The Playful History of Innovation

Posted on February 27, 2017 by Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

How is the first flute the great grandfather of the modern computer?

We say necessity is the mother of invention, but maybe we are looking at innovation all wrong.

Image: Student inventing in a work space
Source: The Bakken Museum // Flickr

The rich history of invention is filled with incremental steps in innovation, each idea building on the last, taking inspiration from a plethora of sources. In great leaps of innovation, singular inspiration is a rarity.

So, let’s get back to that first question I asked, “How is the flute the great grandfather of the modern computer?” The answer to this question is, of course, fascinating, but it also sheds light on one of the critical ways that that innovation happens. Not based on pure functionality, but with play.

We will let the author Steven Johnson, explain.

Via: TED 1

History has an incredible way of uncovering the wonderful backstories behind the things we take most for granted.

As innovation and interconnectivity continue to play an important role in building and shaping the future, it benefits all of us to pause and reflect on how we got to now.

I love Johnson’s final line.

“You’ll find the future wherever people are having the most fun!”

Innovation at its core is about trial and error, and by making that process playful, we allow for people to step further out into realms of possibility and see triumphs and failures as fun.

The future needs experimenters, it needs creative thinkers, it needs the kinds of out of the box ideas that see the world in terms of connection. The more we incorporate play into our innovative thinking the more we foster creative collaboration across disciplines and cultures.

So, go out, be playful, and most importantly, remember that possibility is always out there, we just have to be ready and willing to see it!

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!

-Liesl

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