Yesterday, I posted a summary of the first chapter of Scott Berkun's book, the myths of innovation. As interesting as the first chapter is the second one. It rubbishes the idea that the history of innovation can be completely understood - or written.
What makes history? Who defines it? What defines a hero(ine) or heroism?
People and events are transformed to legends and legendaries as an effect of time – all the times. Their (people and events in history) are influenced by “circumstance, world politics and chance” (Berkun, 2007, p. 21) and the location the people are and the events take place.
Further history is written by people after events have shaped up meaning a) that what goes in the history books is not necessarily the truth b) that history is written as a means to a certain predefined end e.g profit for book sale, political advancement of an agenda c) that due to the diverse sources of information historians use, they are bound to impose their perspectives or opinions as facts d) there is a possibility that crucial facts about a historical event are overlooked and e) Oversimplification of historical events so that they can fit a certain timeline, that does not necessarily show any relationship between when the event in question happened and when it started.
When these shortcomings of history and its making are applied in the field of innovations, they lead to a number of assumptions or beliefs such as a) every innovation being adopted is an improvement in all spheres and contexts of the innovation it replaces b) representation of historical events as timelines while in essence there might be no direct progression (without detours or feedbacks) on the timeline.
From the foregoing discussion, it is illogical to assume or believe that we understand the history of innovation.