Invention: Original not Unique
I’ve been happily making art lately and helping my daughter and a friend get their Street Market booth ready and so haven’t posted lately – sorry!
This morning while reading another WordPress blog, “Arts of Innovation”, I came across an article by one of my favorite thinkers, Malcolm Gladwell. In a May 2008 piece for New Yorker Magazine, Gladwell discusses a fairly recent discovery; discovery, innovation, and invention are “in the air”.
Two big ideas jumped out at me; First, that innovation, invention, and discovery is a group process. An idea may be original, but it’s rarely unique. Several people discovered and developed the calculus (a subject I do not understand at all). The Wright brothers weren’t the only people who “invented” successful aircraft designs. In America there were at least two people working simultaneously on the telephone, and the list goes on and on.
If I remember my college anthropology ( oh, I loved that class) the prof. called it independent invention. Groups of humans could and would come up with innovations, and with contact with other humans would pass some of those ideas on to others. However there is strong evidence that separate groups of humans, those who had little or no contact with one another, would come to similar or identical innovation or inventions; hence independent invention.
The article is great “Gladwellian” reading and if you want more, he gave a talk on TED about marketing and product development which is incredibly insightful.
Art is Personal
The second point is that we artists do not work in a “think-tank” environment. Though some arts, particularly the performing arts, are collaborative, we do not sit down and come up with the end product as a group. There weren’t two composers simultaneously working on the Tocatta & Fugue in D Minor, or painting the Mona Lisa. Art uses a very different, very personal process, even though there are great movements in the arts which inform and influence the works of various artists in various media. Art is less communal and is a very personal, internal process. Science as discovery and invention is far more tangible and external with one discovery often leading to others.
Let me know what nourishes & nurtures you. : )