“Innovation is the market introduction of a technical or organisational novelty, not just its invention.”
- Joseph Schumpeter (Theorie der wirtschaftlichen Entwicklung, 1911)
Joseph Schumpeter is better known, at least at the Institute of Design, for his coining of the term ‘creative destruction,’ describing his belief that capitalism creates economic development through the destruction of a preexisting economic order.
I can admit that I embrace the energy of Schumpeter’s statement without having the benefit of a completely nuanced understanding of the dynamics of his argument. There is something so appealing to my dramatic side to think of designers as the vanguard of a better future, tearing down the staid, inefficient, lost systems of the past. It may have to do with my interest with Marinetti’s Futurism in my undergraduate days.
But does ‘innovation’ really deliver value through annihilation? I thought it would be too easy to lead off this post with the quote that birthed the term ‘creative destruction,’ so instead I chose to share the quote above. What it leads me to think is that designers like to give themselves too much credit. Sure, we may be the ‘creators’ of innovation, but what is innovation if it doesn’t find its market? Once introduced, and adopted, it is the market itself that tears the old system apart with gusto.
But what led me to revisit this snippet of Schumpeter? An event that is taking place literally as I write this. Tonight, September 18, the Graham Foundation is marking the 50th anniversary of the Fluxus movement by presenting The Thousand Symphonies, by Dick Higgins.
From the description of the event:
“In 1962, Higgins wrote a series of events called Danger Music, which were designed to alternately put the body of the performer, composer, or audience member at risk. In 1968, he realized one of these pieces by having a New Jersey police officer fire a machine gun at a few hundred sheets of orchestral music paper. An ensemble later played the holes. An act of simultaneous destruction and creation, the gesture emphasized the use of guns for a purpose other than killing Viet Cong and scattering protestors.
Recently, Dennis Rosenthal, the director of Higgins’s estate, arranged with the City of Chicago to have four Chicago Police officers shoot new notation paper. On September 18 at the Graham Foundation, a live orchestra led by Stephen Burns will play the new sheets following the presentation of a short film documenting their creation.”
Creative destruction, indeed.
For any ID students interested in attending similar events in the future, please let me know.