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The Evolution Of Revolutions by Patrick J. Howie

01/06/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy The Evolution Of Revolutions in the USA - or Buy The Evolution Of Revolutions in the UK

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pub: Prometheus Books. 262 page hardback. Price: $25.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61614-235-3).

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I should point out from the start that ‘The Evolution Of Revolutions’ has nothing to do with people rebelling and how its changed over the centuries. The sub-title, ‘How We Create, Shape And React To Change’, might be a better clue. Author Patrick J. Howie relies on something you’re all familiar with as his main example that we are all familiar with to get you in tune to what he wants to write about. You’re using it right now, the Internet. So you get a bonus of a history of the Internet and he turns out a lot of stuff that you might not know as he covers the history of computer development from 1945 and how the use of the Net really got started in 1989. Hard to believe it’s been only going for twenty-two years. Maybe a digital cake should be used to celebrate having missed the twenty-first birthday. He makes a particular point of showing the need for search engines and without them working as well as they are, we wouldn’t really have an Internet.

One of the stronger points he makes is that as the world has become more complicated, the single genius has been replaced by a team to ensure all aspects are covered. The only thing in common are the people at the top who are reluctant for change and are the hardest to convince. Then again, Howie also points out later how many fads are innovations that failed to keep going. I wonder if that will change now that things change more readily these days?

I should point out that examples used have a particular American bent and although it is only inferred, there is too much focus on companies wanting to make as much money as they can on things like medicines than reducing the price and ensuring everyone can benefit and still get a decent return. You would have thought health benefits for all would have been a stronger need than greed.

The main gist of the book does deal with innovation and it is a social process and often a novel solution to a particular problem. Exploring the innovation process, Howie points out that a lot of the time it also depends on identifying the problem in the first place. That’s all right as far as it goes but what creates the problem in the first place? Einstein might have worked out relativity but its uses only came into effect after he worked it out. I make the point of Einstein because it is also another of Howie’s examples that he oddly doesn’t apply this to.

He does better in saying that innovation needs to be encouraged and is hard work getting others to believe in the possibilities it presents. The latter is more dependent on how easy it is for the individual to come up with ideas although I suspect the real problem is convincing others that it is a good idea let alone it needs an open society to make it work.

Howie also points out that not all innovations succeed and some, like genetics, just depend on the being there at the right time. Innovations also have to better than what is currently available and, more difficultly, at a reasonable price. Things are helped along if people feel they need a change. This also doesn’t mean innovations are perfect, look at how much software has had successive versions been put on the market. Something I wasn’t fully aware of was that more innovation takes place in prosperity, no doubt because there is money available for research and development, than a recession where the deadwood is removed. Things can feed on itself and with so many nations now using democracy we see growth and even China is recognising this despite its political regime.

As can be seen by the depth of my comments, I have found this book thought-provoking and an interesting read. Howie’s writing style is very easy to read which makes it very easy to absorb the information he’s presenting. It’s the kind of book you would read and lend to your boss and see if they will change their ideas on safe innovation and do more to improve their current products and even come up with something new.

GF Willmetts

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This book has 76 votes in the sci-fi charts

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