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The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

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The good and bad, the future and the past

Where I grew up in New York City, sailboats were a mystery. My heart was with highways, subways, and rockets. On the days I'd happen to see a sail in Long Island Sound, I wondered why anyone would choose to travel slower than the latest technology allowed. But my opinion changed the first time I traveled on one. Standing in the shade of the sail, watching the smooth wooden bow rise with the waves, I felt the quiet power of the wind move me. Friends talked and calmly watched the sea, instead of fighting the roar and stink of diesel. The sails opened like wings, and we flew over the waves, the spines in the sail shining in engineered elegance, like the cable spans of the Brooklyn Bridge, providing an experience that no powerboat of any speed could ever replace.

Many innovations, for all their progress, leave a sailboat of forgotten goodness behind. And in our race to innovate, we instinctively reject people who hold on to the past. We can't know that they don't have a point. Perhaps they've pointed out something timeless that we didn't think about. Is there an innovation that can replace a hug from your mom? Ice cream on a summer day? Is a strip mall a worthy substitute for an open meadow, or the latest Gehry office tower for the Chrysler Building? The passion of creation leaves us partially blind; we're focused so intently on what we're making that we forget the good things already here, or that our innovations might leave behind.

And while ...

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