Monday, May 21, 2012

Innovation as a Messy Series of Unorganized Collisions

David Emerson.
Its likely a good thing that the April 24th, 2012 press release from the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) titled "Aerospace Review Nears Two-Month Mark of Study," is written specifically to imply that the procedures surrounding the submission of recommendations to the Aerospace Review are well organized, well defined and will lead to a series of verifiable and achievable end-goals.

This should help each one of us to sleep deeply and securely with the knowledge that experts, under the seasoned leadership of ex-MP David Emerson, are currently dealing with the hard questions surrounding our space systems industry in an organized and effective manner.

Unfortunately, given that the end goal of the review is to encourage "innovation" and "competitiveness" across an industry with thousands of organizations and tens of thousands of workers competing for billions of dollars in national and international sales normally requiring substantial government financial and political support, it's also useful to note that true innovation is always a messy series of unorganized collisions between contrasting ideas and competing interests.

As an example, here's an interesting visual presentation of the concept from Steven Johnson, who's spent the last five years figuring out "where good ideas come from" and has even written a  best selling book on the topic.

Johnson's thesis is that connections, community interactivity and the free and open sharing of ideas are the real keys to business innovation and increased competitiveness.

Johnson has also presented his thesis at a recent TED conference, where he expanded on how the slow development of "hunches" gives rise to real innovation and provided an interesting example of how one specific hunch, related to tracking the very first Sputnik satellite in 1957, eventually led to the creation of the current global positioning network of satellites.

And Johnson isn't the only person who believes this. Kirby Ferguson, a New York-based filmmaker, goes even further.

According to Ferguson, "copying" is the real key to "transformation," creativity and innovation. In essence, according to Ferguson, pretty much "everything is a remix."

The Aerospace Review, announced on February 27th by the Government of Canada "to produce concrete, fiscally-neutral recommendations on how federal policies and programs can help maximize the competitiveness of Canada's aerospace and space sectors," will wind up public submissions on June 30th.

After that, there will be six months of internal discussions before the final report is expected to be presented to the Industry Minister in December 2012.

Then the real public debate begins.

That's when we start accepting, assessing, rejecting and ripping apart the sorted series of recommendations from the Emerson panel, and begin to turn them into the messy series of unorganized collisions between contrasting ideas and competing interests needed in order to encourage true innovation. 

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