risk-aversion and mediocrity — will they win?

  • Diverse examples suggest a trend toward mediocrity and risk aversion, trends that generally do not support a climate of innovation. Examples: (1) In government, academia, and corporations alike, “tinker-at-the-margins” managers are more common than true leaders. In fact, it has been speculated that the great generals and admirals of WWII would not survive in today’s ranks. (2) A number of established scientific journals publish “progress report science” papers and are not receptive to those papers that challenge mainstream paradigms, even when such papers are themselves based on good science. For their part, professors on a tenure track are sometimes fearful of publishing papers that challenge the prevailing paradigms, even though the professors are then in their most creative years. (3) Companies are often founded on a “wild idea,” but when they mature, they become more risk-averse and less receptive to new ideas.  For this, some eventually pay the ultimate price of going out of business, but that does not deter various other companies from risk aversion. All considered – in your part of the world, what is the future of innovation vs. risk aversion? Another question – is risk-aversion cultural, or is it a consequence of the fact that long-term creative (and perhaps responsive) is often short-term disruptive?
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