Do we worship innovation too much? Does our intense focus on innovation cause us to ignore the mundane details of keeping things running? These questions are interesting to contemplate, especially for those of us in the business of ‘innovation’.
“Maintenance and repair, the building of infrastructures, the mundane labour that goes into sustaining functioning and efficient infrastructures, simply has more impact on people’s daily lives than the vast majority of technological innovations.”
The authors of this article, Andrew Russell & Lee Vinsel, articulate a theme that is gaining more traction lately, that innovation has become an end unto itself, and that this is not good. We celebrate the creators of new things, no matter how peripheral they are to the daily experience of the vast majority of people. What good is the latest social media app when you can’t drive to work without your car being ravaged by potholes? Perhaps the US fascination with innovation is the reason we can have the world’s highest technology, most robust startup environment and still have third world bridges, airports, roads and rail.
Certainly the term ‘innovation’ is overused, but that doesn’t mean that the true act of innovating isn’t valuable. Maintenance is necessary and perhaps underappreciated but it does not need to be in conflict to innovation. They will both be more powerful if they are recognized as being mutually reinforcing instead of in opposition.