Creative destruction

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Does the old really have to be des­troyed before the new can emerge?

“Des­truc­tion” sounds pretty brute, but that’s exactly what Joseph Alois Schum­pe­ter meant. As an eco­no­mist, he was thin­king in lar­ger con­texts and indeed about the des­truc­tion of entire mar­kets. The examp­les are well known. Kodak, which lost busi­ness in the pho­to­gra­phic film sec­tor when digi­tal pho­to­gra­phy became estab­lished, or the trade in music CDs after strea­ming ser­vices became estab­lished. Such chan­ges force entire indus­tries to com­ple­tely rede­sign their busi­ness model, or become history.

Inno­va­tors or inven­tors gene­rally do not aim to des­troy mar­kets — that is only some­ti­mes a con­se­quence of inno­va­tion. It is the result of ques­tio­ning fami­liar thought pat­terns — not neces­s­a­rily by des­troy­ing them, but by dis­sol­ving them. Do pho­tos have to be expo­sed on paper? Does music have to be pre­sen­ted on music car­ri­ers? Do you have to own a car if you only use it once in a while? With the dis­so­lu­tion of what is belie­ved to be self-evi­dent or the ques­tio­ning of cer­tain­ties, many new crea­ti­ons take their begin­ning. Howe­ver, it is not that simple.

Des­truc­tion of cer­tain­ties is not always creative

Even peo­ple who are always open to new things and enjoy new expe­ri­en­ces often don’t rea­lize how much they are nevert­hel­ess deter­mi­ned by thought pat­terns and action rou­ti­nes. The crux is that the for­ma­tion of such sche­mata or cate­go­ries is essen­tial for human ori­en­ta­tion, thin­king and acting — we can­not do wit­hout them.

Ever­yone has pro­ba­bly alre­ady expe­ri­en­ced how great the irri­ta­tion can be when it sim­ply comes to devia­ti­ons from the usual in various sani­tary rooms in restau­rants or hotels, for exam­ple when try­ing to get run­ning water out of the sink or the shower. You’ve alre­ady pres­sed any­where that could pos­si­bly be a but­ton, waved your arms to trig­ger a hid­den motion sen­sor … maybe you have to mum­ble a secret for­mula or recite a poem?

The modern arma­ture design can cer­tainly be cre­di­ted with inno­va­tion. The only annoy­ing thing is that inno­va­tive thin­king is expec­ted from users who don’t want to invent any­thing at all, but sim­ply want run­ning water. You can ima­gine how dif­fi­cult ever­y­day life would be if you woke up every mor­ning and for­got how to get dres­sed, how a cof­fee machine works, how to reco­gnize a chair. So such thought pat­terns make sense, and because they make sense, it is dif­fi­cult to des­troy them in order to invent some­thing new. 

Dis­sol­ving in order to create some­thing new

If one looks into the clouds and sees a face there, then this is also based on cate­gory for­ma­tion, which is partly alre­ady innate. Dot, dot, comma, dash — in the appro­priate posi­tion of the dots and dashes — alre­ady lets us ine­vi­ta­bly reco­gnize a face. It really locks into per­cep­tion and once locked in, we can’t see any­thing but that face. Clouds, howe­ver, are very obliging, because they dis­solve by them­sel­ves. Crea­tive des­truc­tion is vir­tually built into clouds.

If one has worked in a cer­tain indus­try for a long time, it is not uncom­mon for the self-evi­dent to be so firmly locked in — not to say rusty — that dis­so­lu­tion can only be achie­ved with a great deal of energy. Chaos rese­arch has also come to the con­clu­sion that order ari­ses (and snaps into place) all by its­elf, while crea­ting disorder/chaos requi­res a lot of energy — unfort­u­na­tely, this does not apply to clea­ning up apart­ments, by the way.

If, for exam­ple, you want to moti­vate employees to deve­lop inno­va­tions, you should the­r­e­fore not save on spen­ding energy to ensure crea­tive des­truc­tion. Once the habi­tual thought pat­terns have been dis­sol­ved, new ideas arise as if by them­sel­ves — just as one can sud­denly reco­gnize a horse, a flower or some­thing else in the cloud face as soon as it has dissolved.

Pro­ce­dure for crea­tive des­truc­tion in practice

The goal of crea­tive des­truc­tion is to get par­ti­ci­pants in inno­va­tion pro­ces­ses in com­pa­nies — e.g. in the form of work­shops — out of their usual and quite hel­pful thought pat­terns. But you don’t make fri­ends by irri­ta­ting peo­ple and ques­tio­ning their cer­tain­ties, as in the case of arma­ture design. That’s why it’s important to explain to your employees why you’re put­ting them through this irri­ta­tion — in the end, they’re usually gra­teful for it because it enab­led them to think out­side the box, gar­nis­hed with the fee­ling of hap­pi­ness that comes with the “aha” moment of a good idea. It’s best to initiate the pro­cess as a playful expe­ri­men­ta­tion like a kind of fan­tasy trip, with the word of honor that you’ll come back down to earth later. 

In the fol­lo­wing, 5 pos­si­ble tech­ni­ques for crea­tive des­truc­tion, which we have tes­ted in prac­tice, are introduced.

Sci­ence fic­tion: A world of the future is deve­lo­ped tog­e­ther or in advance. Howe­ver, this should be desi­gned in such a way that it poses a chall­enge for the pro­duct area for which inno­va­tions are to be developed.

World wit­hout rules and boun­da­ries: Ins­tead of a future world, this can also be a world on ano­ther pla­net where, for exam­ple, gra­vity does not exist, money does not play a role, etc.

Pro­hi­bi­tion of the clo­ser pro­duct group: If the needs, moti­ves and pro­blems of the tar­get group of the pro­duct have been deter­mi­ned before­hand, the task is set: Invent some­thing to ful­fill the need or solu­tion if the clo­ser pro­duct group, e.g. cars, is ban­ned. If neces­sary, this can be broa­dened so that buses, motor­cy­cles, etc. are also ban­ned, even to the point of ban­ning all mobility.

Trans­fer by ana­logy: Visio­nary ideas are deve­lo­ped for a com­ple­tely dif­fe­rent area, which can eit­her be trans­fer­red to the area being sear­ched for, or which is simi­lar in terms of the needs, moti­ves and pro­blems of the tar­get group, e.g. in the case of mobi­lity: bree­ding an ani­mal that is opti­mally mobile.

Apollo 13: “Hous­ton, we have a pro­blem”: The pro­blem on Apollo 13 could only be sol­ved with the resour­ces available in the space cap­sule. There were no spare parts from out­side. Here it must be con­side­red before­hand, which fic­ti­tious situa­tion is tar­get-ori­en­ted. This could be that the pro­blem can only be sol­ved with the means that are in space, or also a Robin­son island or similar.

And fur­ther?

The ideas from the crea­tive des­truc­tion later serve as a basis for the deve­lo­p­ment of more rea­li­stic ideas. The advan­tage is that the par­ti­ci­pants no lon­ger have to move labo­riously from the sta­tus quo to more visio­nary realms, but con­ver­sely alre­ady come from a visio­nary world. So you’ve alre­ady thought out­side the box and can draw from that.

Nevert­hel­ess, one has to be on guard that the par­ti­ci­pants do not allow them­sel­ves to be drawn back too far to the sta­tus quo. In this case, inter­ven­ti­ons for crea­tive des­truc­tion can also be car­ried out in the fur­ther pro­cess, which lead back more into the visio­nary world. Such an inter­ven­tion can con­sist, for exam­ple, in for­bid­ding some­thing in the con­crete con­cept deve­lo­p­ment phase, or by set­ting see­mingly impos­si­ble con­di­ti­ons, e.g..: “The vehicle must not have wheels/engine etc.”.

If the par­ti­ci­pants get too hung up on a less than visio­nary idea or get lost in details, the mode­ra­tor can always declare “Tabula Rasa.” The group then has to start all over again.

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