A snippet in the Boston Globe yesterday posed an idea about why innovation is getting harder. According to B. Jones, an economist, the frontier of knowledge is becoming more difficult to reach within an innovator's lifespan. His analysis shows that the average age of first invention, degree of specialization, and teamwork required to innovate are all rising. They go so far as to suggest that an innovation crisis may be looming.
While I agree with the analysis that the frontier of knowledge is getting more difficult to reach, I disagree that this is the only path for meaningful innovation. Innovation is doing something different that adds value to your company. Of course that includes inventing new technology, but it is so much more. There is plenty of opportunity to be found in taking existing technology and making it actually usable, or in satisfying needs with new services rather than products, or in creating processes that allow your company to do new things. This list could go on and on.
The bottom line is that I don't believe there is a crisis looming for innovation. What I do believe is that there will be a crisis if innovation continues to be defined within such narrow parameters.