2.6 Two kinds of innovation
Innovation can be defined as ‘the introduction of new things or methods’. It is one of those concepts – like freedom – of which we all approve, in the sense that we are all ‘for’ it. Politicians, industrialists, managers all loudly proclaim themselves to be in favour of innovation. This unanimity ought to make us suspicious. And we would be right to be sceptical because it turns out that the apparently universal approval of ‘freedom’ is in fact confined only to certain kinds of freedom. People should be free to roam, for example, but not on private land. Freedom of speech should not extend to the freedom to shout ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre. And so on.
So it is also with innovation. For it turns out that there are two kinds of innovation – incremental and disruptive. And while there is near-universal agreement that the former is a thoroughly good thing, opinions diverge sharply on the desirability of the latter.