The quest for innovation has become ubiquitous. It is high on the political agenda and raises hopes where few alternatives are in sight. It continues to be equated with the dynamics of wealth and even job creation and is hailed as solution to the major challenges facing our societies. Yet, as Schumpeter observed more than one hundred years ago, innovation is not only disruptive, but can also be destructive. It creates winners and losers and therefore remains a double-edged sword.
Despite the relentless pursuit of novelty which has become the hallmark of modern societies and their unprecedented preference for the new, there is no theory of innovation. The relationship between technological innovation, be it incremental or science-based, radical innovation, and the capacity of society to create the appropriate conditions and to absorb the outcome socially is far from being understood. Nor is it clear whether innovation can be directed and planned, and if so, to what extent.
Once we are ready to question the more narrow focus on innovation as a short-term goal, hidden temporalities of how the new is generated come into view. So do the multiple ways to re-use the past and what already exists through creative recombination. Finally, thinking beyond innovation as conceptualized today leads to the question of emergence as a phenomenon of complexity and a source of creativity.