The one thing we should never lose sight of when we talk about technological innovation is that technology is never the agent.1 So any process about innovation has at some point or another to account for the intrinsic motivations of the people who use and create technology. Because it may well be that there is a systemic incentive in the decision making process that stops innovation wherever it runs counter to the interests of those who happen to be in charge of funding the development of a technology.2 Part of that systemic aversion to innovation may well be that people simply hate to be proven wrong so much that they rather protect their precious beliefs.
I came to think of this because of the current debate around technological determinism in pop-sociology circles and because I had to immerse myself in innovation literature a bit recently and remembered a nice post from Patrick Meier about how to leverage insights from the decision making process in large organizations for innovation purposes. He pointed to a classic case study from naval gunnery in the late 19th century. It was quite the feat to get the navy brass to even look at the improvements that chance afforded, let alone implement it to advance their battle prowess. A very interesting read that leads you to some more resources about the topic as well.
Please don’t come at me with actor-network-theory about this. My point is about the incentives of agents. Agentivity is not a property of the tool. The tool may shape our perception of the world and influence our actions in it (hammer, meet nail and everything else that suddenly looks like it needs hammering) but ultimately it is human decision making that makes society, complex as it may be. ↩︎
History tells us over and over again that coming up with the concept is far from enough for an idea to take hold. More importantly: great ideas do not always win over inferior concepts. ↩︎
Technology Does Not Innovate. People Do.