Sunday, March 31, 2013

Innovation Myths
Myth is the secret opening though which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestation. Religions, philosophies, arts, the social forms of primitive and historic man, prime discoveries in science and technology, the very dreams that blister sleep, boil up from the basic, magic ring of truth.
Joseph Campbell (1904-1987),  American Mythologist,  author of The Power of Myth
Innovation is boiling up out there.   I can’t put my finger on it.  But part of it is about myths of innovation.  Since I started promoting an online forum of healthcare innovation a month ago,   hits on my medinnovation blog have tripled.
Yet  myths persist about innovation. “Innovation”  is a chameleon word. It means different things to different people. Everybody wants to be innovative.  Innovation creates a magical feeling.  It is considered a creative path out of the morass and away from the edges of the abyss.
Here are a few of the myths.
·         Innovation belongs to the young.   This may be  because the young have created many of Internet innovations – Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Intel, Apple, Cisco, Twitter, Amazon, eBay, You-Tube, and others.  Last week, Yahoo bought the news-reading app of Nick  S’Alioso, 17,  for a $ billion or so.  But the young may be exceptions.  Most innovators who win the Nobel Prize average 60 and took 20 years to get the prize (Tom Agan, “Why Innovators Get Better with Age", NYT, March 31, 2013). 

·         Innovation occurs mostly among individuals working out of their garage, dorm room, and makeshift office.  In truth, most innovations come out of the corporate world with teams of individuals or joint ventures with health care organizations, all striving for goals that make a difference for their companies in a competitive world. The future of innovation is more likely to lie with health care corporations working with Internet and data based technology companies.  

·         Innovation is strictly about creativity.   In actuality innovation is just as much  about money.  Capital, and access to it, is what differentiates America from competitors in Europe, Japan, and elsewhere,   America is the venture capital center of the world.  And in places like Silicon Valley, venture capital, communications between entrepreneurs, and innovation know-how  have come together to create a climate for producing and implementing creativity.

·         Innovation is unique to America  and Americans -  To certain extent this is true, given  our traditions and conditions  of risk taking and economic freedoms of our democracy.  But many U.S innovations come from foreign enterpreneurs who have come to American to practice their craft.  Access to private capital  and government and corporate investments in R&D may be even more important preconditions for innovative breakthroughs  than the  form of government or nature of a society( Edward Conard, Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told about the Economy are Wrong, Portfolio/Penguin, 2012; Eamon Fingleton, “America the Innovative, “ NYT, March 31, 2013).

·         Most innovation can be traced to the Internet -   The U.S. has  certainly capitalized on the Internet to accelerate U.S productivity which remains the wonder of the world.  We work harder and faster than any other nation with fewer workers producing more product than our rivals.  This holds true for our health system as well, which has fewer physicians per capita than most developed countries.    In the short run, this health care productivity may go down with more regulations,  shorter working hours per physician,  more women physicians, who have more family obligations  outside of practice;  more salaried physicians,  and physician desire for balanced lives.  In the long run, however,  the Internet,  telemedicine,  mobile apps,  Skype-like and email communications, and  monitoring devices promise to increase productivity.  

Tweet:   Certain preconceptions  – that innovation belongs to  the young,  individuals, the inherently creative, and to Americans – are myths.


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