Ming the Mechanic:
Creating a Culture of Ideas

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Creating a Culture of Ideas2003-02-10 22:46
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Nice article in Technology Review by Nicholas Negroponte (MIT Media Lab).
" Innovation is inefficient. More often than not, it is undisciplined, contrarian, and iconoclastic; and it nourishes itself with confusion and contradiction. In short, being innovative flies in the face of what almost all parents want for their children, most CEOs want for their companies, and heads of states want for their countries. And innovative people are a pain in the ass. [...]

One of the basics of a good system of innovation is diversity. In some ways, the stronger the culture (national, institutional, generational, or other), the less likely it is to harbor innovative thinking. Common and deep-seated beliefs, widespread norms, and behavior and performance standards are enemies of new ideas. Any society that prides itself on being harmonious and homogeneous is very unlikely to catalyze idiosyncratic thinking. Suppression of innovation need not be overt. It can be simply a matter of people’s walking around in tacit agreement and full comfort with the status quo. [...]

Our biggest challenge in stimulating a creative culture is finding ways to encourage multiple points of views. Many engineering deadlocks have been broken by people who are not engineers at all. This is simply because perspective is more important than IQ. The irony is that perspective will not get kids into college, nor does it help them thrive there. Academia rewards depth. Expertise is bred by experts who work with their own kind."
Ah yes, how do we teach people to be awake, to think new thoughts, to see things from different angles ...when we mostly are teaching kids in school to be like everybody else? Negroponte does have a point about the U.S. though. The culture in the United States, at least in some major parts, is highly valuing individual creativity and success, and it is very forgiving about failures. And it values the unique perspectives of children, even if the school system doesn't really reflect it. That is quite different from many other countries, and is a big reason why the U.S. traditionally have produced many more innovations into the world than its population would indicate.


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