepage
    You may think my hamburger earmuffs were thought up in a flash. But it took a long time to get the pickle matrix just right.
  • Prior art is the road. Hard work is the engine. Intuition is the steering wheel. You get
    • by blahplusplus (757119) on Monday February 04, 2008 @08:27AM (#22289596)
      Intuition is pattern recognition and changing the lenses (angle) from which you look at something, that someone took the time to work out.

      The key is, as Schopenhauer said: "to think something no one has thought yet, while looking at something that everybody see's" which is fancy way of saying: Keep changing the perspective (interpretive framework) and using other seemingly unrelated subjects to try and interpret it in terms of something else.

      Millions of people have similar or the exact same leads on great ideas everyday but they don't have the time or the fast mind to follow up on them. IMHO it's not that people can't figure it out given enough time, it is who and what you come into contact with that triggers the lead up to deofuscate the idea and THEN the persistence to follow that 'intuition'. Intuition is necessary but intuition

      Part of the problem is the education system itself amd it's attempt to rush learning and disavow thinking about things differently in order to pound out 'educated' workers. People that realize there are connections between everything that we can't see and have initiative despite lack of formal education were some of the greatest innovators.
      • by johnrpenner (40054) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:12AM (#22290190) Homepage

        "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."
        (Thomas Alva Edison)

        "If Edison had a needle to find in a haystack, he would proceed at once
        with the diligence of the bee to examine straw after straw until he found
        the object of his search. I was a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that
        a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labour."
        (Nikola Tesla, New York Times, October 19, 1931)

        • peter drucker (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Peter Drucker wrote about this way back in 1984 in his book Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The paperback edition is about 250 pages and he devotes about a page and a half to the 'flash of brilliance' innovations. The rest of the book is his attempt to categorize different methods of innovation and rank them in order of greatest change of success to least change of success. The 'flash of brillance' innovations rank last, of course.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by try_anything (880404)
          Yet the same is true of theory, too. Theoretical breakthroughs require both open-mindedness and critical thought. When you combine those two, you end up looking at *lots* of stupid-seeming ideas, trying to figure out which ones are insights in disguise. (If you limit yourself to one or the other, then you never have the experience of working with ugly ideas.) A theory that seems unworkable on first glance may actually be brilliant, if only someone puts in the effort to make it work. Then, in retrospect
  • by Mantaar (1139339) on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:11AM (#22289254) Homepage
    And that, my friends, is *exactly* why Open Source is so successful and important.

    Now let's go manufacturing open source hardware...
    • by leguirerj (442771) on Monday February 04, 2008 @08:17AM (#22289540)
      Thats what the Patent System is for, to corral all those wild ideas, fence them off, and make anyone who can make them work, pay for them.
    • by jellomizer (103300) * on Monday February 04, 2008 @08:46AM (#22289694)
      Open Source closed source doesn't effect if a product is innovative or not. There are many products that are open source and don't add anything new to the table, they are just trying to copy as many features as possible, of an established closed source project. The only "improvement" over the original design is using a different license for it. The same applies to some closed source projects, lets reinvent this open source project and make it closed source so we can package it and have control over it. There are also many innovative open source projects that really put the to the next step, or introduce a new concept that may or may not a hit. The same with many closed source projects. Just because a project is open source it doesn't mean you will have millions of people working on it, most project that are open source are programmed by one or two people. the same size as most Closed Source Project. The fact they decide to share the source is unrelated to innovation (on a technical level). The only advantage that open source has if someone wants to innovate off someone else's idea they at least do not need to start from scratch.
    • by node 3 (115640) on Monday February 04, 2008 @08:52AM (#22289728)
      I think you've got it completely backwards. Open Source is *not* about innovation, it's about building solid products. In general, the only thing truly innovative about Open Source software is the Open Source model itself.

      Innovation is a by-product of research, and research is something that is almost *never* done by Open Source developers. What Open Source is really good at is applying innovations already discovered. Essentially, engineering using known techniques.

      Now let's go manufacturing open source hardware...
      And what innovations would you expect from Open Source hardware (aside from the model itself)?

      That's why Open Source is not taking over from the end-user perspective--it's just not innovating enough. It's only for the types of applications which are essentially solved, where progress is made by incrementally refining something, that Open Source is taking over and will be unstoppable.

      Research is expensive. Very expensive. The only reason Open Source has taken off as a software development model is that software development can be done very cheaply. It will be quite difficult for an Open Source team to create new and innovative hardware. They just won't have the resources.
      • Innovation is a by-product of research, and research is something that is almost *never* done by Open Source developers. What Open Source is really good at is applying innovations already discovered. Essentially, engineering using known techniques.

        Innovation is a product of research, and much research is done at universities and institutes by people who write Open Source software. A lot of research results are published with a reference implementation under an open source license.

        If you look away from the standard database/webserver/desktop environment showcase projects, you will find plenty of image processing libraries, things like Boost, math libraries, learning tools, AI algorithms, etc. based on the latest research and often implemented by the

      • by jc42 (318812)
        Open Source is *not* about innovation, it's about building solid products. In general, the only thing truly innovative about Open Source software is the Open Source model itself.

        Well, the first may be true, but the vaunted "Open Source Model" is actually not the least bit innovative. It's just the centuries-old model of scientific advance via open publication. Software people pretend that they invented something new, but all they really did was "innovate" new terminology for the process that has made moder
    • by dave420 (699308)
      How does this only apply to Open Source? Surely you meant "And that, my friends, is *exactly* why well-thought-out development is so successful and important".
    • This article has really interesting timing!
      The second part of that OpenVoices interview [linux-foundation.org] with Linus Torvalds was released yesterday, and they discussed precisely that.

      I completely agree with the idea. Apple is a decent example; they are never the first to do something, but they are good at waiting a while for a technology to mature and then creating a very solid implementation. It would be nice if they admitted not being first, but that is a different discussion.

      Sure, you can go on and on about software copy
  • Oh, really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Max Threshold (540114) on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:12AM (#22289262)
    Which major IP holder sponsored the "research" behind the article?
    • I was thinking the same. What tightening of IP laws is around the corner that needs to be sold?
    • But that says nothing to the argument. All I see in your post is an ad hominem argument.
    • ...leads itself into somewhat of a trap. I need only prove one spontaneous invention to disprove the rule, and since inventions now include methods, all I need is one spontaneous method. Since invention and innovation take place throughout the animal kingdom, I need not limit myself to humans, either. Hey, either the argument holds and is a "universal" principle, or it is an accidental property of the cases that have been observed.

      So, when we look at the monkeys that wash potatos in sea water, we see a me

      • by reebmmm (939463)
        Well, I doubt very much that even your monkey example works.
        The issue, really, is what you include within the set of acts that would constitute prior research.

        I'm not sure how you know there was no predecessor in your example, or if its even a real example. However, there's a relatively obvious chain one could construct. For example, and contrary to your example, even a monkey probably knew that eating a potato fresh out of the ground wasn't pleasant so they started by dusting it off to get rid of dirt. But
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Teancum (67324)
        For myself, as an engineer, I would have to say that most "creation" is a combination of both hard work and a series of sometimes small and occasionally large scale eureka moments.

        I like the term "grok" coined by Heinlein as a verb meaning "to comprehend a topic or concept completely". Sometimes it is very difficult to completely grok something in the problem domain you are working in. If you are at the frontier of human knowledge (in whatever endeavor that may be... science, engineering, theology, politi
        • by jd (1658)
          Hope you don't mind me saying, but that was brilliantly said. If we could get schools, colleges and workplaces to understand that, core competencies would go through the roof, because people would be applying their skills to work effectively rather than to just look impressive.
  • Innovation (Score:5, Funny)

    by Wowsers (1151731) on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:12AM (#22289264) Journal
    I have a patent on innovation :-).
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by somersault (912633)
      A method of designing a novel method or device by incremental advances on current knowledge or technology, usually without the use of flashes of inspiration, but instead involving long hours of deep thought and experimental verifications. And lots of pizza.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mwvdlee (775178)
      I claim prior art!

      By the way, I have a patent on prior art research.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        By the way, I have a patent on prior art research.

        My friend mwvdlee makes the point in a funnier and more insightful way than I ever could.

        From TFA:

        Everything results from accretion. I didn't invent the English language. I have to use a language that someone else created in order to talk to you. So the process by which something is created is always incremental. It always involves using stuff that other people have made.

        What a great argument for the end of "protecting" innovation through IP laws. It sound

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Sique (173459)
          So we are back to Bernard of Chartes and his wellknown and often quoted "If I've seen further, it was by standing on the shoulders of giants."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:13AM (#22289268)
    All the time I have little flashes of realization or inspiration. Being that I'm a software & hardware designer and developer, had I not had these "flashes" I would never have made any of the things I did. The author of this article is selling opinion and personal viewpoint as some sort of psychological "fact". I wish slashdot wouldn't post these stories because it gives the impression this opinion is widely held or fact.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by VoidCrow (836595)
      I suspect that this opinion is held by those people who would wish, for personal reasons, to seek to characterise originality and genius as a mixture of obsession and hard work. If they can convince themselves and others, then at some level they can think 'I could do all those things, but I have a life'. It's just comfort-zone area-denial for the self-deluded.
      • by Kupek (75469)
        Oddly enough, I hold the opposite opinion as you, but for the same reason. I think people characterize genius as an innate ability in order to excuse themselves from working that hard. If they believe that no matter how hard they work, they could never attain the level of proficiency that geniuses attain, then they have an excuse not to try.

        Also, the view that genius (and innovation) are the result of hard work is supported by the research:
        The Secret to Raising Smart Kids [sciam.com]
        How Not to Talk to Your Kids [nymag.com]
        How to G [nytimes.com]
    • by Dr. Hok (702268) on Monday February 04, 2008 @08:39AM (#22289664)

      All the time I have little flashes of realization or inspiration.
      Full ack. I still remember vividly how I went to bed one day after hours of fruitless pondering over that day's differential geometry lecture, then woke up in the middle of the night and suddenly *knew* what it was all about. Before, it was all just meaningless equations and symbols, which had suddenly turned into images of familiar places and faces, sort of. (Yeah, I know, people sometimes call me weird.)

      Of course you can say that this moment of 'revelation' was nothing by itself, but only the last step in a chain of hard work. But still, it was just far out and a joy to behold.

    • by SQLGuru (980662)
      What a waste to post this as an AC....oh well.

      I agree. I think that the "flash" is the beginning of the process. The hard work leads to the final invention. When someone first said "how can I make the wind do work for me" you can bet that the first couple of prototypes didn't work exactly as planned....but through hard work and refinement, they came up with a windmill. Even if the idea is just a way to make something better, it takes that flash to start the process.

      Layne
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      I don't remember who said it - Bell? Edison? But the quote is "1% inspiration and 99% perspieation". But the quote is talking about TIME, not importance.

      You can slave your ass off for years, but without the idea you're not going to invent anything. You have to think "wow, I bet there's a way to use electricity to make light with" before you can invent the light bulb, even though it may take years of work to make the thing actually happen.

      It's kind of like my lame journals. There isn't a new one this week; t
    • All the time I have little flashes of realization or inspiration.

      So does everyone else. The ability we admire is the ability to make something of an idea, not just to have it. You've made things based upon your flashes of inspiration, which is great, but it is the fact that you made it is impressive, not just the idea.

      I wish slashdot wouldn't post these stories because it gives the impression this opinion is widely held or fact.

      The most important rebuttal to make is that it would be a sad world where art

  • MSFT (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It always involves using stuff that other people have made.

    Or, in Microsoft's case, buying stuff other people have made.
    • After all, is it any different when IBM or Sun pays the wages of the folks working on httpd or OpenOffice? All they're doing is paying for man hours. Microsoft also pays the innovators... they just pay several orders of magnitude better. (And this is why every OSS Visio-clone will always be an OSS Visio-clone, rather than Microsoft playing catch-up by cloning successful OSS programs.)
      • by mwvdlee (775178)
        The difference is a matter of ego's.

        With Microsoft they have a genius that things of a brilliant way to do something, then they have an army of coders who make it happen.

        With OOS they have a genius that things of a brilliant way to do something, then they have an army of coders who think THEY are the geniusses and thus try and make it their own way.

        The main problem is actually the lack of realisation that a singular vision may not yield the absolute best result, but it's a better result than trying to blend
  • by User 956 (568564) on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:15AM (#22289280) Homepage
    I didn't invent the English language. I have to use a language that someone else created in order to talk to you. So the process by which something is created is always incremental. It always involves using stuff that other people have made.

    Lucky for us, corporate america is catching on, and they're probably working on a subscription service for that incremental innovation. Because you can't just have un-owned ideas out there, floating around.
  • by alfrenovsky (1212088) on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:24AM (#22289318)
    Investigation is 10% imagination and 90% perspiration. That's why most investigators smells so bad.
    • I think that once again Monty Python said it best:

      Presenter (Cleese): Penguins, yes, penguins. What relevance do penguins have to the furtherance of medical science? Well, strangely enough quite a lot, a major breakthrough, maybe. It was from such an unlikely beginning as an unwanted fungus accidentally growing on a sterile plate that Sir Alexander Fleming gave the world penicillin. James Watt watched an ordinary household kettle boiling and conceived the potentiality of steam power. Would Albert Einstein

  • by Wazukkithemaster (826055) on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:25AM (#22289322)
    I have to use a language that someone else created in order to talk to you. So the process by which something is created is always incremental. It always involves using stuff that other people have made.

    I speak therefore everything is always incremental? Ok Descartes...
    • I was going to post something similar. It's like saying "Potatoes are starchy, so the only starch must come from potatoes."
  • "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."
    • by Petrushka (815171)

      "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

      Not Newton, but Bernard of Chartres (or John of Salisbury, depending on how your citation system works). Newton just recycled the line as a way to make fun of someone else who got annoyed after Newton had plagiarised his work.

      • by hazem (472289)
        Not Newton, but Bernard of Chartres (or John of Salisbury, depending on how your citation system works). Newton just recycled the line as a way to make fun of someone else who got annoyed after Newton had plagiarised his work.

        I worked for a physics professor that said Newton liked to say that because one of his rivals, Leibniz, was rather short. Like another poster said, (who attributed it to another reason), Newton, brilliant as he was, was quite an asshole.
    • by jimicus (737525) on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:34AM (#22289374)
      "If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing on my shoulders."
          - Hal Abelson
      • Wow. How apropos a quote for the bulk of people who rely only on popular news media for their point of view.
      • by CmdrGravy (645153)
        And likewise,

        "If I can't see as far as I'd like its the fault of the idiots who came before not doing their fair share"
  • by rbowles (245829) on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:33AM (#22289370) Homepage
    Its just that most often, they come at the tail end of alot of hard work. Everything comes together in a flash, seemingly in one brilliant moment. Those moments are what many of us live for, but in truth, they really aren't the result of our brains exceeding physical and computational limits and suddenly operating at infinite clock-speed. The truth is you were probably working on the problem for some time (possibly unconsciously). Give yourself a little credit for having an efficient background scheduler.
    • by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday February 04, 2008 @08:07AM (#22289514) Journal
      Sometimes the answer reveals itself in a dream rather than a consious flash, Bohr's atomic model being a famous example.
    • They do, but in my experience they happen early in the development process.

      First, you work on the problem for some time (possibly unconsciously) but that is only a small part of the effort. Say 20% as an example.

      Second, the Eureka Moment happens.

      Third, you do a lot of work to go from the brilliant idea to a marketable product. If you are in a regulated industry, add lots of documentation and approval procedures. In this (somewhat boring) phase the bulk of the work happens.
    • by Bombula (670389)
      they come at the tail end of alot of hard work

      I think they often come at the beginning of very hard work too. I've had several Eureka moments in my life, which of course have emerged as products of the sum total of all my life experiences. After the initial epiphany they all required extended periods of intense work in order to be realized.

    • Actually, the eureka moments are neither at the head end or the tail end. First comes a lot of digging into the field in one way or another, then at some point you get the "perspective change", then a lot of hard work is required to get it to something that works. However, that moment where the accumulated mountain of knowledge, ideas, intuitions etc collapse into a single new thing is exhilarating and noticeable.

      Innovation is about as much sudden flash as making love is orgasm: It's the high point, but
    • About 30 years ago, when I had another life as a medical school professor and NIH researcher, I had reached a point in my research that was seemingly a dead end. I tried experiment after experiment attempted to resolve the impasse with no success. This went on for months and I would wake up obsessing in the middle of the night. I was at my wits end with this project and was thinking that I would have to return the balance of my grant back to NIH.

      One day as I was finishing cleaning glassware in my lab, I
  • This is news? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tygerstripes (832644) on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:50AM (#22289448)
    Is anyone surprised by this "revelation"? How many of the great innovations of their time were invented by two or more parties, completely independently and almost simultaneously? Powered flight, steam-engines, internal combustion engine, radio transmission...

    Quite apart from the "10% inspiration, 90% perspiration" adage, most of the big technological advances are widely understood to have come about simply because it was their time - the foundations were in place, the need was there, and one of society's more creative and industrious members put the two together. That's called progress, people.

  • The article has at it's central point a a new book about innovation.

    Apart from rather out-of-place remarks about language - which I'm not sure I really understood, so I can't say if I agree with them or not, there is a lot of column-inches given to one single example of a guy who re-invented the globe, to help teach geography. Surely there are better examples of innovation than this?

    I'm also not convinced that innovation for it's own sake is necessarily a good thing. There are lots of innovative, but rea

  • by rucs_hack (784150) on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:55AM (#22289472)
    The mistake is thinking that they arrive without any prior work. They arrive usually not in the absence of previous work, but in the absence of a previous solution. How can you have a sudden idea about a solution unless you've been working on the problem in the first place?

    I had one a few years back, when as far as I could tell, a whole years research was about to go down the toilet because I'd hit a brick wall.

    I spent several days stressed out of my head over it, and finally resolved to get out and do something else.

    Whilst I was relaxing the solution suddenly popped into my head, complete. If that isn't a Eureka moment, then I don't know what is.

    I certainly had done plenty of work prior to this event, but I had no idea that solution was possible until that moment, none of my work directly pointed to it that I could tell (consciously at any rate, obviously part of my brain got it). It took seconds to realise it, and an hour to write it down, then four months to instantiate. It worked even better then I'd dared think possible.
    • I had a similar experience with a bug in college. I had been working on it for days, and even showed it to other people and they couldn't figure it out either. The solution popped into my head while I was taking a crap.
    • I spent several days stressed out of my head over it, and finally resolved to get out and do something else.

      Whilst I was relaxing the solution suddenly popped into my head, complete. If that isn't a Eureka moment, then I don't know what is.

      That kind of thing happens all the time and is pretty normal-- there's a lot of hidden stuff going on in your head, and you can't always get to it if you focus directly on the problem, but if you change your context or do something else then sometimes it will pop in.

      That's why lots of people say things like "I get all my ideas in the shower/car/commute/playing tennis/laying on the beach/whatever"-- they get the problems posed in a formal context, and may even think about them formally for a while, too, but

  • Yes true, but (Score:2, Insightful)

    by EddyPearson (901263)
    This is true, it takes us a while to come up with all the mental material for a "Flash" innovation, but I think the "Flash" is when you suddenly work out HOW all the mental material involved fits together to make an understandable innovation.

    Take the original "Eureka!" moment. Before Archimedes got into his bath, he had already formed many ideas about the nature of physics, he wasn't going into the experiance totally blind, however the "Flash" innovation moment came when he made a CONNECTION between the thi
  • There must have been some innovation or we wouldn't now have 8GB cards for just a few tens of dollars.

    Oh wait, in a flash.
  • Definition (Score:4, Insightful)

    by camperdave (969942) on Monday February 04, 2008 @08:08AM (#22289520) Journal
    I guess it all comes down to how one defines "innovation". If you take the word to mean invention, then the slow, incremental process can be called innovation.

    However, I think most people use the word to mean "something radically different", as in a new way of doing something, or a never before seen product. This is the definition that most advertisers want people to have in mind when they describe their product. This kind of innovation is the result of a paradigm shift, which can come about either through Eureka moments, or it can come about when new people come on board and bring a new perspective to a problem.
  • the plaudits do not go to those who have the great idea - they go to those who persuade everybody else that it's a great idea.

    I don't know who said this, but it's dead right.

    Peter
  • by Digital Vomit (891734) on Monday February 04, 2008 @08:38AM (#22289652) Homepage Journal
    What are you talking about? If Microsoft has taught us anything, it's that innovation *does* happen in a flash. I mean, it doesn't take *that* long to write a cheque, now, does it?
  • I had a flash and pounded out a patent - a cell phone, a camera and a web browser all in one. A little money for the patent application and now I'm filing lawsuits against all the big boys. Who says you need to do lots of hard work!
  • real innovation takes lots of time and hard work to come to fruition

    Tell that to Watson and Crick, who for decades could never really explain how they "stumbled" upon the secret of the DNA double helix - Until it recently came out that the thought it up while tripping their balls off.

    Or Einstein? He went from a hack dabbling in the works of Planck to the greatest physicist of all time in a matter of 18 months; and while some have accused him of "borrowing" his ideas from patent applications (or his wi
  • In the liberal arts circles this has been recognized for ages. Many people still think those "Aha" moments are supposed to just burst forth regularly from the unique depths of your individual Romantic coolness. It's very uncool to work diligently in the arts. Unless it's working on your image of bohemian slothfulness.

    But contrast that with most other ages where skilled craftsmen of all types have worked together in shops all day. The emphasis on individual "aha" moments is an historical anomaly.
    • by Locklin (1074657)
      You never have mod points when you need them... The whole idea of single, solitary, sparks of innovation is a relic of the romantic period. Until "innovation" and "creativity" is realized for what it is: incremental improvements upon *other people's* work, we will continue to be afflicted with overzealous copyright laws giving limitless control over ideas to a single monopoly.
  • Doing all that research was too time consuming and expensive. Corporations have found a shortcut: file IP patents for prior art and rely on their deep pockets to over come any legal challenges, except that most interested parties cannot afford to the legal costs to challenge. So corporations win by default.
  • Very True (Score:2, Insightful)

    by HungSoLow (809760)
    Research can 'appear' to have an instantaneous "a-ha!" moment but in actuality, it has the many years of supportive effort by the researcher. The flood gates of creativity might burst open at some point, but it takes a lot of time to fill that reservoir.
  • Innovation doesn't *normally* occur in a flash, or suddenly. But, it can. There are instant winners. There are instant breakgroughs. There's also the luck factor. Sometimes, you just get lucky. Mere chance.
  • .. make that 13.

    Back to you, Bob!

  • Am I the only person who is sad that the word "invention" seems to have disappeared in favor of "innovation".

    As far as I'm concerned, innovation is what happens when the marketing department slaps a "cool evergreen scent" sticker on the latest jug of Tide detergent.

    Invention is what happens when someone develops a new idea -- via a lot of thought and hard work -- into an invention.
  • How is this article not tagged 'fluxcapacitor'?
  • Many innovations are instant...okay...so many are mistakes.

    > Corn Flakes
    > Penicillin

    And while many innovations have been gradual - a great many innovations have occurred in leaps and bangs!
  • Creative epiphanies are real enough. True, they are neither a sufficient nor a required condition for successfully bringing an
    innovative idea to happen in the real world. But they are hardly "Balderdash".

    In theory, it shouldn't matter whether an idea has developed gradually or came in a "thunderclap". In either case there's a long road afterwards. But the memory of that special moment can fuel the determination to keep on the road through the inevitable hardships - and to inspire others.

  • by superwiz (655733) on Monday February 04, 2008 @10:32AM (#22290386) Journal
    that doesn't promote some sort of socialist mindset? Yes, of course, the innovator is no one. He owes the work of his mind to the society and other people who made his innovation possible. Sure, sure. The individual is nothing and contributing to society is the only noble reason for living. What a bunch of nonsense! Innovation comes from two sources: wondering of the curious and gradually developed vision of forward-planning. The first is instant the latter is painstaking and slow. It is Mozart vs Salieri, if you will. And while the Salieri's make innovation useful, without the Mozarts it would never be possible. Standing on the shoulders of giants is important, but to say that it is all that matters when it comes to innovation is to refuse to acknowledge that innovation takes standing taller than anyone has stood before.
    • that doesn't promote some sort of socialist mindset? Yes, of course, the innovator is no one. He owes the work of his mind to the society and other people who made his innovation possible. Sure, sure. The individual is nothing and contributing to society is the only noble reason for living. What a bunch of nonsense!

      This wins the "kneejerk response of the day" award. What a totally random and misplaced rant against socialism, which wasn't even mentioned anywhere.

      Nobody says that the "inventor is no one". But disregarding the importance of society on great discoveries can only be made by people who are not scientists and who have never invented anything. Because these people know how much studying of things done by other people is necessary before one can make a truly meaningful discovery.

      Without the input from the soc

      • by superwiz (655733)
        Quite the opposite. I am a mathematician. I am well-aware of the assumptions and implications of the scientific method. And you are 100% wrong about the society's contribution to innovation. All the "input" from society is a prerequisite for innovation to happen. Everyone "educated" is aware of it. Most "A students" are well-versed in it. Most of them never contribute anything original in their lives. Having the pre-requisite is not quite the same as being a vessel of discovery. I stand by my criti
  • This is the topic of Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions [wikipedia.org] in which the term "paradigm shift" was coined.
    • by PaSTE (88128)
      I would have been mortified if nobody had mentioned Kuhn when discussing this sort of thing. This article (and I assume the book mentioned therein) doesn't actually address the same question as The Structure of Scientific Revolutions does. In Kuhn's work, he chooses to ignore the individuals who bring about revolutions in scientific paradigms (changes in the way scientists think about nature), claiming that is more a study in psychology and not scientific history and philosophy, which are Kuhn's areas of
  • 1) Ideas can come in a flash, sometimes with little work beforehand. However, turning ideas into products or services--making them concrete--is very difficult, and that process is often incremental and iterative. Consider computing, where many researchers and science fiction authors imagined vast networks and tiny hardware a number of decades ago. Yet, it is only now that we are getting the actual products they imagined (invented). Read "The Mote in God's Eye" by Niven and Pournelle, and pay attention to th
  • A distinction should be made between creativity, which does involve mysterious flashes of insight, and innovation, which is "99% perspiration." Frankly, articles like this always sound to me like attempts to devalue creativity. Creativity by itself doesn't buy you a thing: it's a necessary, though not a sufficient condition for innovation. Creativity is a very annoying phenomenon to managers, who wish that with the right methodology they could use a team of interchangeable staffers as a substitute for those
  • I tried to tell that to Macromedia, but would they listen? Noooo.

    HAL.

  • Evolution does not negate epiphanies. The argument that it's all evolution is a twisting of the idea that no one really invents anything, and is foisted off by people who simply have not invented something. That's my take-away from L. Sprague DeCamp's book, The Ancient Engineers - here's a crappy synopsis of it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ancient_Engineers [wikipedia.org] and here's a better one: http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-0345320298-4 [powells.com]

    I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in this controversy.
  • I recently published some material on my site on incubation theory [heybryan.org], which basically states that insights can occur in the background. Some quotes from the page.

    I have especially noticed this fact in regard to ideas coming to me in the morning or evening in bed while in a semi-hypnagogic state. ... Perhaps we ought to seek the explanation in that preliminary period of conscious work which always precedes all fruitful unconscious labor. Permit me a rough comparison. Figure the future elements of our combinat

  • I remember reading that Kerry Mullis said that the idea of PCR (method to amplify DNA) came to him while he was driving on a mountain road. He pulled over to reflect on it because he was afraid he would be too distracted to drive safely. He won the Nobel prize and the rights were eventually sold for a billion dollars.
  • All he's saying is that progress, by and large, is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Obvious to most technical people, of course, but it can be damned hard to convince upper management of that.

Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves. -- Lazarus Long

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