The End of Innovation

By Mark Vickers

Everyone knows that global innovation is increasing at a blistering pace, right? Well, maybe it's not, suggests Jonathan Huebner, author of the paper 'A Possible Declining Trend for Worldwide Innovation.' He argues that, contrary to conventional wisdom, global innovation is actually on the skids. If he's right, this may change the way many employers view and manage innovation in their organizations.

Huebner (2005a) contends that the rate at which human beings innovate when measured in terms of important technological innovations per year per person has been on the decline since the late 19th century or early 20th century, depending on which data set is used. Huebner bases his conclusion on two different analyses. First, he examined 7,198 important technology developments that occurred between the end of the Dark Ages and the present day, as listed in The History of Science and Technology. Using that data set, he found that the rate of innovation peaked in 1873. Second, he looked at the number of U.S. patents granted per U.S. resident over time. Using that data, he found that the rate of innovation peaked in 1916.

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