The eLearning Fundi

Random reflections about eLearning in Africa

the myths of innovation: Innovators and the myths of epiphany

I am back to blogging after a well deserved break.

I am currently reading Scott Berkun’s book, the myths of innovation. It is good in informing me about research am doing for my doctorate on adoption of eLearning. The first chapter is very interesting, which in away questions where good (or great ideas) come from, and how they are generated.

Where do great ideas come from and how are they produced?
The myth of epiphany – a sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something – posits that whenever an innovation arises or is reported, tales of its magic moments are the first to appear. This is more so because myths are “often more satisfying … than the truth” (Berkun, 2007, p. 6). When innovations are being reported a number of myths go with them: Newton’s apple story and gravity; Archimedes and the bath tub;

However, innovations don’t happen in just one magical moment, and they are not completely new either. They are a build up of (hitherto unknown) innovations, a combination at times – where if any of the components is missing the innovations would not be realized. Therefore, imagining that epiphany plays a pivotal role in the innovation process is misguided. Probably, the epiphany – or the magical moments come when the last bit or last piece of an innovation is put into place, or when something being made for a different purpose realises some new use (e.g. Viagra).

One thing that arises though through the myth of epiphany is that there is need for innovators or creative thinkers to take breaks (go under apple trees; take a bath) so that they can experience the magical moment (the Eureka or wow moment).

This reminded me of my physics lessons whenever I encountered the famous inventors. I used to have a perception of them being lazy. In the Newton and the apples instance, I could add…
Newton was (probably) so lazy to climb on to the tree, or get some form of scaffold to get apples from the tree. Instead, he spent most of the time under the tree waiting for the apples to fall. The idea of him questioning gravity, in this case, came when he was fully satisfied? His question therefore was now that I am satisfied, why are the apples still falling (on me) instead (for example) of flying up?

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