Student-Professor Dialog: Creativity and Society

The following is a series of (ongoing) exchanges with my professor on the subject of creativity and innovation in society. I felt that it was worthwhile sharing the dialog. 

April 17th
Hello Professor,

I apologize if my comment today came off as a tirade or diatribe. That wasn’t my intention. You commented that our generation may be a bit cynical, and that may be true, but that’s not how I like to think about my attitude. Instead, I like to think of myself as being critical, specifically a critical thinker who criticizes and seeks to deviate from the status quo in favor of gleaning new insights and gaining new potential solutions. I believe our problems are a result of a society who seeks perpetuating the status quo, similar to the silo or echo chamber effect. I believe this is a result of people who willingly accept ideas, problems, and solutions presented to them, or that reinforce and reaffirm their beliefs, rather than inquire for themselves, critically challenge their beliefs, and generate their own solutions, be it through reflective thinking or collaborative dialog.

That being said, I love your class and I think you’re a fantastic professor who is doing great things. I’ve had a passion for creativity my whole life, and it’s a pleasure to explore the topic in your classes. As a result of the many readings and discussions presented throughout the semester I’ve arrived at a few revelatory insights that I’d like to share with you.

First, I believe that creativity is a product of struggle, of problems and the suffering it produces, and the passion it generates when people apply their “will” to overcome that struggle. Nietzsche has been a tremendous influence for re-framing how I conceptualize the human condition as a continual overcoming. I learned that the root of creativity in Latin is creo, which translates as “belief” or “produce, choose, put into existence”, and that the root for creo in Indo-Proto-European is cor- which translated as “heart”, as in coronary or cordial. Hence my conviction that all creativity is an enterprise of heartfelt passion generated by struggle, or problems and suffering, to overcome circumstance, whether they are imposed by nature’s absolute values or society’s relative values.

Throughout time the greatest civilizations collapsed at the peak of their opulence, the pinnacle of their immoderate greatness. I attribute this to the fact that these civilizations, among other things, grew increasingly complacent with their level of comfort, and as a result experienced none of the struggle necessary to diagnose problems and apply creativity and innovation for their resolution. I observe this in our current culture where imitation and conformity are the rule, where everyone talks of freedom, equality, and autonomy but it is very rare to witness these qualities being demonstrated. Authenticity and autonomy, in my opinion, are absolutely necessary for acknowledging and individuating problems in our world. The Greek prefix root of these words is autos meaning “self”, and the respective suffixes are hentes meaning “doing” or “being”, and nomos meaning “law” or “the structured ordering of experience”.

The greatest creators, innovators, and thinkers, I argue, operated outside the norm, deviated from convention, and existed on the periphery of society. They acknowledged that if you do what everybody else is doing, you’ll get what everybody is getting. As a result they lived according to their own being or doing, their own law, and solved problems no one else acknowledged or saw. I think of William James who said “Genius, in truth, means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.” As well as Schopenhauer who said “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see. With people with only modest ability, modesty is mere honesty; but with those who possess great talent, it is hypocrisy.” In this way we see that it’s not what we look at that counts, but what we see. Hence da Vinci’s reply to the secret of his creative and inventive genius, “saper vedere” or “to know how to see”.

That being said, my comment today in class arose from my latent frustrations regarding our society. Politics is a touchy subject because if affects everyone. I have a desire for people to critically engage in things that matter most, specifically the preservation of our freedom, equality, and autonomy, rather than indulge in the mundane and mainstream. But it seems that most would rather appeal to authority, the status quo, or convention, and acquiesce to empty political rhetoric propagated by the “superiors” rather than looking at the facts and coming up with their own opinions. That is what a democracy with cognizant and active citizens should embody.

Once again, thanks for all that you do. I hope this email has found you well, and that I articulated my thoughts with enough clarity, and I look forward to talking with you more. Also, here is a link referencing the phenomenon of inequality and creativity I mentioned today in class, titled The Inequality Puzzle in U.S. Cities by Florida. Thanks again.

Sincerest Regards,

X

April 17th
X:

Thank you for this very thoughtful and smart email message. I would love to talk to you more about some of these ideas.

A few very quick responses.  Yes, struggle is a major component of creativity (part of the theme of creativity and crisis) and individual passion and the authentic desire to improve a situation are the fuel that drives the creativity train.  As a sociologists I would say the tracks are not of the creators own making.   Society structures what we take to be a legitimate problem in need of a creative solution. So, creative people certainly operate outside norms but they are also bound by those norms and it is incumbent upon the scholar/critic to see the creator as both heroic and also as constrained and to understand how these two facts interact to produce, limit, or otherwise influence creative development.

I also agree with the relationship between complacency and creativity, although I think you need to acknowledge that one man’s complacency is another man’s struggle. So, the piece that you need to take into account is power.  If the complacent have absolute power, then you get decline. But, if the powerless and the outsiders have some access to politics, resources, power, then you can have great undercurrents of creativity even while the fat cats get drunk.

Finally, I was going to write and thank you for offering your insights today in class about politics. I agree with your points and don’t think you were delivering a tirade.   Many people are dissatisfied with the state of our political system and its capacity to deliver innovative solutions to our problems. As you suggest, old ideologies crowd out critical reflection and creative response.  Both parties are guilty.    My own opinion is that rhetoric matters and when one party has, for more than 3 decades, told the American people that we can not collectively solve problems and that our government (which is us) is always the problem (and never the solution), then we have stacked the deck against tackling the biggest problems of our times.   The market can facilitate solutions but it does not “believe” anything — it is through politics and democracy that we decide what type of society we want to live in and how to achieve these goals.   By turning a people against its government, I believe, we have undermined the process that we depend on for creatively engaging collective problems.  Single creative individuals acting alone without the tracks (to refer back to the earlier metaphor) can not solve our problems.  Government is part of the process of setting down tracks (not the only part).   As a “creative pragmatist,” it is hard to watch political tactics (the smart use of rhetoric) succeed at electing candidates while undermining their capacity to govern at the same time.

Sorry for my diatribe!

Onward,

Y

April 24rd,
Hello Professor,

I appreciate your response! We could talk for days– and I’d love every minute of it!  I have some thoughts regarding society’s role as a facilitator of change and revolutionary progress. I’d love to hear any feedback or insights you could provide.

Regarding society and creative change: in my opinion institutional structures, such as government or education or religion or corporations, are economies of scale for ideas (values), and as such they are subject to organizational inertia. I believe as these structures grow, they reinforce themselves on top of themselves through a process of normalization, specifically as a means of increasing cohesion and improving efficiency. That is, the structure self-perpetuates itself due to various self-preservation mechanisms explained in psychology and sociology, like herding, cognitive bias, the echo chamber/ silo effect, etc.

The consequence of these structures and the “typological” normalization they demand is that the structure begins to crystallize and become increasingly rigid. Deviations from the structure’s systematic process of normalization are looked down upon and rarely rewarded. What is rewarded is conformity to the “standards” typifying the accepted structural norms. In the end the structure, say as cultural custom or societal convention, becomes the largest barrier of change and inhibitor of progress. These may manifest as laws, or standardized testing, or rituals, or work processes– any formalization based on a set of premises or principles dictated by the structure’s authority or gatekeepers. Initially these premises may or may not reflect changes within the natural and social environment, but as time goes on and the structure grows, change inevitably takes place and I’d argue that these premises become increasingly abstract and irrelevant to the changing demands within the empirical landscape.

From what I observe in creativity and innovation on a sociological level, and evolution on a biological level, change occurs organically; it begins with a single individual, a single gene. Perhaps environmental demands cause the retention of a swath of genes, similar to the way societal demands cause a retention of a group of individuals, like those witnessed in collaborative circles, like the Fugitives, or the Vienna Circle and the like. This bottom-up population thinking contrasts with top-down typological thinking. Change can take place with the top down typological thinking (Platonic), but it must work within the bounds of its established premises. Eventually demands change to such a degree that premises need to be discarded in order to usher in revolutionary change.

That being said, I’m skeptical of institutional structures. I believe that so long as they represent the dynamic will of free thinking individuals who seek collaboration for mutually beneficial ends, these institutions work on their behalf. But because of organizational inertia and the mechanisms of normalization that functionally preserve the status quo, I do not believe that the governing authority representing institutions are capable of addressing the changing demands in the long run. This is especially the case when those in authority are the pinnacle product of the normalization, embodying the most abstract conventions established within the structure (culture).

However, my biggest frustration does not lie so much with those in positions of authority as it does with the individuals embedded within the population. Normalization has occurred to such a degree that abstract theory and “ideals” become the end for society, resulting in a populous devoid of independent thought, lacking a critical consciousness. We have denounced personal experience, and the accompanying opinions about that experience, in favor of societal standards to such a magnitude that people have grown blind: incapable of sensual inductive thought. Instead they defer to authority, to ideals, to norms for their answers, like sheep.

There is a dark corollary to this story that manifests symptomatically throughout society as a cultural malaise. When the individual experience is oppressed to such a degree that authenticity becomes the exception rather than the rule, people become sick. In proportion to their openness to change, I believe societies manufacture mental illness: body dysmorphia, depression, anorexia, substance abuse, criminal activities, and the list goes on. Other examples are increased emphasis on grades and testing rather than learning and understanding, an absence of mutually vested dialog between teachers and students, and lack of communication in general as people defer to authorities or professionals to solve problems that they should otherwise work out with others within the relationship of their context.

I hope I’m not being too harsh. I honestly and earnestly want the best for people, my fellow man and society at large.

I read two articles recently that have embodied much of my thoughts on the matter and I’ve been eager to share them with you to hear your thoughts. One is titled The Creative Monopoly and discusses a lecture by Peter Thiel at Stanford. Relating back to my thoughts on society as a self-perpetrating structure, the article discusses the negative flip side of competition and proposes an alternative approach for creating value within the context of business and markets. I recommend checking out Peter Thiel’s lecture notes linked in the article. The other article is titled Stop Telling Students to Study for Exams. It relates to my sentiment that ideals and social norms become a means rather than an end.

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow. I’m eager to hear your thoughts. I know your probably pretty busy grading papers and what not, so don’t feel any pressure. If you’re available, I’ll be around until graduation and would like to catch up and listen to some of your thoughts on various subjects I’ve been thinking and writing about, such as sociology, creativity, and the like. Thanks again!

Sincerest Regards,

X

Draft: Cultural Landscape and Innovation

I just finished reading a NYT article titled True Innovation that discussed the trajectory of innovative trends within our culture. It prompted me to think about Paul Feyerabend, Thomas Kuhn, and  Imre Lakatos’ philosophy of science, Nietzsche’s prophetic will to power and the thematic elucidations of Panagiotis Kondylis.

They say necessity is the mother of invention? What kind of necessity? Personal necessity for psychological equilibrium? Necessity for physiological equilibrium? Social necessity for conformity and adoption?

Logic is equilibrium: each new theory comprising a paradigm comes with statical axioms that present endless combinations of puzzles for solving. These puzzles allow us to work out discrepancies between axioms so that theories can be reconciled and smoothed out. Progress takes place linearly rather than horizontally. When novel theories are introduced that clash with present conventional logic and historical science, they are most often brushed aside or discarded. In time this giant system of science, these puzzle solving enterprises, run out of combinations. Reality is perceived to be consistent with the facts. This hubris indicates the beginning of the end. Thinkers, being so enculturated and inundated with the present paradigm, totally preoccupied with pursuing universal truths, fail to account for individual experience in the process. As a result, change occurs unnoticed. First, small subtle and incremental changes, and these are only felt at the periphery of society. But these fractional degrees of change compound across a society losing touch with itself and soon reality becomes a vicarious fiction of role playing, where types and genres and paths provide navigation, where our thoughts are purchased and our ideas reflect consensus, where individualism is a cruel catch phrase.

The corollary is a culture who have grown efficient at perpetuating more of the same, more of the good and, in turn, much more of the bad. You must remember that every experience is unique, that what was good for today may not be good for tomorrow. Weather is the harbinger of change and climates never stays favorable for long, be it cultural or geological.

Institutions are good and bad: must be adaptive. Freedom is necessary. Time must be plenty. Purpose is paramount. The collaboration of collective disparate experiences, but similar values, is necessary for creation.Vision provides direction. Autonomy to explore along the way. Intrinsic motivation towards understanding will always triumph over extrinsic motives for profit. Plenty of resources.

Revolutions happen fast but dawn slowly. To a large extent, we’re still benefiting from risks that were taken, and research that was financed, more than a half century ago. -Jon Gertner, True Innovation

Think Thomas Kuhn.

 

 

 

 

More later

QUOTED passages of interest:

In his recent letter to potential shareholders of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg noted that one of his firm’s mottoes was “move fast and break things.” Bell Labs’ might just as well have been “move deliberately and build things.” This sounds like the quaint pursuit of men who carried around slide rules and went to bed by 10 o’clock. But it was not.

fundamental belief was that an “institute of creative technology” like his own needed a “critical mass” of talented people to foster a busy exchange of ideas. But innovation required much more than that. Mr. Kelly was convinced that physical proximity was everything; phone calls alone wouldn’t do. Quite intentionally, Bell Labs housed thinkers and doers under one roof. Purposefully mixed together on the transistor project were physicists, metallurgists and electrical engineers; side by side were specialists in theory, experimentation and manufacturing. Like an able concert hall conductor, he sought a harmony, and sometimes a tension, between scientific disciplines; between researchers and developers; and between soloists and groups.

Another element of the approach was aspirational. Bell Labs was sometimes caricatured as an ivory tower. But it is more aptly described as an ivory tower with a factory downstairs. It was clear to the researchers and engineers there that the ultimate aim of their organization was to transform new knowledge into new things.

Mr. Kelly believed that freedom was crucial, especially in research. Some of his scientists had so much autonomy that he was mostly unaware of their progress until years after he authorized their work. When he set up the team of researchers to work on what became the transistor, for instance, more than two years passed before the invention occurred. Afterward, when he set up another team to handle the invention’s mass manufacture, he dropped the assignment into the lap of an engineer and instructed him to come up with a plan. He told the engineer he was going to Europe in the meantime.

THERE was another element necessary to Mervin Kelly’s innovation strategy, an element as crucial, or more crucial even, than all the others. Mr. Kelly talked fast and walked fast; he ran up and down staircases. But he gave his researchers not only freedom but also time. Lots of time — years to pursue what they felt was essential. One might see this as impossible in today’s faster, more competitive world. Or one might contend it is irrelevant because Bell Labs (unlike today’s technology companies) had the luxury of serving a parent organization that had a large and dependable income ensured by its monopoly status. Nobody had to meet benchmarks to help with quarterly earnings; nobody had to rush a product to market before the competition did.

But what should our pursuit of innovation actually accomplish? By one definition, innovation is an important new product or process, deployed on a large scale and having a significant impact on society and the economy, that can do a job (as Mr. Kelly once put it) “better, or cheaper, or both.” Regrettably, we now use the term to describe almost anything. It can describe a smartphone app or a social media tool; or it can describe the transistor or the blueprint for a cellphone system. The differences are immense. One type of innovation creates a handful of jobs and modest revenues; another, the type Mr. Kelly and his colleagues at Bell Labs repeatedly sought, creates millions of jobs and a long-lasting platform for society’s wealth and well-being

The conflation of these different kinds of innovations seems to be leading us toward a belief that small groups of profit-seeking entrepreneurs turning out innovative consumer products are as effective as our innovative forebears. History does not support this belief. The teams at Bell Labs that invented the laser, transistor and solar cell were not seeking profits. They were seeking understanding. Yet in the process they created not only new products but entirely new — and lucrative — industries.

But to consider the legacy of Bell Labs is to see that we should not mistake small technological steps for huge technological leaps. It also shows us that to always “move fast and break things,” as Facebook is apparently doing, or to constantly pursue “a gospel of speed” (as Google has described its philosophy) is not the only way to get where we are going. Perhaps it is not even the best way. Revolutions happen fast but dawn slowly. To a large extent, we’re still benefiting from risks that were taken, and research that was financed, more than a half century ago.

Will Technology Save Us All, or Will It Tear Us Apart?

See:

COMING SOON: ‘Teaching & Learning Guide for ‘Can a Knowledge Sanctuary also be an Economic Engine? The Marketing of Higher Education as Institutional Boundary Work’’ by Prof. Steve Hoffman (University at Buffalo, SUNY) – PROVISIONAL ABSTRACT: The marketing of higher education refers to a structural trend towards the adoption of market-oriented practices by colleges and universities. These organizational practices blur the boundary between knowledge-driven and profit-driven institutions, and create tensions and contradictions among the three missions of the 21st-century university: knowledge production, student learning, and satisfying the social charter. In this article, we highlight the historical contexts that nurtured the marketing of higher education in the U.S. and Europe and explore the dilemmas that arise when market logics and business-oriented practices contradict traditional academic values. We demonstrate that managing these dilemmas is a contested process of policing borders as institutional actors struggle to delineate the proper role of the university in a shifting organizational climate.

Cultivating Successful Paradigms: Typological v. Population Thinking

Today I read an article in Business Week titled Why China Doesn’t Have Its Own Steve Jobs. The second paragraph struck me:

Former vice-president of Google global and president of Google China Kai-fu Lee explained on his weibo that it was because Chinese education puts too much emphasis on reciting and memorizing stuff instead of fostering critical thinking.

As the article further mentions, China’s collectivist culture or “herd mentality” wouldn’t permit the kind of narcissistic egoism that characterizes Job’s genius, and I think that’s a darn shame.

Innovative entrepreneurialism/ executive leadership requires a degree of egoism– that is, fierce self-reliance, self-confidence, non-conformity/individualism and narcissism. These qualities allow individuals to take more risks, bet on themselves more often, think more creatively and retain more faith in their individual vision, especially in the face of adverse circumstance/ opinion. I doubt don’t these people can be difficult to deal with, but their vision is inspiring and contagious.

China needs to place more emphasis on creativity, novel thinking, and the individual value of a person, their ideas and experience. America could do a better job retaining their share in these areas as well– instead we’re busy standardizing students and their thinking like China, like somehow that’s the answer to our problems. It’s a matter of typological thinking v population thinking: one emphasizes Platonic-ideals and abstracted averages, the other emphasizes evolutionary-variation and unique individuals.

The difference between Typological thinking and Population Thinking goes back to the classic distinction between a priori knowledge and a posteriori knowledge: knowing by way of axiomatic definitions, and knowing by way of experiential intuitions. This distinction manifests as deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning, relations of ideas and matters of fact, analytic statements and synthetic statements, contingent and necessary propositions, quantitative and qualitative properties, and the like.

Typological thinking is deductive and categorical in nature. Its roots go back to Plato whose philosophy codified this form of thinking by maintaining that the physical world adheres to ideas or eidos. Characterized by ‘forms’ such as the Equal and the Good and other such values and virtues, Platonism holds that there are a limited number of fixed, unchangeable ideas that underlie observable variation. The gradation and discontinuities observed in nature were explained simply as gaps’ between natural ‘ideas’ (types). As a result, gradual evolution by variation was a logical impossibility for the typologist and evolution at all could only occur in steps, from one ‘form’ or type to another. Modernism of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries utilized the idealism of Platonic philosophy (Think Kant)

In contrast, Population thinking is inductive and qualificational in nature. Darwin posited this type of thinking when he introduced his theory of evolution. It maintains the uniqueness of everything in the organic world, that all animals or humans or plants possess qualities distinct to themselves alone, and that even individuals continue to change throughout the duration of their life. Each  organism possesses unique features that can be described only through inductive methods such as statistic reasoning to produce terms appropriate for the average. However, statistical terms are merely abstractions and not indicative of the individuals that actually compose reality.

Ultimately, the typologist is an idealist who hold that only type (eidos) is real and that variation is an illusion, while the populationist hold that type (average) is merely an abstraction and that only variation is real.

You may be asking yourself why this is important. One word: change. Life is characterized by change, and change is absolutely necessary for the variation that facilitates evolutionary adaptation. Typological thinking treats the world idealistically, giving everything a proper place and name. But this is not reflective of reality, or the observable world. It is only reflective of our symbolic mind where ideas can persist without variation (the concept of tree does not change in my mind).

We need to encourage variation, encourage change, novelty, and creativity if we have any desire to flourish and succeed. Simply adhering to prescribed notions of ideal states and ideas will guarantee eventual failure. And in my mind, believing we have it all figured out, that we’ve got the basics down and we’re doing it all right, is a dangerous form of hubris. Success– adaptive variation–requires valuing individuals, their ideas and experience, rather than some abstracted average dictated to us from above. Statistics and science are helpful, but not with regards to possibility. In this area they fail more often than not.

Also, typological thinking creates biases and stereotypes by prescribing labels and abstracted terms to everything. Population thinking is more open and tolerant because it is reflective and observant of all variation and experience, recognizing that there is always more than meets the mind. But this comes down to man’s propensity for control, his desire for the will to power and to dominate, which has pros and cons and is situationally contingent. Because typological thinking is assertive by nature, it is good for positing and leading and commanding, but it is poor for learning and observing and reflecting. William James said:

“There can be a tendency to label something in order to negate its impact. It is easier to brush off or control what is perceived as solid instead of fluid.”

Perhaps this is why man has the tendency to label everything at first glance instead of experiencing things as idiosyncratic and unique phenomena.

What typological thinking allows for is control. When we label and abstract and standardize we delude ourselves that we’re in control, that our ratiocinations are reflective of what is.  Now, it is true that this type of thinking is useful, but its shortcomings apply when forecasting into the future. This is because the physical world is in flux and ever changing. Formalized logic applied to matter is most useful within the time and context it originally created and diminishes in utility/ value as time progresses and change becomes more evident. Eventually the logical structure can no longer hold together as the premised facts of matter change so drastically they can no longer be said to be true.

(This may be a bit abstract so I’d suggest reading Axioms (pdf) as a nice little introductory piece, or if you are so inclined, check out Kant’s Prolegomena for any Future Metaphysics and Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding)

The point I want to make is that as a nation we need to relinquish the tendency to think typologically in favor of the more evolutionary population thinking. Specifically, we should do away with standardized methods of schooling that quantify instead of qualify: This means focusing on quality rather than quantity. We need to develop a system for encouraging quality teachers, not by necessarily measuring their efficiency or effectiveness. All that does is emphasis fulfilling whatever criteria we lay out. Same goes for students. I would argue that the quality of student and their thinking has declined significantly since the advent of standardized tests which resulted in teaching material and learning facts that are minimally necessary for passing or getting by.

We should value diversity. Diversity of methods, opinions, ideas, etc. Value individuals. What criteria would I require for delivering quality teachers and students? Output. Productivity. Activity. Experience. Something that indicates they are actively producing. This will indirectly indicate the aptitude and ability of the individual, as well as indicate their motivation and passions. I wouldn’t give grades, per say. I would let their work, their results, do the speaking.

However, there’s a hitch: cultivating leaders requires diversity, but their success dictates uniformity: its paradoxical.

Additional references:

Elliott Sober (1994). Conceptual issues in evolutionary biology . MIT Press: Bradford Book.^

Marjorie Grene (1990). Evolution, “Typology” and “Population Thinking” American Philosophical Quarterly27(3), 237-244.^

Schumpeter and Creative Destruction: The Process of Market Innovation in Capitalist Societies

Schumpeter and Creative Destruction:
The Process of Market Innovation in Capitalist Societies

Joseph Schumpeter was a 20th century Austrian economist who taught at Harvard for several years upon coming to the US. While much of his work was overshadowed by his contemporary Keynes, he made important contributions to macroeconomic theory by developing dynamic models of market change. His work described the nature of market innovation within capitalist societies and emphasized the role of less quantitative measures such as sociology as a major factor for economic development. Much of his inspiration was drawn from the economists Marx and Weber who favored dynamic sociological backgrounds, as well as Walrus from whom he borrowed the concept of the entrepreneur. Despite his emphasis on social factors, however, Schumpeter was one of the leading econometric economists of his day.

In 1942 Schumpeter published Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. In this work lies the theory of creative destruction, one of his most notable contributions. Originally a term coined by Marx, Schumpeter employed the “creative destruction” to mean the “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one”. He wrote that the concerns of capitalism were less about how existing structures were administered and maintained and more about how these structures are destroyed and created. Entrepreneurs, he says, are the sole facilitators of innovation and invention that bring about these structural and market changes in economic systems.

Schumpeter placed much focus on equilibrium and the role of entrepreneurs to facilitate change within an economy. According to Schumpeter, an economy in equilibrium produces products for future consumers who are consuming their present products, and consumers consume products of past producers in a circular flow based on past experience. The expectations and cycles are essentially contained with no new production functions allowing for changes. The entrepreneur operates outside the system and introduces changes to the production function that allow for the creation of new wealth and destruction of the old- hence the term, creative destruction.

In Schumpeter’s analysis, entrepreneurs are the sole agents of change and responsible for the destruction and construction of new markets and wealth within a society. It is the sheer acts of will and leadership, rather than intellect, which characterize the entrepreneur and secure economic progress through successful innovation.

According to Schumpeter, capitalist societies did not operate in a the static circular flow, or equilibrium, proposed by Weber where the production function is invariant and preexisting factors of production are combined according to the technology at hand mechanically. Market activity is much more dynamic and changing. It is the Entrepreneurs who operate as a nonentity outside of this equilibrium and force new combinations of factors that disturb the circular flow as a means of innovative development. Rather than changing the quantity of factors to change the quantity of products produced, this disturbance creates market disequilibrium as their innovative contributions change the form of the production function. This change in production function form introduces new and higher quality commodities which destroys old wealth and creates new wealth.

Thinking about the next big thing

To make significant headway towards a legitimate start-up idea, I need to think about the next big, up-and-coming demands of future industries.

To distill the gyst of this post, I want to consider business ideas that leverage and cater to:
1) the creation of social capital
2) the redesign of necessary goods that could use a great emotional appeal
3)  increasing the userability of products and technology that are currently too difficult to use, but would only improve the lives if it weren’t so complicated.

So,
I was giving some thought to the progression of past big-industry booms in an effort to project future industry needs and demands.

If we just look at the past twenty five years or so, and just off the top of my mind, a couple booms come to mind:
Late 70’s airline industry
Early 80’s the computer industry
Mid 80’s financial industry and investment banking
Mid-late 90’s internet and *.com boom
Mid 90’s early 00’s health and wellness industry
Early 00’s web 2.0 and social networking platforms
Early 00’s Genetic engineering and GMO’s
Early 00’s nano-technology
Early 00’s Green technology
Early 00’s- Current Microfinancing and Social entrepreneurship
Currently- Healthcare

And I’m sure we can find plenty of other booms within specific industries.
So,I was online digging around and doing some research and this article struck me, particularly because I did an independent research project last spring: Social Capital

It deals with this elusive term “social capital’ which was recently coined, and still being understood and defined, as a type of capital that forms as a result of trust between individuals. The definition I recall that most accurately describes social capital is: An instantiated informal norm that promotes cooperation between two or more individuals; or the good-will/ trust between individuals that fosters cooperative exchanges. Some examples of social entrepreneurs actively leveraging social capital include companies such as Tom’s shoes, socialvibe.com, and other businesses that emphasize the fostering of social relations within communities, be it local or oversees.

For his marketing class, a friend visited a social entrepreneurial startup called the Nashville Entrepreneur Center that provides a location for fledgling entrepreneurs to share and develop ideas for a small price. This business provides a location in the community where entrepreneurs can get their start-ups off the ground. They make money off a premium they charge for the use of their facilities and resources, and by taking a percentage of ownership in the company. This is a perfect example of businesses leveraging social capital as a means to generate profit because it is a win-win for everyone involved.

Another possible emerging market is the design and userability industry.
I’ve read a few books that discuss a trend towards connecting people emotionally to the vast quantities of information generated the past two dozen years as a result of the information age. Most notable, “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future”  by Daniel Pink and “The 8th Habit” by Stephen Covey. They discuss the various technological ages and industry revolutions throughout the past two hundred years, mentioning the scientific revolution, the industrial, the green (Advances in agriculture which eliminated food shortages), the current information age. The trend points to connecting people with the most recent information age which has left people overwhelmed and detached from the enormous amount of technology and information it generated. They argue what we need more of is not necessarily more lawyers, accountants, engineers and the like, but people who create meaning from the mass of information they generate. What we need are Artists and designers: innovative people with vision.

They highlight a current trend that points to connecting people with this technology.  It means making sense of the new technology and information by making it easy to use and understand, and creating an emotional component that people can identify and relate to. Web 2.0 and social networking is an example of satisfying that demand. Apple has does this geniusly with its products that are designed to emotionally appeal to people and are easy to use, not just in their design (Apple’s product designs are hypnotically beautiful), but in their products. What appeals more to the emotions than music? IPod? Target has also recognized this demand by innovating even the simplest products with designs that appeal to people (just look at their toilet scrubbers. They scream sensuality).

Anyway. To recap on the gyst of all this:
Lets consider business ideas that leverage and cater to:
1) the creation of social capital
2) the redesign of necessary goods that could use a great emotional appeal
3)  increasing the userability of products and technology that are currently too difficult to use, but would only improve the lives if it weren’t so complicated.