Daniel Lemire's blog

, 7 min read

Innovation as a Fringe Activity

8 thoughts on “Innovation as a Fringe Activity”

  1. Aram says:

    Most great ideas start off as fringe ideas that are rejected by most. However, most bad ideas start off this way too. If you think that “accept more fringe ideas” is a underused strategy then you need to consider both good and bad ideas, and to consider costs as well as benefits. Otherwise it’s like the advice to “buy low, sell high.”

  2. Mark Dennehy says:

    > What do these people have in common: Marconi, Alexander Graham Bell, and the Steves Wozniak and Jobs?

    Um, all were hailed as great innovators but (with Woz’s exception) were subsequently shown to have been repeating (or stealing) other people’s work?

    1. It is less about the individuals and more about the fringe communities.

      1. Mark Dennehy says:

        Perhaps a better set of examples to have chosen then, would have been those fringe communities, as individuals and communities are so radically different that using one as an analogy or an exemplifier for the other is at best problematic, and at worst misleading.

        It would, however, require more careful thought lest the argument be applicable to communities like Jonestown. Identifying the defining characteristic that separates fringe communities that produce world-altering changes (though it bears mention that swiss patent offices are not well known as being describable as “fringe” anything), from those fringe communities that do not produce anything positive (pets.com comes to mind), from those fringe communities that are highly destructive (the Manson family) would be a very useful thing to do. Not to mention highly profitable.

        So far as I am aware, beyond the most obvious past-facto observation methods, no-one has any reliable means of doing this.

  3. ok says:

    There is an asian restaurant in my area. We often go eat there for lunch. They are super fast and usually have everything prepared. And it is almost always delicious and a crowded place. They take orders with help of a tablet. Last week a friend ordered a drink. Then, after the rest of the round had ordered their drinks, the friend said, that he has changed his mind and he actually wants something else. And the waiter said, that he is sorry, it is too late, the drink is already in the making. New times.

  4. “Yet, oddly, most people and businesses and governments continue to dismiss, ridicule, or legislate against the activities of innovative subcultures.” That’s totally true and it has always puzzled me. It’s precisely what Tesla currently endures. So many skeptics, so few early adopters, but ultimately, everybody will want an electric car. Besides, a great and inspiring post Daniel!

  5. Robert Zeh says:

    If you take away the assumption that most people want innovation then you will not find it odd that “most people and businesses and governments continue to dismiss… innovation”. While most people like stylistic changes — of the kind you’ll see in fashion — they don’t like fundamental change.
    The don’t like innovation because, for a lot of people, innovation means means losing your job.
    I’m not saying this is a bad thing, overall. I’m glad I get to use an ATM rather than wait for a teller when I want money from the bank. But I’m under no illusions about how gut wrenching innovation — especially innovation out of your control — can be for people in the trenches.

  6. Ben says:

    +1 to Aram’s comment.

    Another piece of commonsense that this essay ignores is that established organizations successfully squash small innovative challengers all the time. These battles do not pointlessly delay the inevitable, but meaningfully determine the course of how things will develop.