The conditions for progress

[Andrew Revkin interviews Andrew Hargadon, who studies the conditions that trigger technological breakthroughs.]

“I asked him what he’d recommend that President Obama do to spark a productive energy quest.

The key, Dr. Hargadon says, is getting graduate students and postdoctoral researchers out of the university for a time so they can develop networks of people in business and other arenas with the skills required to turn a great idea into an innovation — and potentially a revolution. He describes doctoral and postdoctoral students as “the stem cells of the university system,” saying, “They’re smart enough to become anything.”

[Revkin continues] I sent the first part of the Hargadon interview to a variety of energy and technology specialists over the weekend and got the following response from Dr. Frosch at Harvard:

Innovation is a multidisciplinary exercise requiring a harmonious combination of (at least):

– Ideas
– Knowledge and know-how (science, technology, and engineering)
– Business knowledge, know-how and capability
– Leadership and management
– Money and credit

There is no magic: innovation work is energy- and talk-intensive; much iteration is required. The work needs lots of discussion; it is a ‘body contact’ sport that requires patience, experimentation and time.


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