In my opinion, thinking about the future of innovation implies thinking about the fascinating and complex History of Humanity. As if it were a good painting, it is important to look at the lines and details but, at the same time, one should go back two steps to see the whole picture. The future of innovation will probably depend on the human ability to deal with knowledge and innovation as a whole; taking into account all individuals, ideas, values and emotions, as well as groups, territories, environments, etc. The integration of all actors and components in the new scenarios will involve more heterogeneous nodes, multiple links and interactions that will enrich the nature of innovation. A key step in the evolution of humankind has been the creation of small networks of cooperation among individuals (such as families, tribes, cities, etc.) in order to survive within different ecosystems and to adapt to changing environments. The speed of the adaptation has increased in specific historical cycles, which has allowed a larger amount of intra and inter-group interactions, favouring the creation of more extensive networks. These new larger networks facilitated the transference of knowledge and the socialisation of innovation. In fact, the human body, understood as a group of nodes (such as cells, neurons, etc.) connected by links, is a perfect example of a complex system enclosed within the context of a network. From a global point of view, the concept of network is a key concept for future scenarios of innovation, where the nodes, the links and the nature of the connections will facilitate or hamper the process of generating an innovative future.
Individuals are born, live and die within diverse networks: metabolic, neuronal, social, cultural, environmental, institutional, etc. Nowadays, there is a “great collective brain” whose maximum exponent is the Big Science that has grown exponentially in the last decades. The great paradox is that as our knowledge increases, our sight becomes more trapped by the lines of the painting, being unable to distinguish the whole image. The creation, development and dissemination of knowledge has been, partially, a consequence of the hyper-specialisation into cognitive disciplines, which has produced multiple and varied advances. At the same time, this specialisation has also resulted into the fragmentation and polarisation of knowledge into many areas whose study and research are weakly inter-connected. Thus, Sociology studies social groups, Biology studies the cells, Physics studies the atoms, etc. The challenge of the future will be to move from thinking and acting through networks towards thinking and acting in networks.
It would be desirable that the “Network thinking” resulted in the capacity to increase our specialisation, without losing the transversal knowledge. In this way, the strength of the thinking system would lie in the combination of certain strong nodes and the existence of multiple connections with other less developed nodes. The future of innovation will depend on the excellence of knowledge and on the capacity of associating ideas, which is one of the keys of creativity: the main basis of innovation. New learning and thinking models should be developed in order to study systematically and understand holistically the different spheres of innovation: scientific and technological, social, economical and cultural.
My dream is that in the future there will be millions of “cognitive spiders”, as many as individuals in the world, which will make social and innovation networks together.