Why do some inventions take time to “arrive”?

Tim Harford for Financial Times:

Another obstacle to innovation is that people don’t make the right connections. The clinical trial, for example, sits on an uneasy border between medicine and statistics. The medical tradition emphasises the expertise of the doctor and the care of the patient as an individual. The statistical tradition picks patterns out of noise and uses methods that can be applied equally to brewing the perfect pint or testing the effect of fertiliser on crops. Combining the two is not an obvious step.

This is again a fascinating write up. The medical trials were first conducted in 1948 and was headed by an economist.

Both were at some remove from the medical establishment. The man who ran the 1948 clinical trial was neither purely a statistician nor purely a doctor: Austin Bradford Hill’s degree was in economics.

The write up does talk about the chance encounters and equitable access but modern societies will always have asymmetry. Existing groups will always strike out a chance for “disruption” because no one wants to upset the natural order of things.

My blog was started in response to an email from a PI who rejected my application because I didn’t write “enough”. The carefully crafted emails were not enough proof that I could write and converse in English (which isn’t my first language). They still needed a credentialling system to confirm that I could speak English- despite holding my extensive interview in English!

Here’s something that I agree with the author:

 Perhaps innovation does not come naturally. Most of us do things the way we see others doing them, the way they’ve always been done. The idea of a frustrated person becoming an inventor as they silently scream, “There must be a better way!” has become a cliché. Maybe that cliché is scarcer than we think.

It’s not scarce. We are closed minded, and not realising that innovation can occur within the organisation. However, for businesses living from “quarter-to-quarter” approach and far distanced from the academia, will find it incredibly difficult to accept new ideas coming from within the ranks. The “industry-academia” complex has its advantages.

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