Dimensions of Understanding for Intelligent Innovation

An innovation is any product or process that alters the existing ways of doing things. Intelligent innovation is characterized by strategy, precision, and effectiveness. I have identified five irreplaceable, uniquely influential modes of understanding by which innovation can be conducted intelligently. Innovators who are competent in these dimensions are generally capable and precise in their comprehension of great causes and grand effects. The dimensions are:

  1. Scientific Understanding
  2. Technological Understanding
  3. Economic Understanding
  4. Sociocultural Understanding
  5. Philosophical Understanding

These dimensions or pillars are arranged above in an interesting order. Noticing their initials, one could have ordered them to spell STEPS (but not PESTS!). However, the current form ranks them conceptually in a manner that justifies the rigidity of the selection.

Some thoughts probably come to mind at the sight of this list. One is that the items are known elements of knowledge in modern culture. Another note, a possible misrepresentation partially influenced by the prior is that the list itself seems obvious. But a ‘selection of obvious items’ is not the same as an ‘obvious selection’ of items (for instance, this essay contains only conventional words). Where a list is the former but not the latter, it might be because each item meets specific criteria of which one’s knowledge implies an understanding of the factors that determine the quality and completeness of the list. The implication is that there exist other things that would have made it to the list if one chose carelessly from an acceptable supply pool.

Explaining the Dimensions

Below are explanations of the dimensions of understanding for innovators:

Scientific Understanding

It entails various features that are abundantly, but perhaps not sufficiently, contained in the ability to employ the scientific method. More fundamentally, it is the familiarity with scientific knowledge within the context of scientific principles. It entails the accurate application of facts and theories and an understanding of the relevance of scientific research on the subject of interest. Science is a critical pick because it encases the domains of all quantifiable knowledge.

Technological Understanding

A simple view is that technological understanding refers to comprehending how things work. Fundamentally, it is an intimate knowledge of the configuration of physical elements and the processes involved in transforming them from one form to another. By implication, it is the application of science. Superficially, it is the familiarity with the landscape of technologies. 

Economic Understanding

Economic understanding is, fundamentally, an understanding of the dynamics of the creation, transformation, and exchange of value. It is an intimate knowledge of principles by which the appetite for products drives the flow of money in the market. It is superficially a familiarity with market trends.

Sociocultural Understanding

It is an understanding of the rules that govern what people do, including the physical and abstract symbols they create, in groups; how social practices conform, transform, and sediment into tradition.

Philosophical Understanding

It is a thorough understanding of things at the conceptual level, their implications against each other, and what it all means in the grand scheme.

Applying the Dimensions to Innovation

The two broad ways the dimensions apply to innovation are the general/absolute versus the specific/precise forms. In the ‘absolute’ case, one can imagine the intelligent innovator as an individual who is highly competent in all of the dimensions of understanding. It enables them to assume a clear picture of how the world works and, by extension, achieve an accurate vision of the future. Indeed, a great innovator is a futurist, at least in their ability to predict events. On the other hand, one could conceive each dimension as quality with respect to some specific innovation, such as a product, an organization, or a process. Therefore, one with thorough (STESP-wise) knowledge of innovations understands (i) how it solves problems and affects the user’s experience to a scientific degree of accuracy, (ii) what technologies underly its functionality, (iii) how it would sell and influence market dynamics, (iv) how it would alter social rules and behavior within and without its user space, (v) and its broader implications for consequential matters such as human identity and the universal body of knowledge.

Primarily, philosophical understanding entails knowledge of the target innovation that concerns what it really is and why it is done. But to achieve this, one must confront the philosophical (e.g. epistemic, ontological, and metaphysical) problems pertaining to each of the other dimensions. Thus, it is the glue that connects and binds all the dimensions, including itself.

A Holistic Picture of the Dimensions

The dimensions, in the order provided, concern the factual (science), the practical (technology), the behavioral (economics and socio-culture), and the conceptual (philosophy). The relational nature of this system of thought is such that one’s understanding of some innovation can begin from any dimension and cut across the rest. One could start with scientific facts and progress through their application, arriving at their philosophical implications. Conversely, one could begin with a philosophical concept, work through the technologies that influence its materialization, and finally arrive at the science of how it all works. Indeed, the STESP innovator has a thorough grasp of the world it inhabits; mastering how to interpret, predict, and change it.