We Are At The Dawn of a New Era of Innovation. Will You Still Be Able to Compete? | Inc.com

A shift from disrupting markets to tackling grand challenges



By Greg Satell


Author, Mapping Innovation

I recently appeared as a guest on Wharton Professor David Robertson’s radio show, Innovation Navigation. David is an old pro and recently published an excellent new book on innovation, The Power of Little Ideas, so it was an interesting, wide ranging discussion that covered a lot of ground.

One of the subjects we touched on was the new era of innovation. For the past few decades, firms have innovated within well understood paradigms, Moore’s Law being the most famous, but by no means the only one. This made innovation relatively simple, because we were fairly sure of where technology was going.

Today, however, Moore’s Law is nearing its theoretical limits as are lithium-ion batteries. Other technologies, such as the internal combustion engine, will be replaced by new paradigms. So the next few decades are likely to look a whole lot more like the 50s and the 60s than the 90s or the aughts, in which value will shift from developing applications to fundamental technologies.

The End Of Paradigms

As Thomas Kuhn explained in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, we normally work within well established paradigms because they are useful for establishing the rules of the game. Specialists within a particular field can speak a common language, advance the field within well understood parameters and apply their knowledge to solve problems.

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