A thought-provoking blog from Bill Taylor about a book written by Cynthia Barton Rabe.
In her underappreciated book, The Innovation Killer, Cynthia Barton Rabe, a former innovation strategist at Intel, explains how “what we know limits what we can imagine.” Many organizations, she argues, struggle with a “paradox of expertise” in which deep knowledge of what exists in a marketplace or a product category makes it harder to consider what-if strategies that challenge long-held assumptions.
If expertise actually hinders innovation, then how can we encourage innovation?
Her answer to the paradox is to populate organizations with “zero-gravity thinkers”: innovators “who are not weighed down by the expertise of a team, its politics, or ‘the way things have always been done.’” In Rabe’s formula, zero-gravity thinkers come from outside the corporate mainstream and work deep within the ranks of the organization. They are designers, ethnographers, anthropologists, and other creative types who get immersed in a project or a team, contribute their unique points of view, and then move on to the next change-the-game assignment. Ideal zero-gravity thinkers, she explains, have “psychological distance” from the setting in which they work, “renaissance tendencies” that draw on a range of interests and influences, and “related expertise” that allows them to find the points where blue-sky ideas intersect with real-world opportunities.
If only we philosophers were a bit more entrepreneurial, we’d be in dialogue with folks from business schools, including Harvard’s.
But we know nothing about business!
Indeed — that’s the point.
But that’s not an idea that serious philosophers are likely to entertain. Non-philosophers, such as Nietzsche, may take a different attitude: