Innovation and Critical Fixities (Classic Reprint)

Innovation and Critical Fixities (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from Innovation and Critical Fixities

In our previous working paper (#1284-82) we concluded that one of the chief contributors to productivity decline is poor strategic management. For example, we noted the inability of U.S. automobile manufacturers to make significant innovations to increase value added. Now we need to understand what are the factors of this seeming inability to make the strategic investments at the appropriate time.

To do so, we first need to understand the effects of technological advances on supply and demand which act as positive incentives for firms. We then develop more fully our notion of critical fixities, which act as inhibitors to the investment process, examining the issue both theoretically and empirically.

We would like to begin by conceptualizing the notion of innovation in a larger framework. We define innovation as a reconfiguration of existing material which enables users to facilitate the means of achieving utility. Innovation is produced by providing a new context for existing matter. It is a unique or new way of putting things together. To use the terminology we have used earlier, it is the meaning generated by the context in which data is put. This context provides the beholder a competitive advantage temporarily, the extent of which depends upon the ability of others to imitate. This ability, in turn, is dependent upon the state of development of potential imitators vis-a-vis the new context. If others are at a similar or proximate state of development, the innovation will be adopted quickly, unless other barriers to imitation exist.

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