Why Innovation is Tough: the rockets example from Neal Stephenson

February 3, 2011 at 2:21 pm Leave a comment

by Alec Patton

Slate has a really nice piece by Neal Stephenson illustrating the innovation-stifling phenomena of ‘path dependence’ and ‘lock in’ by examining the reasons that rockets – a 1000-year-old technology – are the only method we ever use for getting people and things into space.

Definitely worth a read if you care about innovation. Here’s an extract:

Rockets of the old school aren’t perfect—they have their share of failures—but they have enough of a track record that it’s possible to buy launch insurance. The importance of this fact cannot be overestimated. Every space entrepreneur who dreams of constructing a better mousetrap sooner or later crunches into the sickening realization that, even if the new invention achieved perfect technical success, it would fail as a business proposition simply because the customers wouldn’t be able to purchase launch insurance.

via Space stasis: What the strange persistence of rockets can teach us about innovation. – By Neal Stephenson – Slate Magazine.

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Entry filed under: Innovation Policy.

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