Mindworks’ Weblog

Thinking Matters

TEAM

Posted by Andrew Cooper on July 17, 2008

Innovation

Together Everybody Achieves More is the kind of slogan you typically find on the office wall of managers who are keen on slogans.  Next to it would probably be framed mottos on similar lines: ‘Work Smarter, Not Harder’ or ‘Fail to Plan and Plan to Fail’.

It’s easy to mock this kind of thing, but there are often useful and stimulating ideas hidden beneath the corn.

For example, the idea that together everybody really can achieve more has been central to the development of civilisation on this planet.  Our early ancestors, as they wandered around the plains of what then wasn’t called East Africa, possessed some unique abilities compared with other species.  Their big brains enabled them to picture different futures, develop these pictures into practical ideas for change, implement the changes and then reflect on the results. We know of no other species in the Universe which can do this.

When people think of innovation they tend to think of technological innovation, but social innovation – changes to the ways in which we organise ourselves in groups – can be just as important as new technologies.  More so, arguably, because if we can improve how we work together in groups, we can develop all the other kinds of innovation more effectively.  Hierarchical organisational structures, planning, legal systems and systems of government are all examples of social innovations.  Their development has, of course, had enormous implications for humanity.

Other kinds of innovation have also been very significant: the ability to represent animals and people, as well as abstract concepts, in pictures, story telling, competitive sport and, of course, music are just a few examples.

Returning to social innovation, many people think that our systems of government are broken and are in serious need of a radical overhaul: a root and branch re-design rather than tinkering at the edges.  I agree with them.  More on that story later.

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