How ‘Innovation’ Became a Meaningless Buzzword (And How It Can Be Saved)
First we have to understand what innovation really is and is not
When you’re representing a point of view that hasn’t been widely propagated in a given debate, it’s only natural to encounter skepticism and resistance. When that point of view challenges “conventional wisdom” around creativity, ingenuity, and human progress, the criticism is fast and furious.
So when I posit that the best way for Silicon Valley to address its problems is through a process that industrial sociologists call “professionalization,” it comes as no surprise that I am more often than not met with a mixture of befuddlement and derision.
Professionalization is the step-by-step process by which a trade or vocation — a wild west comprised of freelance practitioners — becomes a profession, with universal and, crucially, enforceable standards and norms. An industry, pre-professionalization, has no uniform standards, no formalized body of knowledge, and, therefore, no ability to sanction or eject a malpractitioner from its ranks.
Imagine if you will an unqualified frontier “surgeon” in an old western, setting up shop because there are no other medical facilities for hundreds of miles. He can do as he pleases, regardless of how his actions impact the community, and as a result he could potentially cause a lot of harm. This will continue until, slowly, new institutions are built to ensure the public’s safety and control their industry’s quality. Hippocratic oaths are developed. Norms are created, standards are formulated, and universal expectations are set. This process transforms practitioners from reviled rogue operators in an anything-goes setting to bona fide pros — esteemed, expert, accountable professionals. If you don’t meet their standards, you can be disqualified. You can be shut out by your peers. The frontier “surgeon” must gain accreditation or be replaced by a doctor from an accredited institution who knows the risks of malpractice.
In a professionalized system, you’re either forced to take accountability and abide by standards, or you’re removed from the community. And the public is healthier and safer for it. Professionalization happens all the time in different industries. It…