Importance of Social Networks and Idea Execution

The first reason is that Darwin’s network was much, much better than Wallace’s. Darwin was friends with Hooker, Lyell and Huxley. It was Hooker and Huxley that arranged the joint presentation of Darwin’s and Wallace’s papers to the Linnean Society after Wallace submitted his before Darwin was ready to publish The Origin of Species. One of the reasons that Darwin became synonymous with natural selection is that he had pre-existing strong relationships with the people that needed to use and write about the theory. The modern lesson is that your network connections are critically important. When you try to get your ideas to spread, it helps tremendously if you are well-connected within the network of people that can use your idea (and this is true whether your idea is a product, a service, a way of doing things, or a theory).


by Tim Kastelle

Importance of Social Networks and Idea ExecutionI’ve always been a fan of Charles Darwin. I think that he was a great scientist – a careful observer and deep thinker. But I still agree with many of Richard Lewontin’s points from his article about Darwin in the New York Review of Books. The main point that Lewontin makes in the first half of the article is that much of the Darwin fetishism these days is out of proportion to the quality of Darwin’s work. In particular, he tries to move away from the great man theory of science. In doing so, Lewontin cites Alfred Russel Wallace’s simultaneous publication of a theory of natural selection, and the dependence of both theories on a hereditary mechanism as developed by Mendel. So instead of talking about Darwinian evolution, Lewontin maintains that we should be discussing Darwinian-Wallacian-Mendelian evolution.

Fair enough – we probably should be doing exactly that. Or we should be calling it the modern synthesis to recognise the great genetics-based development of evolutionary theory in the 20th century. So why do we still often talk about Darwinism? Darwin and Wallace first published their pieces on natural selection at the same time – they essentially had the same idea. Why did Darwin’s version have the greater impact? I have two reasons for this, and both are important for modern innovators to understand. Leer más “Importance of Social Networks and Idea Execution”

How Technology Made Us Humans

By Curt Hopkins

artape.jpgIn his book, “The Artificial Ape,” anthropologist and archaeologist Timothy Taylor makes the startling claim that we did not make tools, tools made us.

He reminds us that the oldest stone tools we’ve found are 2.5 million years old. But the genus to which we belong, Homo, is only 2.2 million years old, at least according to the current fossil record. Our species, Homo sapiens, has been around for less time than the gap between tool creation and our genus.

In a fascinating interview with New Scientist, Taylor believes “earlier hominids called australopithecines were responsible for the stone tools . . . The tools caused the genus Homo to emerge.”

How does that reverse the human-technology equation? Taylor believes that the creation of tools – in his example a sling to carry an infant – is “how encephalisation took place in the genus Homo.” The creation of technology to take care of infants allowed them to be born more helpless. In other words, the development of initial tech allowed evolutionary forces to shape us in a particular fashion. In fact, perhaps forced them to do so.

“We used technology to turn ourselves into kangaroos. Our children are born more and more underdeveloped because they can continue to develop outside the womb – they become an extra-uterine fetus in the sling. This means their heads can continue to grow after birth, solving the smart biped paradox. In that sense technology comes before the ascent to Homo.”


artape.jpgIn his book, “The Artificial Ape,” anthropologist and archaeologist Timothy Taylor makes the startling claim that we did not make tools, tools made us.

He reminds us that the oldest stone tools we’ve found are 2.5 million years old. But the genus to which we belong, Homo, is only 2.2 million years old, at least according to the current fossil record. Our species, Homo sapiens, has been around for less time than the gap between tool creation and our genus.

In a fascinating interview with New Scientist, Taylor believes “earlier hominids called australopithecines were responsible for the stone tools . . . The tools caused the genus Homo to emerge.”

How does that reverse the human-technology equation? Taylor believes that the creation of tools – in his example a sling to carry an infant – is “how encephalisation took place in the genus Homo.” The creation of technology to take care of infants allowed them to be born more helpless. In other words, the development of initial tech allowed evolutionary forces to shape us in a particular fashion. In fact, perhaps forced them to do so.

“We used technology to turn ourselves into kangaroos. Our children are born more and more underdeveloped because they can continue to develop outside the womb – they become an extra-uterine fetus in the sling. This means their heads can continue to grow after birth, solving the smart biped paradox. In that sense technology comes before the ascent to Homo.” Leer más “How Technology Made Us Humans”

Evolutionary Innovation

One of the big mistakes that smart people commonly make is to think that a great idea sells itself. If this were true, innovation would be fairly simple – just come up with great ideas. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. Innovation is actually a process – you need to generate great ideas, you need to select the best ones and figure out how to execute them, and you have to get these executed ideas to spread.

These three steps are variety, selection and replication – that’s an evolutionary process. In fact, the history of the idea of evolution through natural selection provides a good lesson in how innovation is more than just coming up with great ideas.

We think of evolution by natural selection as Charles Darwin’s idea. However, the first public disclosure of Darwin’s big idea happened at a meeting of the Linnean Society in 1858 – and at that meeting two papers on evolution by natural selection were read. One was written by Darwin, and the other was written by Alfred Russell Wallace. One of the most powerful ideas of the past 200 years was developed nearly simultaneously by two people. And the initial impact of this great idea was, well, nothing.


Posted by TimothyKastelle

One of the big mistakes that smart people commonly make is to think that a great idea sells itself. If this were true, innovation would be fairly simple – just come up with great ideas. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. Innovation is actually a process – you need to generate great ideas…

One of the big mistakes that smart people commonly make is to think that a great idea sells itself. If this were true, innovation would be fairly simple – just come up with great ideas. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. Innovation is actually a process – you need to generate great ideas, you need to select the best ones and figure out how to execute them, and you have to get these executed ideas to spread.

These three steps are variety, selection and replication – that’s an evolutionary process. In fact, the history of the idea of evolution through natural selection provides a good lesson in how innovation is more than just coming up with great ideas.

We think of evolution by natural selection as Charles Darwin’s idea. However, the first public disclosure of Darwin’s big idea happened at a meeting of the Linnean Society in 1858 – and at that meeting two papers on evolution by natural selection were read. One was written by Darwin, and the other was written by Alfred Russell Wallace. One of the most powerful ideas of the past 200 years was developed nearly simultaneously by two people. And the initial impact of this great idea was, well, nothing. Leer más “Evolutionary Innovation”