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Innovation is Connection

November 10, 2014
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Innovation is an intriguing word. It spurs images of the greats like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Steve Jobs, but with it’s broad use in various industries it has become harder and harder to understand what innovation is and what ignites it.

Is every product in Skymall an innovation? Is Firestone still innovating the wheel? Is brainstorming an innovative process?

These are all valid questions, but maybe somewhat tricky to answer. So let’s expand out to the universe for answers.

Perception and Combinations

To start, we must accept one well established but currently unprovable fact; that the universe is complete. In other words, everything that exists, exists within the universe and simply takes new form through various combinations.

With this said, innovation never materializes something new from outside the universe. It is simply a new combination of things that already exist. For example, the collision of various space particles along a spinning axis converged to form Earth. That’s a pretty cool innovation, and I suspect the universe innovates far better than we can. The problem for humans? Humans cannot perceive the universe holistically or instantly which leaves us bound by the limits of our perceptual system. Because we are bound by what we can perceive, innovation is limited by our own egocentric position in the universe. So, by our nature, human innovation is limited to our perception of the bits and pieces of the universe. Luckily for us, we continuously develop techniques and tools that broaden our perceptual abilities and thus our awareness of the universe. The Greeks called it technic.


Technic refers to the art-form process, not necessarily like we understand art-form today, but more like the Greeks understood it as new ways through tools to change our world. The development of tools, in and of itself, is a process of technic as early humans used the tools of their hands to carve rocks and combine them with sticks to form the first spears. Spears are a pretty awesome innovation, too. The point is that the development of tools allows us to broaden our perception of possibilities. Whether in the form of a spear or the Hubble space telescope, we further our own embodiment into the universe around us, deepening our connection with the bits and pieces suspended in space and time. For innovation, deepening connections is one of the fundamental mechanisms that make it work.

Apparitions and Connection

Before innovation appears in the form of a final product, one must imagine, like an apparition, the various possible combinations of bits and pieces and what each variation might yield in terms of meaningfulness. It truly is amazing that people can imagine combinations to predict meaningfulness. Although we start out not knowing exactly how to make the best spear, we know to near certainty that we can, over time, get there. Like scattered pieces of a puzzle, the imaginative image brought on by the scattered bits and pieces of the universe compels us to put them together to form the image that we, in apparition, already know exists.

This apparition is more than an image, it is a connection to our emotions. Innovation must then elevate our emotions. Not just any emotion, but ones of triumph, love, hope, community and exploration. For these emotions are emotions of desire. Like our early ancestors, we desire to reach out and connect beyond our own limitations further into the universe and further between each other.

In order to be innovative, we must imagine our own world not in terms of the objects themselves, but how objects can connect through new tools and techniques to ignite desire. The answer is already in front of us, we only need to be aware of the various possibilities and their value of meaningfulness through desire. For if innovation is anything, it is the outcome of a deep desire to reach beyond our limits in order to connect with triumph, love, hope, community, and exploration.

About the Author: Kevin Rooney is the Director of Innovations at DI and Ph.D. Candidate at Kansas State University developing wearable technology and studying biofeedback in relation to physiological states of emotion.

Image by: https://www.flickr.com/ photos/gnuckx/4277702120/