Chance Favors The Connected Mind
March 12th, 2012

 By Asuncion Lopez Larrinaga

When and why have innovations taken place throughout history?

Let’s examine innovation from a historical perspective and analyze the time periods leading to exceptional levels of innovation. Steven Johnson, author of "Where Ideas Come From, Natural History of Innovation” explains the following: How and why does change and transformation occur in order to produce something new? According to Johnson, it’s an evolutionary and holistic process; by tracing history we are able to discover recurring patterns of innovation. Here are some:
Slow Hunches: Someone has a small gut feeling, an intuition about a new way of doing things. This is the case of Tim Berners-Lee , scientist of the CERN (European Center for Nuclear Research), that in the 80s developed the HTML language and the system URL to share documents with other researchers. They had to spend ten years until another scholar provided the first browser. According to Johnson, there are periods of latency from a first hunch - of between 2-3 years up to 10 years and in the middle - a turbulent collision of intuitions that, to the dessert, lit a new way of doing things
Lateral Thinking:  Derives from the action of observing how others solve different issues. As a result, a natural movement of exchange is created that could be beneficial in other areas. Johnson cites the case regarding some baby incubators of high technology being sold to African hospitals. When these incubators become spoiled there wasn’t staff or parts available to fix them.  But those African countries, by need and lack, have developed skills to fix cars. It was decided, in consequence, to manufacture incubators with car parts: air filters, fan, lights, etc.  Prices were considerably lower and had the possibility to be repaired in any country.
Connecting With Others: Connecting creativity has been the pattern for the last five or six centuries. The last stage of evolution is currently in the web. In its inception, several sections emerged where philosophical as well as literary, entrepreneurial and artistic perspectives were shared. That is how the technological industrialization reached London cafes and allowed networking as well as the the ability to solve present-day issues between different companies. In conclusion, luck favors those minds that are connected; a phrase which attributes to Picasso’s words: “May inspiration find you employment”.
Exaptation: In other words, it refers to the adaptation to a medium. Guttenberg outlined the basic idea but was unable to bring it to light. Nonetheless, by observing an extraction of fruit pulp, he was able to deduct the printing process. It’s the same process Nike uses in order to expand its creativity with the GreenXChange by searching for common grounds in diverse fields.
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