The virtue of innovation: innovation through the lenses of biological evolution

J R Soc Interface. 2015 Feb 6;12(103):20141183. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2014.1183.

Abstract

We rehearse the processes of innovation and discovery in general terms, using as our main metaphor the biological concept of an evolutionary fitness landscape. Incremental and disruptive innovations are seen, respectively, as successful searches carried out locally or more widely. They may also be understood as reflecting evolution by mutation (incremental) versus recombination (disruptive). We also bring a platonic view, focusing on virtue and memory. We use 'virtue' as a measure of efforts, including the knowledge required to come up with disruptive and incremental innovations, and 'memory' as a measure of their lifespan, i.e. how long they are remembered. Fostering innovation, in the evolutionary metaphor, means providing the wherewithal to promote novelty, good objective functions that one is trying to optimize, and means to improve one's knowledge of, and ability to navigate, the landscape one is searching. Recombination necessarily implies multi- or inter-disciplinarity. These principles are generic to all kinds of creativity, novel ideas formation and the development of new products and technologies.

Keywords: evolutionary computing; innovation; philosophy of science.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Models, Biological*