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Currency (2020-09-09)
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English
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Political economy
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THE INNOVATION DELUSION

How Our Obsesseion with the New Has Disrupted toe Work That Matters Most

by Russel, Andrew L.Vinsel, Lee

Innovation is the hottest buzzword in business. But what if the benefits have been exaggerated, and our obsession with finding the next big thing has distracted us from the work that matters most?

It's hard to avoid innovation these days. Nearly every product gets marketed as being disruptive, whether it's a genuine new invention or just a new toothbrush. But in this manifesto on the state of work, historians of technology Lee Vinsel and Andrew Russell argue that our way of thinking about and pursuing innovation has made us poorer, less safe, and--ironically--less innovative.

Drawing on years of original research and reporting, Vinsel and Russell show how the ideology of change for its own sake has proved a disaster in the wrong hands. Corporations have spent millions hiring chief innovation officers while their core businesses tanked. Computer science programs have drilled their students on programming and design, even though the overwhelming majority of jobs are in IT and maintenance. In countless cities, suburban sprawl has left local governments with loads of deferred maintenance that they can't afford to fix. And sometimes, innovation even kills--like in 2018, when a Miami bridge hailed for its innovative design collapsed onto a highway and killed six people.

In this provocative, deeply researched book, Vinsel and Russell tell the story of how we devalued the work that underpins modern life--and in so doing, wrecked our economy and public infrastructure while lining the pockets of consultants who combine the ego of Silicon Valley with the worst of Wall Street's greed. They offer a compelling plan for how we can shift our focus away from the pursuit of growth at all costs, and back toward neglected activities like maintenance, care, and upkeep.

For anyone concerned by the crumbling state of our roads and bridges, or the direction our economy is headed, THE INNOVATION DELUSION is a deeply necessary re-evaluation of a trend we can still disrupt.

Andrew Russell is a professor of history and the dean of arts and sciences at SUNY Polytechnic Institute. Lee Vinsel is a professor in the department of science, technology, and society at Virginia Tech. Together, they are the founders of the Maintainers Conference and research network, and their writing on the topic has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Washington Post, and Wired. Author Site: leevinsel.com; arussell.org

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