Fantasy and science fiction are both involved in the process of innovation in techno-scientific societies. Long regarded as a hindrance to rationality, and to science, science fiction has become the object of praise in recent decades. Innovative organizations use science fiction to stimulate the creativity of their teams, and more and more entrepreneurs are using its influence to develop innovation. Scientific practice relies in part on an imaginary dimension. The mapping of the technical imagination of science fiction has become an important strategic issue, as has its patentability. The conquest of space, the construction of cyberspace and virtual reality, biotechnologies and nanotechnologies are all at the center of futuristic fictions that participate in scientific speeches and discoveries.
Thomas Michaud is the author of Innovation, Between Science and Science Fiction, published by Wiley.
The significance of such fields as the innovation sector can be gauged, among other things, by the existence of Handbooks (thus, an encyclopedic work) that tackle questions concerning the creation of innovations in relation to organizations and networks, the role of institutions, the variation of the phenomenon over time and according to the lines of business, its place within the process of economic growth, competitiveness on an international level and its impact on employment, the nature and importance of innovation, and strategies and practices used to benefit from its effects from an organizational standpoint. This is done by dealing with the classic problems related to R&D management, intellectual property, creativity as well as design, social networks, social innovation, open innovation, innovation in business models, innovation ecosystems, innovations in the service industry, innovation platforms and the importance of innovation in terms of environmental sustainability.
Nowadays, innovation is a central discourse, with its sentimental "maps", its "good shapes" (among which the unusable "S-curve" and the naturalism of its declinism), its univocity (in this sense, innovation is identified as success) and therefore its fictional stories (innovation then becomes closer to science fiction and differs from tradition in this respect). It is also common to mention an obligation in today's world to permanently innovate, which is regarded as a prerequisite for survival . is it a sort of rationalizing implementation of the improvisation inherent to human actions? Is it a program of a better world in the eyes of tradition, which finds meaning in the past?
Innovation belongs to the family of "portmanteaux", given how diverse its related meanings are. As for the root of the word - new - the issue we must tackle involves finding out the aspects to which innovation is discussed in relation to: figures (the client, the organization, etc.), an existing situation or uses. Innovation differs from technological assimilation, despite the close interface between these two notions, highlighting thus a technology which is regarded as "high" and yet, lest we forget, is not opposed this way to a technology that may be considered "low".
Innovation also differs from the notion of "creation", even if we should point out its inherent vitalistic perspective, which is a way of validating innovation as a form of quiet transgression. In its vitalistic sense, innovation is defined by the idea of a contingency aimed at the restrained socialization in place within the organization. It is in this sense that referring to the process of creation led first to the logic of linear innovation models (from the idea to the product.), resulting today in interactionist and diffusion-centered notions of innovation. In both cases, the assimilation is entrepreneurial and involves a sort of confusion (first-degree confusion - passive fusion) of three figures: the creator, the innovator and the entrepreneur. In terms of current ideological discourse, innovation is also a justification of the income of the companies that are ruling the world (see the staggering margins of the "GAFA").
Innovation also involves the issue of the desire to innovate together with the "entrepreneur" and "risk" tension that refers to the entrepreneur anthropology put forward by J. Schumpeter and to a push-technology theorization of innovation. In this context, innovation will involve an approach that reduces incertitude by converting it into risk. This is the vision that generates innovation. Vision implies "seeing clearly", which also represents a definition of managerial will in the way it blends judgment in terms of existence (sight is what makes vision possible and the breadth of vision will depend on the focal distance) and value (innovation is the expression of a visionary perspective that includes the idea of temporal projection). This mixture follows, in this regard, the religious inspiration linked to the idea of mission and its associations with guidance, unlike political logic! However, vision is also a resilient guide: it varies in the face of significant changes (or at least it is supposed to do so). Vision is a word that derives from the verb "to see", but within a temporal context: a vision implies seeing into the future and not only in space. Coupled with a rationalist logic, vision is simultaneously the representation of a desirable as well as possible future, namely a sort of "clairvoyance". In this sense, vision produces a representation by encouraging us to focus our energy on making this vision become a reality.
As the foundation of a projective logic, innovation happens to structure a discourse. It is in this sense that success stories (iPod, iPhone or, further back in history, the Twingo, the Post it, etc.) proliferate. These "stories" are defined by how they highlight a mixture of structural-organizational constraints (which "stifled" the innovative potential unleashed by the project), intuitions, essentially collaborative relationships and the benevolent attitude of general management. The organizational subset forms a system with the rest and gives the impression (at least, this is what emerges from these stories) of ending up involving everything else in its dynamics. It is also in this respect that innovation happens to found an organizational (rather than financial) version of performance. The other success stories in the field are those that confound innovation and business with such iconic symbols as Zodiac, Tefal, Rossignol, etc. Everything about them is described as "the best": management, skill, human resources, profitability, market suitability and image. It is in this context that innovation becomes "organizational culture" or even culture in general, ignoring the theme of the possible (or impossible) overflow of jobs from one sector to another, where we once again come across the learning issue, which, however, includes here its social dimension, and the tensions specific to the dynamics of innovation (see the disappearance of "small businesses").
This work regards innovation as a discourse - the discourse of science fiction. However, it also highlights its performative dimension, namely its natural ability to create those elements of reality that fit into the logic of the discourse. This is the reason why the author regards innovation as a discourse in the sense given by J. L. Austin (How to do Things with Words), which can thus be understood as:
- - a propositional (or locutionary) act where the desire to innovate derives from the expression of managerial will;
- - an illocutionary act (what is done concurrently with what is said - promise, command, desire) whereby innovation differs from tradition;
- - a perlocutionary act (what we produce concurrently with what we say, for example, intimidation), which is to linguistics what self-fulfilling prophecies are to epistemology and organizational sciences. Innovation is then the "creation" of something but also "transgression".
However, let us recall Austin's types of failures of performative acts with:
- - failure, as the act is intended but empty and therefore unfulfilled, owing to the unsuitable reference to a procedure, an undue demand of forbidden acts, but also a practical failure (a botched execution);
- - the abuse of a fact of a fulfilled but insincere act.
Failures are most often hidden in the sagas of innovation. With innovation, links between "discourse" and "action" are established, since innovation may be regarded as an "organizational discourse".
If innovation has to do with a vitalistic perspective, as it has been underlined at the beginning of this work, we must then highlight its evolutionary and selectionist dimension, namely its inherent transgression, on which its specific superiority is therefore based: it is because we innovate that we contribute to the development of society and it is also because we innovate that we better adapt. In both these cases, we can certainly find the logic of science fiction. Innovation is generally considered the manifestation of an evolution (perceived as "positive" but also "progressive") and, through another conceptual lens, a form of learning. Innovation, just like science fiction literature, relies on the quest for "selectionist" features.
This is also the case for the "innovation - change" interface. Alter1 represents innovation as a change while also encouraging us to distinguish between "change" and "movement". According to him, innovation is based on three types of logic: intuition, a notion of good (a "positive" belief) in line with intuition and social recognition, as intuition and imitation play a key role in its adoption.
In terms of organizational change and innovation, the concept of stability is relegated to second place, in favor of the notion of change, and represents a sort of blind spot of the latter concept. The praise of change as the fruit of innovation, which very often becomes a reality, is then structured against stability and permanence, regarded as inertia. Like innovation, change may be represented in the categories of evolution (it is then seen as an incremental process) or...