Potential erosion of innovativeness

The staggering erosion of top soil during the last few decades reveals an unintended consequence of industrialized agriculture. Erosion does not occur in meadows, pastures, tall grass prairies or forests. We now know how damaging it is to both till the earth when planting seeds and to leave top soil exposed between plantings. We're outgrowing our industrialized attacks on the problems of adequate food production which make enemies of natural processes. We're becoming more savvy about organic processes and ecological relationships. We're learning the techniques of permaculture to replace industrialized agriculture.

It's also possible that our current abundance of innovativeness will erode unintentionally by applying industrial-era techniques. Like the recent advances in biological and ecological sciences, we've made similar inroads in the fields of cognitive neuroscience, social networks and emergence from self-organizing complexity. Here's some ways our good intentions to increase and improve innovation could backfire on us:
  1. When we "make a thing" of innovation, we idealize the icons of it and induce perfectionistic standards to judge it. We focus on innovation rather than innovating. We negate the processes involved, the developmental stages to fully develop it and the patience to nurture sporadic progress. We encourage people to make a show of trying to be innovative rather than engaging in the messier, unimpressive and laborious pursuits that yield genuine innovations.
  2. When we perceive others as lacking innovative traits, skills or outcomes, we may create a self fulfilling prophesy with our "accurate perceptions". Those we've framed oblige our diminishing expectations of them and act accordingly. We encourage self-induced limitations, inabilities and deficiencies by our supposed objectivity. We dismiss the dynamics of observer dependent sightings, conformity with our dominant narratives and unconscious enmeshment with imposing authority figures.
  3. When we're designing production systems and value-chain delivery systems to provide innovation skills, tools or frameworks, we think with linear models. We imagine results to be caused by applying considerable forces and resources to inert objects. We believe in our ability to make things happen by "command and control" methods. We push against the apparent resistance to our good intentions. We persist until the opposition feels sufficiently pushed to give in to our willpower. This "bull in the china shop" can do more harm than good to altruism and engagement. It can make enemies and spawn deeper problems. We will discover the system we're messing with "has a life of it's own", pushes back and retaliates against antagonistic invaders.
  4. When we've become an expert about the problems in need of more and better innovation, we fail to innovate our approach to the problems. We're too smart for our own good and fixate on whatever our expertise regards as familiar territory. We become imprisoned by our comfort zones. We appear to be hypocrites who cannot practice what we preach or walk our talk. We're "all show and no substance" that then earns no respect, credibility or following among capable individuals.
All these pitfalls can be avoided. Tomorrow I'll explore ways to amplify the current wealth of innovation without fostering a massive erosion of innovativeness.

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