Monday, June 19, 2006

The Innovation Manifesto

by Mathijs van Zutphen

It is time to change.

No longer can we as a society or organization, as a collective organism, as a Holon, as an integral and interdependent part of the whole of universal nature, afford to remain inert, comfortable and smug in our illusion of safety and well deserved wealth.

No longer can we afford to hold on to our old beliefs and convenient worldviews, accepted conventions, ‘best’ practices, and well-defined traditions unquestioned, unchallenged.
No longer can we afford to think yet not believe, to listen but not hear, to consume but not experience, to think but not understand, to speak but not act.

This manifesto is a message from those who shamelessly embrace innovation and change to those with more reservations about novelty, those who might fear the inevitable sense of loss involved in change, those less radical, those who have more patience with the status quo and more anxiety about plunging head first into the dark and uncertain unknowable abyss that is the future.

Let us collaborate, let us match up our energies and intentions. Let us strike a balance between fierce boldness and appropriate prudence. Our aim is to create a future together as an expression and manifestation of all the best that is in all of us. Before we can boldly move forward on this ambitious audacious endeavor, first something is required. We, the visionaries, free spirits, change agents, catalysts; the impatient avant-garde of a newer world, an ever renewing world, the not-yet-disillusioned pushers for progress, the strong and wise, the risk-takers and rule-breakers who would give and share rather than take and acquire… we demand acknowledgement of the following realities:

1 Change is the Only Constant
Even as stable universal unchanging principles can be formulated behind the myriad phenomena of our samsaric existence, it is the changing of reality that drives all events. We must embrace the realization that change is what is always present, it pervades everything. Change is the fabric of the Universe…

Even when this realization scares us;
Even when it conflicts with our universal scientific values;
Even when others may tell us, or force us to believe that is it not so;
Even when we risk those things most dear to us;
All systems evolve and develop. Nature shows us that change is creation and destruction; systems arise, develop, flourish and perish. And all ends are new beginnings. Nature is a ballet of creation, where all life leads to death and all death leads to life. We are stable temporal dynamic forms, biological dissipative structures, in metastasis, interdependent autopoeitic entities, ever evolving and transcending into newer forms, higher forms, more abstract more integral forms, always changing, changing, changing…
Even as the changes of life ultimately lead to death, a life without change is no life at all.

2 Change is Difficult.
Humans are influential yet fragile creatures. Nothing illustrates this better than a newborn life: delicate yet strong, uncoordinated yet driven, weak yet filled with promise, so vulnerable, small, delicate, soft, helpless, so sweet and dependent, so much in need of support and assistance.
Humans have an evolutionary desire to escape from insecure situations towards more secure ones, and then desperately hold on to that ‘secure’ situation; to the degree that a changing environmenta contextual reality of the most persistent kindcan be blatantly, forcefully, complacently, even rationally denied. Incumbent systems reject the changes necessary to fit into a new environment, jeopardizing a system’s sustainability itself. It is the logic of formation. A stable pattern represents a victory of order over chaos, and at the same time its proven viability acts as a conservative force against innovation. In human terms: a safe prosperous environment serves as a center of gravity against change, and in this way always implies its own demise through an inadequate response to environmental change. That is the predicament we face.

We must be bold and courageous, we must let go of our craving for security, and find security in the process of change itself. A challenge not difficult is not worth meeting. We can find this courage in the conviction that we, in engaging change, are the sculptors of our own future. Even as the change compels us to act, we are still in control as the creators of our own vision.

3 The Cause of Change
The most important precondition to change is acknowledgement that there is presently, in our current context, a problem: a challenge that requires action, a situation that needs to be improved, an illness that needs to be cured, a fixation that needs to be broken, a frustration that needs to be remedied, a neurosis that needs to disappear, a modus operandi that is unsustainable, a relationship that needs to be mended, a pain which requires healing.

Thus integrity, honesty and a bold and fearless sense of reality are essential. We must have the courage of warriors to engage the realities of the world around us. Without the ability to take up this challenge, to truly live this confrontation, we simply are… Condemned to a life of passive consumption, trapped in a zombie-like inert trance, creative flat liners with nowhere to go. “Choose life” means “choose change”. It is the choice that distinguishes the ephemeral from the eternal, and we must aspire for the latter. Nature itself is eternal, and she is our guide, the matrix to all our endeavors. All species must evolve to stay in the game, that is the great mystery we call life. And so it is life itself calling us into action.

4 Innovation is Change for the Better.
All innovation involves change. What we inherit from the past is well known, predictable and boring. Curiosity is an exciting state of mind, it is fun to face the new. Innovation means transcending an existing situation by creating a new and valuable idea. Innovation is the birth of a new system, integrating and transcending given realities. Innovation associates, experiments, matches, and combines unexpected points of view, it migrates solutions from one context to another… The essence of a situation is exposed, and a path to a brand new solution is created.

Change that is not innovation is detrimental, regressive, defensive, ineffective, or otherwise undesirable since it adds no value to the existing situation, it does not transcend to a higher level, it does not break on through to the other side. Such change contributes little and does not cohere or accord with the natural principles of evolution. It merely consumes energy and does not yield any extra benefits or produce unexpected emergent properties.

The proverbial, and seductive, ‘easy way’ is a flattening of the perspective, a denial of the richness of complex reality and the power of our imagination. We need real change; we require true breakthroughs. We want true progress. Evolution is the incremental increase of complexity in existing systems, the inevitable flow of time towards the new, the more elaborated. Whether disruptive or gradual, innovation is the natural progression of forms.

5 Collaboration is a Precondition to Innovation
New ideas ostensibly seem to be unique products of the individual mind, but does such a thing ― the individual human mind ― really exist? The human mind in isolation atrophies. Our language, the syntax of reason, is essentially social. Our mental images derive from archetypes. Our thoughts are driven by pervading memes, constructed collectively over centuries and millennia of tradition. Meaning is inevitably something social, some expression of collectivity, of togetherness.

Insight arises from a dialogue between people and ideas, as the great Socrates never tired of showing. Creating the right idea is something we do together with others. Only then can we determine, by a weighing of opinions and arguments, the value of our own individual insight.
These others cannot be too similar to ourselves. We need complementary qualities. Yin needs Yang to create the universe, man needs woman to create life, protons need electrons to form atoms… Stan Laurel needed Oliver Hardy, George needed Ira Gerschwin, Newton needed Galileo, and Tom needed Jerry.

From the realization that there is a problem (proposition 3) flows the insight that help is needed. Facing a challenge together is reassuring, it helps us muster up the required courage, and creates so much more joy. All things created are things created together: all that exists consists of elements that are related to each other, Holons cooperating in a coordinated fashion, thus transcending their separate reality, transforming their reality of separation, unifying their context into an organic whole with the purpose to evolve to the next stage. Systems connect to and interact with other systems to create super-systems.

6 Innovation is a Force of Nature
The Universe is not a deterministic Newtonian machine, a clockwork orange in which life is merely a statistical anomaly. Random change is a fiction cultivated by the nescient mind. There is purpose behind the myriad forms which present themselves to our consciousness. Things happen for a reason. A successful habit generates a sustainable system. Such systems inevitably run into obstacles or challenges posed by their environment or other systems, thus Nature is constantly solving challenges she herself has posed in an endless dance of growing complexity.

We suffer from the illusion that new insights and innovations arise seemingly out of nowhere, as if they are products of a random association, a coincidence of reason, an accident of genius. Nothing is created out of nothing. Each new invention emulates something that was there before, each new form is an elaboration on existing entities, interactions and relations.

Innovation is inextricably bound to the transformation processes that are the fabric of reality. Innovation is the essence of the evolution of systems themselves. The human mind itself is a product of nature, and so are its creations, lest we forget in our schismogenetic arrogance. And so there is nothing more natural than our own desire and ability to continually innovate, to apply our creative capacity to the pursuit of better, smarter, more beautiful, more ideal solutions… producing the future from the power of our imagination.

7 Let us Reward Change
All visionaries, free spirits and natural self-empowered change agents know that change is its own reward. Change is the result of an inner drive that comes as natural to them as flying does to a bird. Life is constant learning, evolving, unfolding and growing,
New challenges are good, engaging them is pure joy (even though the process itself brings, inevitably, moments of despair and panic).

Society itself has not always expressed this insight, and our history is filled with examples of the creators of crucial innovations who are punished rather than rewarded for their contribution. Too long is the list of visionaries who suffered rejection and destruction as a response to their transcendent wisdom: Socrates, Aristotle, Seneca, Jesus of Nazareth, Baruch Spinoza, Ignaz Semmelweis, Friedrich Nietzsche, Nicola Tesla, Wilhelm Reich, Charlie Parker, Rupert Sheldrake, Jacques Benveniste, John Hutchison, Robert Becker.

No more martyrs!!!

It is wrong to always favor the inert over the dynamic, the conventional over the new. It is unwise to reward only standard paths and predictable solutions, predictability is the companion of death in the animal world and therefore all other contexts of survival. Let civilization rejoice in the existence of mavericks. Let us appreciate our rebels, our alternative thinkers, our visionaries; our non-conformists, post-conformists, and inventors; our poets, myth-busters and paradigm-shifters.
Let an enlightened society honor the courage and strength of those who dare to lead the way.

Let no one who does not subscribe to this manifesto claim to be knowledgeable or involved in instigating, initiating, triggering, catalyzing, managing, implementing or understanding change. No false prophets, no semi-truths are allowed; opportunism and hypocrisy are valueless symptoms of the wicked and counter-natural aspirations of the demented ego. We must conquer our limited conception of what we really are, obsessively claiming knowledge and power, possessed by the futile arrogance which is the mesmerizing product of that most hypnotic ability we call thought…

Change agents, creators, free spirits, visionaries, humanists, inventors, innovators, artists, poets and philosophers of the world UNITE! Let us realize the crucial importance of connecting all of us into one powerful, flexible, competent, focused, empowered, complex embryonic super-organism. A new and wonderful beast that will lead the way. So that we may lessen the fear, activate the spirit, wake up the slumbering masses, Lead the managers, Advise the consultants and influence the decision-makers towards a shift of the cultural center of gravity.

We are part of an emerging organism of vision and change, and the time of suffering the slings and arrow of outrageous fortune, the days of pursuing similar goals as fragmented isolated entities, the days of the lonely battle against the prevailing fallacies… let those days lie behind us NOW.

Subscribe to this manifesto and do it now. Action is eloquence. Will can only be manifested as a result in the dimension of space and time. Leave a mark. Do not hesitate. Act and act now!
Subscribe, commit, and connect to all those others out there who are heroically endeavoring to create a new world and fight FOR a better future.

All who agree may sign below

Amsterdam, april 2006

Mathijs van Zutphen