Let’s get excited about maintenance! (Innovation, not so much.)

When Americans talk about technology, they often use “innovation” as a shorthand. But “innovation” refers only to the very early phases of technological development and use. While innovation — the social process of introducing new things — is important, most technologies around us are old, and for the smooth functioning of daily life, maintenance is more important.

A more expansive conception of technology would take into account the diverse array of tools, including subways and trains, that we humans use to help us reach our goals.

4 types of innovation and the problems they solve

Innovation is fundamentally about solving problems — and there are as many ways to innovate as there are types of problems to solve. There is no one “true” path to innovation.

We need to start treating innovation like other business disciplines — as a set of tools that are designed to accomplish specific objectives. Just as we wouldn’t rely on a single marketing tactic or a single source of financing for the entire life of an organization, we need to build up a portfolio of innovation strategies designed for specific tasks.

Ask yourself: How well can we define the problem? And how well can we define the skill domain(s) needed to solve it?

In defense of the “eureka!” moment

In the commencement address he delivered at Harvard last month, Mark Zuckerberg warned the graduating students not to trust the story of innovation that Hollywood promotes — namely, “the idea of a single eureka moment” in which a lone thinker has a groundbreaking epiphany. He characterized this idea as “a dangerous lie” that discourages real creativity. But, The New York Times asks, what if it’s actually a real and benevolent force of innovation and progress?

While creative insight and analytical thinking are distinct modes of thought, they complement each other pretty nicely.