This is the official Perth blog site for posts, comments, and other contributions about leadership, behavioral finance and economics, and about management generally, as well as other related topics that take our fancy.
Font size: +

Innovation Anxiety - How Much Innovation Can We All Absorb?

Innovation is so hot. There isn’t a company that doesn’t have a program for it. We are all besieged with the latest uber-innovative TED talks. Even though most innovation programs wrongly equate creativity and innovation it doesn’t matter anyway. Innovation is so hot that even if someone came out with a theory that said you get more innovation if you eat sardines, then the world sardine industry (such as it is in these over-fished times) would suddenly be even hotter than solar panels and Botox.

You know what I mean right? Innovations in technology, software, new types of web services, cloud computing, 3-D printing, biotech, Google goggles and so on. Forget about the actual innovations. You could take up a whole new Wikipedia just categorizing the fields in which people are innovating. How about extreme chemistry? Inter-galactic biochemicals? Muon-based archaeology? RNA interference?

I just get crazy even thinking about it, let alone actually dealing with it. I just bought a new Samsung Galaxy Note 3, a nice piece of kit, even though it’s huge (another innovation – it’s a “phablet”). I get most of the Android stuff coz I already had an Android phone. But there’s other stuff on it I haven’t even touched like gestures, smart camera functions and so on. I am sure it’s all great but God gave me a limited number of brain cycles and told me they had to last my whole life, and I don’t want to run out before I get to the big O. I mean who has time?

I keep seeing all this stuff on Twitter trending (and who has time for Twitter anyway, let alone knowing how to make it work?). Snapchat, Instagram, candy crush, neural structures, new websites, bitcoins, SXSW, virtual reality.

Am I a freak because I haven’t used it all? Does this mean I could never be young again and chill with my kids? Is there something wrong with me like I really have a pea brain that’s totally unfit for the 21st century? Maybe I could only have lived in ancient times when you didn’t have all this new stuff being constantly thrown at you that you had to understand.

My theory, (which, incidentally, is supported by absolutely no neurological innovation of which I am aware and of course I am not aware of many) is that human brains were actually not designed to handle innovations, or at least not very many. In the olden days, innovations came along at an acceptably leisurely pace, maybe every million years or so. So people had time to digest and adjust. I think this was the right way to do things. God got it totally right in my view.

But nowadays we are being asked to deal with at least a few thousand innovations every day. And things are getting worse, much, much worse. Maybe like Moore’s law, the number of innovations will double every year, and then where will we be? Where will it all end? Will innovation overload get us before climate change or antibiotics in the meat supply?

My question to all you good citizens is: can the human brain keep up with this accelerating avalanche of supposed goodies? Will our brains go on overload and then simply fry out? Will we have to have special innovation-absorption neural prostheses so we can keep up? Will we need to take special innovation-tolerance drugs to add to our existing drug cornucopias?

I mean if we don’t, what goings to happen to all those startups out there? If we don’t figure out how to absorb all this stuff, what’s going to happen to all those innovation consultants who I figure are growing so fast pretty soon they will outnumber the rest of the people on Earth?

The ability to tolerate increasing innovation is necessary to so that we can sustain all those startups, innovation incubators as well as venture capital, TED talk organizers and so on. Innovation is an industry now. The beast must be fed. We are all on an innovation roller-coaster with no way to get off. When we do, the world ends. Or will we all suddenly lose it, ban innovation and go back to the Stone Age?

I don’t know but I for one don’t know how I am going to deal with the innovations from next month, let alone the ones from the last 20 years. It’s got so that now I get to feel nervous every time I see an innovation.

Will I be able to understand it? More to the point, will I be able to use it? And will I be able to tweet it to my friends with any semblance that I understand what’s really going on here? I call it innovation-anxiety. I think it’s becoming a very fashionable disease these days, like ADHD or OCD, but with more panache.

Oh for the good old days when there were no phablets, Fitbits, video game consoles and Windows operating system updates. In those days you could be a gentleman-scientist, understanding every corner of science and technology and with the time to understand the one innovation that came out in the last 10 years.

Those people didn’t know how lucky they were. Sure, they couldn’t cure cancer or the common cold, but they never had innovation-anxiety. Now we have so many new diseases and innovative cures that you can’t even remember the good old diseases that we had and loved, like mumps and measles.

But I for one am an optimist. I am sure it’s all going to even out somehow. Maybe like the Buddhists say, we will understand all once we are gone?

Heaven is a place where the need for innovation is mercifully past.


Stay Informed

When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.

Chinese IPOs in the US – How Low Should You Go?
The Beatles’ Leadership and Innovation Lessons

List of all Perth posts