A new sight to the relationship between complexity and innovation

Stylized lithium-7 atom: 3 protons, 4 neutrons...
Image via Wikipedia

There are some attempts in order to find a metric of innovation. Thinking about that I have found a strong relationship between complexity and innovation. Complexity means functionality and innovation new activities. At first sight, it is reasonable to think that innovation is supported by a more complex organization because a new activity requires additional functionality. They seem two sides of the same coin.

But it is not always true, many innovations provides simpler processes. A new way to do the same thing will be preferred if the result is more efficient, and
efficiency is usually provided by simpler processes. We noticed that an innovation produce a change in the complexity of the system but they can be inverse.

If we search for an analogy at the physic world, we can find a relative recent discover. Einstein found a relationship between mass and energy that changed the first principle of the thermodynamics. Einstein shows us that mass and energy and essentially the same thing, we can see mass as a concentrated energy, and they are interchangeable. This assertion is the base of the nuclear energy.

If innovation is the result of concentrating complexity (functionality) in a
product or process, we can see complexity and innovation as two sides of the same coin yet. Complexity is like energy and innovation is like mass. And the analogy can explain the paradox of the efficiency increase provided by some innovations.

We can think that every new innovation requires a new amount of complexity. If we start an innovation project we will need to establish a structure of engineers to develop the project, funding it, assign some company resources, etc. This activity will introduce complexity in our organization. The result can provide a simpler process. Funds invested as innovation will remain as an asset, but the staff of engineers and other resources will be released.

If we think that an innovation project is similar to a nuclear reaction, although many fusion reactions absorb energy, every day we can see some of them that emit energy. The Sun can transform two atoms of hydrogen in one atom of helium and one neutron with additional energy released. The result (like an innovative process) will have lower mass.

This analogy shows us the effect of the spare complexity in the organization too. If we do not release the spare complexity of the innovation process, this
additional and unnecessary complexity makes the organization less manageable. As a nuclear reactor must be refrigerated to avoid that the controlled facility
turns into a nuclear bomb, we must maintain the complexity level under control releasing the spare complexity.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s