TED Conversations

Stefan Endriss

CEMS - Community of European Management Schools and International Companies

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

Is our age of innovation actually an age of stagnation?

Sure, there's been plenty of innovative ideas and solutions recently and over the past 20 years. The internet and, as an addition to it, mobile has brought us a lot of useful innovations that changed the way we live and do business. If you only think about how much easier our life and especially doing business has become through E-Mail and online banking for example. but this is the point: All the big innovations that took place over the last decades have been linked to IT, internet and mobile, while other areas of greatest importance see a surprising stagnation, especially if you take into account that todays computing power should accelerate innovations in these other fields too. Take the automobile and aircraft industry: We're basically driving the same cars (from a technological point of view) and flying in the same planes as we did fifty years ago. No doubt, there has been progress in safety, comfort and fuel consumption, but this seems to be slow development, what's lacking is any disruptive innovation. So, is a lot of the stuff thats labelled innovation actually "product development", which in my oppinion, usually doesn't qualify as innovation? How to foster disruptive innovations in these fields?

+1
Share:
progress indicator
  • Sep 29 2012: If you look at when the cars and planes were being changed, they were providing us with something we didn't have before. As of now, we can already go from one side of the planet to the other without stopping, so innovation in that area simply isn't needed. Internet and communications on the other hand, have provided us with a level of connection which allows us to get in contact with another person instantly, no matter where they are. We got something we didn't have before.

    Innovation is always happening. There is no "age of innovation". It happens where we need it in the same way stagnation happens in areas where innovation isn't needed.
    • thumb
      Sep 29 2012: Indeed, and Internet is also a very new thing whereas stuff like cars and planes have been around for many decades.
    • thumb
      Sep 30 2012: So what's the next great human innovation? The nets done,it's just a communication medium,it's not like you can jump in it and travel to the States like in the comic story of Nemesis and Torquemada from 2000ad,it's development is complete.We're moving into the electric era but we haven't got a clue how to power the big transportation units,will we shrink down to Eco-zones? Stefan pointed out a big glitch in the sustainable energy movement and going nuclear isn't actually a good idea,a few warships yes, but every ship? When we see major Airlines dumping their fleets onto the market then we will see how people will react if they have to take a ship somewhere,irrational as this may seem,no one has come up with a better option for air transport,we should've built a large complex dedicated to new material creation alongside the Hadron,i couldn't care less about particle physics if i have to learn how to sail.our current innovations are just that,current.It's the roads and the air that producers a countries wealth and we are facing the probability of losing the air,god we don't have enough land to produce the fuel for the current air traffic,anyone got any thoughts on this?
  • Sep 29 2012: There are more scientists and engineers alive and working today then ever before in the history of the planet. Probably more alive today than the sum of previous ages (i'm not sure but I wouldn't be suprised)
    Not all of them are innovators, many are drawn to product development.
    That doesn't mean they are not out there, just not obvious enough to make the evening news.
    There's lots of innovation going on in physics- nobody can read the math.
    There's lots of innovation going on in chemistry and biology - nobody can pronounce the words
    There's lots of innovation going on in fields from neural biology to philosophy - but nobody can wrap their minds around some of the concepts.
    A couple of generations from now, when people are more aware of the results of all this work they will probably look back and think that this was a pretty good time to live.
    Except of course for all the economic, political and religious shit going on around the world, but I hope we will grow out of that.
  • thumb
    Oct 2 2012: Yup, we have developed marketable properties... Nothing has been invented in 20 years, maybe 40, since I believe the US army had rudimentary internet in the 70's... What spawns innovation? Capitalism. When the government, or state sponsored banks, filled with people who have absolutely no technical expertise, and sense for business, "invest", in some companies, and not others... Or grant 0% interest loans for expansion... Real innovators, disruptors, are taken out of the market by the expanded buying power of the government sponsored entities.

    Solar concentration was developed more than a decade ago, yet many countries are still investing in first generation technology... Why? It took them years to pass a law to subsidize that technology... If someone new wants in the game they have to have more money than the subsidized competitor. Thus in no modern world economy, are actual disruptive bottom up solutions being employed.
  • thumb
    Oct 2 2012: When we see change in front of our eyes, it moves very slowly. But, that's not stagnation. You can watch a flower bloom in your garden but watching a time lapse film provides a more stunning perspective on the change that's happening. I agree with your point that lots of innovation is product development and lots of the product development is created just because it can be created - whereas innovation is more purposeful. Massive innovation happens at an ecosystem level where communities of people can co-create to serve the needs of the community and make it flourish. If you look closely at bio-technology, physical science, nano and even music - there's really quite a bit of stunning newness. Yes, we're still basically driving the same cars and flying the same planes. But, since we're also entering an era of massively reduced consumption - many innovations are going to be more virtual and not tangible. And, innovation may come from changes in behavior, e.g. massive simplicity
  • Sep 30 2012: Human being is also used to see new developments and new ideas every day. When i speak with my grand mother about daily innovation she always finds it awesome because people from her generation were not used to see so many innovations so quickly. Our society goes faster and faster and we have already forget that 10 years ago internet was a prehistoric system compared to the one we have today. We cannot change the way of life every 10 years. It is perhaps one of the problem of the current global issues. Human being need stability and progress is essential but it has to come from a desire of change, of evolution. If we look at the world people are now more concerned on how not to change their way of life because the technology has increased the exchanges between the people but perhaps it misses something more deeply. We try to find a way to continue to consume the energy without buying fossil fuels, we try to find a way to keep the same climate (which is a great struggle). I really think our society has changed a lot during the last decades and now it needs some time to acclimate, stabilize and find new ways of development.
  • Sep 29 2012: Humanity is still battling with the same thorny issues as in the distant past: Slavery, oppressive governments, rich few and poor masses, famine, hunger, wars, diseases, racism/intolerance.

    Now, something that our civilisation has added to the aforementioned, without solving any of the problems, is environmental degradation.

    We may have more fancy gadgets than the past generations; but so far we have shown more capacity for destruction and more expression of inhumanity than primitive humans.

    If we can not produce clean energy and adopt sustainable industrial practices (these are pressing needs) , then our claim to innovation and advancement are not honest claims.
  • Sep 29 2012: That this is being asked shows that the desire to stifle innovation and the decline in creativity are larger than we realize. Maybe a more creative you is not what big brother or sister wants,and don't assume big brother is someone in the government. Why would bureaucracy be different in a company than in the government. At least in the government there is the desire to serve the people. In fact, citizens will even die for their country. Have you ever heard of anyone ddieing for their company? Or the old company try? I think not.
  • thumb
    Sep 29 2012: Yeah it does look rather product developed.

    Our major big push should be towards superconductive materials as a group rather than the private sector though i would like they would have a major contribution level as it will be them who will eventually produce the technology that will expand out of said material creation.This is where it gets into sci-fi but our greatest challenge is to replace the car and the plane with AG units built out of the superconductive materials,we've had almost a century of fossil fuel power and we've run out,i can't see a battery powered cargo plane making it off the runway nor a container ship getting far before it needs a topup,hybrid tech is still just a delay towards oil death,maybe if we develop sea power stations powered by wave action then maybe container ships could be powered by battery or we develop small efficient reactors which still leaves the big environmental question mark.We push for the Holy grail in logistics,we get off the ground everywhere,delivery times could be cut down by half if the small truck sized unit can travel straight off land and over the sea to a neighboring country no need for container ships or cargo planes.

    It's sci-fi but what choice do we have for a flourishing future where oil still out performs anything we have for mass delivery? If we can mass produce said material then it wouldn't take much of a power source to get vehicles moving,just a dream.
  • Sep 28 2012: The construction of big business buildings is undergoing a green revolution. There are also innovations in residential construction, but perhaps not so impressive.
  • thumb
    Sep 28 2012: You're right. It is suspicious.
    It's as though the corporations want us to keep burning fossil fuels.
  • thumb
    Sep 28 2012: Are you counting work related to the Human Genome and biotech as IT?
  • Sep 28 2012: I wouldn't agree all progress these days is in IT. There are now effective methods of curing cancer that didn't exist 30 years ago, nanotechnology has progressed greatly as have bioengineering and our understanding of genetics.
  • thumb
    Sep 28 2012: It did help that Digital Technology had this guy named Steve Jobs. Not sure if there were any Steve Jobs in other fields.
    • Sep 28 2012: Steve Jobs was a businessman, not an inventor, he wasn't even an engineer.
      • thumb
        Sep 28 2012: You're right that in that he was not an inventor nor an engineer. He was a salesman, a designer, and a huge control freak. What most inventors or engineers don't focus on is how a product is used and how people see themselves using that product. He also focused a lot on the image and the branding of Apple and every decision that he makes would contribute to Apple's identity.

        What he introduced was technology for the layman and he made it marketable for the masses. I wouldn't say he was that much of a businessman since he's made a ton of decisions for un-business-like reasons.