Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure by Tim Harford

Conditions That Promote Innovation

  • We start with a look at the Galapagos Islands where isolation and lack of predators resulted in an explosion in the number of species. While bright ideas are more likely to emerge from a swirling mix of other ideas, they need breathing room to develop. When you have a market where it is easy to experiment, you see change at a faster pace. This explains why the software market is so innovative. Take Facebook and Google for example.
  • As time goes by, innovation is more likely to require multi-disciplinary teams and lots of money. Unfortunately, government and university funded projects are likely to be risk adverse. Funders like the Howard Hughes Medical Institute that encourage risk have been shown to be more productive than conservative government agencies. One approach that has proven very successful has been the offering of prizes for specific accomplishments. They have been responsible for the invention of a clock that could determine longitude for ships at sea, the bouillon cube, and the first privately developed space ship.
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