Stages of Technological InnovationIn his book, Futuring: The Exploration of the Future, author Edward Cornish spends time discussing several aspect of trends. In fact, it’s at the heart of his thoughts on futuring. Here’s some of his thoughts on why we need to understand how technological innovation occurs.

Joseph P. Martino is technological forecaster. A technology forecaster generally makes forecasts concerning how soon various types of technologies will be possible and what characteristics they may have. They do not focus on what the technologies will have, because the actual technology that will be used in the future depends on economic, social, and political considerations and these are normally beyond the province of the technology forecaster.

For example, a technology forecaster might forecast that it will be possible by the year 2050 to produce electricity from nuclear fusion, but whether thermonuclear fusion will actually be used for that purpose may depend on a variety of non-technological considerations.

Martino has developed stages of technological development. These are:

  1. Scientific findings: Basic scientific understanding of some phenomenon has been developed.
  2. Laboratory feasibility: A technical solution to a specific problem has been identified and a laboratory model has been created.
  3. Operating prototype: A device intended for a particular operational environment has been built.
  4. Commercial introduction or operational use: The innovation is not only technologically successful but also economically feasible.
  5. Widespread adoption: The innovation has shown itself to be superior in some way to whatever was used previously to perform its function and begins to replace previous methods.
  6. Diffusion to other areas: The innovation becomes adopted for purposes other than those originally intended.
  7. Social and economic impact: The innovation has changed the behavior of society or has somehow involved a substantial portion of the economy.

Why Know These?

Knowing these stages means that if we can recognize a certain stage in the development or diffusion of a new technology we may be able to anticipate future changes.

If a technology is at a certain stage in development we can examine the possibilities based on where in the development process it is. We can then postulate what could happen. This allows to create scenarios for the future. It also provides the agility to adapt to the future.

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