Simulating genuine novelty: or what is missing after we simulate recombination and diffusion of innovations

What is “genuine novelty” and how to study it with social simulation? This was our task (with Nigel Gilbert and Edmund Chattoe-Brown) in the ESRC-funded project SIMIAN. The project outcome was a book, “Simulating Innovation: Computer-based tools for re-thinking innovation”, published in 2014, and a website, mostly containing replications of classic models. The book provides a critical survey of agent-based simulation in innovation studies, including the diffusion of innovations, especially via social networks, and collective problem solving in organisations and academic science via searching for ever “fitter” combination of ideas, practices and technologies. As the book demonstrates, diffusion can greatly differ from the neat adoption curves taught in business schools and textbooks, and problem solving is complicated by the fact that solutions to one problem can alter the value of solutions to other problems. In addition, there is rarely any focus on the origins, or emergence, of the objects that then diffuse and are combined. In today’s talk I want to discuss how far the book addressed the proposed themes of “genuine novelty”, and what remains to be done. There are links to financial innovation and crises, and also to sustainable resource use and growth, and so the study of novelty and innovation promises to be ever more relevant in the future.

Tuesday, 27 January, 2015 - 12:30 to 14:00
Christopher Watts
Presenter(s) biography: 

Christopher Watts's was a research fellow in CRESS and then worked for three years as a Senior Scientist at Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich. He now lives in Cambridgeshire.