Historic Innovation Clusters
Throughout history there have been groups of individuals who have formed innovation clusters. These clusters were comprised of people who hung out together, debated issues, held shows or symposiums, and cross promoted their events and efforts. They happen in every field: art, science, industry, technology, etc. As one person in the group achieved recognition, the others received additional attention as well, and the group became known as a movement, faction, or innovation cluster.
Innovation in Art
In the art world you can see these innovation clusters defining the various art movements. Whether you look at the Renaissance, the Impressionists, or the Pop Art movement, each of these art movements had a group of artists who would get together at a local tavern or cafe for discussions on technique, lively debate on approach and concepts, and camaraderie. These gatherings, group shows, peer discussions and reviews spurred innovation within the arts.
Even though the artists often had disparate techniques within a movement or quasi-movement, they often were exploring similar concepts. A perfect example of this is Gaugin and Van Gogh. Their application of paint was about as opposite as it gets, with Gaugin thinning his paint down to almost a glaze, while Van Gogh applied it thick, straight out of the tube. At the same time, these artists were both steeped in the Impressionist concepts of color and broke the conventional rules of art to push innovation within the arts towards new territories. Both of these artists are hard to classify, and have been included with other innovators in the post-impressionist era.
Pop Art and the Independent Group
Exhibitions in the various movements were typically greeted with derision at the beginning, yet as one artist crossed over into popular regard, they tended to pull the others with them, and spin off still others into new directions of exploration. The Pop Art era was introduced in Britain in the 1950s through the Independent Group (IG), a group of young painters, sculptors, architects, writers and critics who shook up the prevailing thinking of the times. This was not unlike the innovation that took place in the 1980s in Silicon Valley with programmers, gamers, artists, educators, and businessmen: individuals who felt there were other ways to look at and use technology.
Silicon Valley has turned out to be a sustained area of innovation, unlike many of the other innovation clusters throughout the ages. Taking a look at it alongside areas like Florence, Italy during the Renaissance and looking to see what they have in common, we find creative individuals who met in various social groups to debate innovation, a mentor system, a nearby facility for higher learning,a group of patrons (in tech today, we call them Angel investors), and a financing structure for the “big ideas.” Innovation clusters also have a wide range of innovative individuals and visionaries, who bounce ideas off each other, very much like the group we have in Orange called the Inventors Forum.
OCWorx & Innovation in the OC
This is why the founders of OCWorx feel this group is critical. We need to have a network that brings all of those elements together, so that Orange County can foster the beginning movements of innovation that are struggling to get off the ground. Innovation requires the entire infrastructure, or it tends to fizzle and die.
If you are interested in innovation, get out of your house and join the dialogue of other inventors and innovators. If you have a lot of expeieriece that you would like to share, become a mentor. Are you an investor? Don’t just go to other investor meetings, go to where the innovation is taking place and get to know the people in whom you will be investing. Finally, if you an an innovator who has made it to the inner circle, shine some light on those around you who are also doing projects of note. Invest your time, and possibly money into them, and the keep the innovation cluster alive and healthy.
There is an old adage that says it “takes a village to raise a child.” Well, it also takes something quite close to that to start and sustain innovation within an area. Be part of something bigger than yourself…. be part of innovation in Orange County.