Is the innovation engine broken?

Consider as a marker the speed of travel. It improved dramatically through the late 19th and early 20th centuries with major innovations such as trains, automobiles, airplanes, jet engines and rockets. But the big advances came to an end in the 1970s. Movement by car now is no faster than it was then – indeed it is often slower. We can fly from London to New York no faster now than in 1970 – indeed with the abandonment of supersonic passenger flights it takes significantly longer. Only 12 people have walked on the moon and the last of those was over 40 years ago.”
Paul Sloane
, in an article entitled, “Has the Innovation Engine run out of Steam?

Working in a world of ICT, I’d taken it for granted that we’re innovating faster than ever before. There certainly seems to be more change than ever before (although I’m not sure that the world of OSS has quite been able to keep up with ICT as a whole).

This article from Paul Sloane really opened my eyes. Upon reviewing Paul’s arguments in the link above, you may notice that whilst there is indeed innovation still occurring, perhaps we have not created the same number of life-changing innovations in the last 40 years as the 40 years prior to that.

Looking back, the OSS of 20 years ago don’t look all that different from the OSS of today do they? Not much fundamental innovation has occurred has it? However, I’m of the firm opinion that the operational support tools of 5-10 years from now will be distinctly different from today’s. There are just too many influencer tech advances that are already shaping the next generation of OSS.

Paul makes many interesting observations, including the following:
“…the worry persists that we have become complacent in assuming that innovation is thriving and can continue to drive growth and productivity in the West. Our levels of regulation and institutional rigidity are making innovation much more difficult. The emerging economies in Asia, Latin America and elsewhere are seizing the opportunity to change, innovate and grow rapidly.”

Are the levels of regulation and institutional rigidity stifling innovation within our sector or have other forces held us back in the last 20 years?

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2 Responses

  1. The west certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on innovation. And the advantage that (ex-) emerging markets have is that they are also backed by low cost wages and manufacturing.

    But this is a global economy and a global workforce. Anyone in the world can have an idea and get the cheapest and/or most skilled people somewhere else in the world to produce it, then have the largest storefronts like Apple App Store or Amazon Fulfillment deliver it.

    Crazy, when you think about it. And a massive change that has occurred in just the last few years.

  2. Exactly James!
    Exciting isn’t it?
    Perhaps the innovation engine isn’t broken afterall? At least not in ICT. 🙂

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