My very first journal publication! 🙂
Admittedly, it’s a conference proceedings published in a journal form and I’m just the second author, but still, it’s an indexed journal, so you’ll perhaps forgive me for celebrating. In any case, although the paper has its deficiencies (i.e. the sections I wrote), Julia Kasmire from TU Delft writes wonderfully about the problem I’ve discussed previously: is there really such a thing as “radical” innovation?
Of course, we may be accused of attacking a straw man, since most scholars seem to believe that radicalness is not a binary variable but should be measured on a sliding scale. Even so, how the concept of radical innovation is used seems problematic to us. According to one proposed definition (Dahlen & Behrens 2005), radical innovations seem to imply radical departure from the state of the art (the novelty criterion), and from other innovations made at the time (the uniqueness criterion). These and other criteria seem to argue that radical innovations result from intentional or accidental “conceptual leaps” of “ingenuity” or “genius” or some other difficult-to-define quality, and are therefore qualitatively different from “run of the mill” or “incremental” innovations. Perhaps partly as a result, much ink has been spilled in defense of various methods for out of the box thinking, radical inventiveness, etc.
What we argue in the paper is that several factors, e.g. the near-simultaneous discovery of many “radical” innovations (Lemley’s far from exhaustive survey finds 26 examples in 2012, Ogburn 146 – in 1922!) suggest that conceptual leaps do not really happen, and if they happen, they might very well be bad news for the success of the invention. Instead, even those innovations that look radical or even miraculous to outside observers are more often than not results of perfectly obvious process, where each individual development step flows logically from the one preceding.
What we call “radical” may not be anything else than a self-organizing criticality in action: it just happens so that some innovations hit the sweet spot and have a big impact, while others – perhaps equally innovative – languish because the world was not ready for them.
The paper also includes a description of the computational model, the ADDER, that we plan to use to explore the incremental-radical transition. Look towards more papers using the model in the future, and if you’re interested, drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org) – the model’s implemented in NetLogo 5.0 and can be adapted to a variety of settings.
You can access the Energy Procedia’s ScienceDirect page here and find the preprint PDF from this link: How radical is a radical innovation? (Kasmire, Korhonen and Nikolic 2012). (The PDF is posted with the understanding that it complies with Elsevier’s Posting Policy.)
Dahlin, K. B., & Behrens, D. M. 2005. When is an invention really radical? Defining and measuring technological radicalness. Research Policy, 34(5): 717–737.
Kasmire, J., Korhonen, J. M., & Nikolic, I. 2012. How Radical is a Radical Innovation? An Outline for a Computational Approach. Energy Procedia, 20: 346–353.
Lemley, M. A. 2012. The Myth of the Sole Inventor. Michigan Law Review, 110(5): 709–760. http://www.ssrn.com/abstract=1856610.
Ogburn, W. F., & Thomas, D. 1922. Are Inventions Inevitable? A Note on Social Evolution. Political Science Quarterly, 37(1): 83–98.