Theoretical Basis for Collective Wisdom, Innovation in Chaos

Originally published in Nov 20, 2003. Copyright Mark Abouzeid 2003 – 2011, all rights reserved.

The universe, seen from a far distance resembles chaos or random particles scattered, helter skelter.  In the center we see a core (with some order), a linear core which are the established markets, prevailing culture, our civilization…all aspects that currently exist in what would be considered a developed state.

Although markets all  stem from disruptive innovation or the seemingly random evolutionary pattern that follows disruption, by the time we view them as real markets they resemble the same linear path dynamics that we were taught Darwinian envisioned… survival of the fittest.

As an example, think of the process that gave rise to the classical music we have today.  It would seem that little “bad” classical music had been written.

A review of 20th century composers will assure you that this is not the case.  There are those that would argue that time has weeded out the bad classical music, it has not survived, it does not exist anymore. We are left with “the good stuff”.  Which in itself becomes the foundation for further evolution, the rock upon which jazz is built which is the rock upon which rock is built, etc.  Darwin at his best.

The true process is a bit different, however.  The bulk of what we have today in classical music is the result of disruptive innovation.  It comes from free floating particles in chaos, the mozarts, beethovens, bach, etc, that for whatever reason have been able to create enough mass, enough inertia, enough attention, enough following, to gain movement and as they gain movement, people either evolve it forward or vertically integrate it backwards such that it creates a whole industry, touching society.

That’s the basic concept of disruption.

But why does it work? And why does it work more in recession and less in times of boom?

The answer, in itself, is quite simple. If you imagine a particle…and this might represent anything including cultural taste, a fad,  music, business activity, a company, a resource, one human individual entering the workforce, can be anything that interacts to create a market or is a part of the universe as we know it.

Literally, anything.  Because anything can give rise to, can affect, or be a part of disruptive innovation.

In times of boom, those resources, those particles are more naturally attracted to standard markets.  There is movement in those markets, there is attraction, they continue to suck up more and more resources just because they continue to grow, they continue to evolve.

In periods of recession or even transition, it’s the opposite.  New particles entering into the universe which could be a student graduating from college and entering the workforce, could be a new file structure, could be a color scheme, as these particles enter the market they are not drawn, in fact, they are repelled by the linear standard market. There is not space left in that market, in fact, that market is releasing particles through layoffs, closings, buying freezes.

As they enter in, these new particles are left free-floating in chaos.  Particles released from the standard markets are released into chaos.  These join what can only be called ‘naturally occurring’ chaotic particles: professors, mad scientists, fads.  What happens is that with so many free floating particles, there is a greater likelihood of collision even multiple collisions and when that happens there is a greater likelihood of attraction.

These free floating particles seem to exhibit random movement but like all chaos it is anything but chaotic, merely extremely complex. They have reason, they have motivation, they have movement with purpose…in short, they have inertia no matter how minute or weak.  When they collide and attach, they gain mass, mass creates gravity and gravity creates inertia.  They start to move and, more importantly, they start to move those particles that are close to them.

They become chaotic attractors.  Other particles are drawn to them, even those with the linear standard market.