Viewpoints

On innovation, and other terrifying concepts

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Managing Editor Erin Greer waxes philosophic on innovation - and why we're so afraid of it.

Our modern world is lived at a break-neck pace.

Before technology reaches mass availability, it is already obsolete. (Why else do we feel the need to buy a new iPhone every year?)

Yet, despite innovations making newer, faster and (arguably) better within easy reach, many of us, either personally or professionally, refuse to release our death grip on the past.

Rather than embrace where we are or where we’re going, we hunker down, white knuckled and petulant, “This is the way it’s always been done and damned if I’m gonna change it!” We chain ourselves to “tried and true” until someone - usually a new 30-something CEO with a Crest smile and a televangelist’s charisma - sweeps in and drags us, kicking and screaming, into the present.

Once there, we grumble and groan.

We lament how much “easier” it was to follow the old ways.

Until we learn the new ways, which are, in fact, easier. And faster. And arguably better.

And then we wonder why we put up such a fight in the first place.

That is, of course, until the next change comes, and then the cycle lovingly continues.

So what is it about change that seems to scare us?

Why do we cling to the familiar when progress can only be achieved by moving forward?

Why do we insist on older, slower, costlier means of personal and professional production?

And should we stop?

...

I drive a 2003 Chevy Tracker. It lacks bells and whistles. The MPG is less than ideal. Boasting more than 100,000 miles, the driver’s-side window sticks and the gears grind when I release the clutch. But it’s a great little car. It’s cheap to maintain, gets me where I need to be, and I haven’t had one problem with it.

Basically, it’s everything my Audi wasn’t.

Cherry-red and top-of-the-line, my Audi was heaven to drive and head-turning gorgeous. It was also in the shop at least once a season. And you can forget leaving the garage owing anything less than a grand. The car was flashy, new, fast - and more trouble than it was worth.

Is this why we fear technological innovation? Somewhere in our recesses are we certain that we’re gonna leave the lot with a luxury lemon?

I don’t know.

But what I do know is that, when William Shockley and his cohorts left their respective, conventionally minded corporations to found Silicone Valley, they did so as a conscious rejection of outdated operations that were holding them, the country, and really the world in a bureaucratic stalemate.

They saw an avenue for progress - for change - and they seized it. And because they did, we put the first man on the moon (and that computer on your desk).

Change is terrifying - often because we paint the unknown with a doomsday brush.

But while you white-knuckle the processes of old, the Shockleys of the world are pushing progress. And while you perpetuate the status quo, you’re being passed by and passed up for those who dare to let go.                          

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What's Viewpoints?

It features the Editor's Viewpoints and contributed commentaries.

Contributors

Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including The Public Manager magazine and the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008...

Jason Axelrod

Jason Axelrod is an award-winning journalist who has reported for The Seattle Times, The Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Business Journal and Mother Nature Network, among other outlets. Jason...
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