Innovation As Exception To The Rules

Builds Upon: The Pitfalls of Microspecialization in Mass Societies

In every human society, one must follow rules.  Lots of rules.  More rules than any one person can possibly know.

In particular to practice in any profession or field, one must have completed the proper studies and earned the proper certifications.

Most societies use caste or exclusive licenses to decisively divide tasks.  Each discipline is given to a handful of experts.  Naturally, an orthodoxy forms around each of these groups.  Only those who can best mirror their tendencies can enter their group.  Each specialty group has a specialized terminology and language that closes it off from all others.

To be succinct, it’s not a system that encourages those who do things differently.

We are taught that it is the nature of our present human society to change and technologically progress.  We are told society is driven by innovation.

If we look at the history of progress and invention, however, only the barest handful of people are responsible for the biggest breakthroughs.  Orthodoxies of experts excel at improving and refining what they are already doing, but it always seems to take persons who try out new things to bring on innovation.

The problem: what kind of person makes it into the orthodoxy and finds themself in any kind of position to bring on improvements?  Someone who’s followed the rules well enough to be assigned to expert level training.  Once the training is completed, they follow the rules of their orthodoxy well enough to succeed professionally.  It takes a lifetime of rule following and imitation to make it to the top and earn credibility in the larger society.  It would seem to me if one wanted to weed out innovators, this method would be precisely the way to do it:  A long succession of filters and gateways that are sure to block the progress of any person with a hint of a spontaneous or creative nature.  It would seem to me that innovation happens in spite of the system.

Apparently there are a very, very few people who have both the creative gift and the ability to stick with the countless conventions required to rise.  These people manage to make it into an orthodoxy of acknowledged experts and then use their authority and resources to achieve some form of advancement.  Progress and innovation are dependent on the tiny margin of error in the filtering mechanisms.  Every once in awhile they’ll let through a brilliant person who has a mind of their own.  Ironically, progress is dependent upon the failure of the process of selection.

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