The pattern of “competition” is an excellent case in point. Every economics textbook will tell you that competition between rival firms leads to innovation in their products and services. But when you look at innovation from the long-zoom perspective, competition turns out to be less central to the history of good ideas than we generally think. Analyzing innovation on the scale of individuals and organizations – as the standard textbooks do – distorts our view. It creates a picture of innovation that overstates the role of proprietary research and “survival of the fittest” competition. The long-zoom approach lets us see that openness and connectivity may, in the end, be more valuable to innovation than purely competitive mechanisms. Those patterns of innovation deserve recognition – in part because it’s intrinsically important to understand why good ideas emerge historically, and in part because be embracing these patterns we can build environments that do a better job of nurturing good ideas, whether those environments are schools, governments, software platforms, poetry seminars, or social movements. We can think more creatively if we open our minds to the many connected environments that make creativity possible.
From “Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation” by Steven Johnson – Riverhead Books