The other day the programmer Bret Victor released a series of private emails with Alan Kay (the famous computer scientist) where Alan discusses how we require public, unfettered research to truly innovate because businesses are trying to solve pre-existing and visible problems, and aren’t looking for them. But I really like Oliver Reichenstein’s take on the matter here:
One cannot innovate under business objectives. Businesses are trying to solve problems—fundamental research, first of all, finds problems.
Businesses approach innovation like that guy who is looking for his keys under the bright lantern—and not in the dark alley where he lost them. Fundamental innovation cannot be done under the bright lantern of ROI and shareholder value. It needs the freedom to search in the darkness where the problems lie.
I particularly enjoyed the link that Oliver added at the end to a talk by Kenneth Stanley all about the same stuff, namely that sometimes objectives are dumb and we need to experiment wildly in all directions to learn new things.