End of life of innovations

John W Lewis's picture
Chat Date: 
Thu, Apr 20, 2017

When we adopt innovations what do they replace? Discussion of innovation tends to focus on adoption of new products and processes, but that is only half of the lifecycle. What happens when products and processes are replaced or supplemented?

What happens when innovations come to the end of their life?

We consider innovation mostly in terms of the introduction of new things, but what about the removal of old things, both when there is a replacement and when there is no replacement?

Some innovations are replaced at the end of their life. Many of us will have discarded tape players (including reel-to-reel, cassette, 8-track, etc.), vacuum tube screens (televisions and computer monitors), facsimile (fax) machines, and many other types of products when they are replaced by later innovations.

Some innovations are supplemented: television did not replace radio, aircraft did not replace cars and trucks, trains did not completely replace canals. In each case, some uses of products based on the earlier technology were displaced, but the previous generation of products continued in use.

Sometimes we get the lifespan of products completely wrong. Innovations intended to last a short time end up lasting much longer. In the UK, we have some trains which are introduced in the 1970s as a stop-gap measure for a short period, which re still in service today, 40 years later, and are expected to continue for almost another 20 years. See the High Speed Train 

What happens when innovations run out of life, but there is no replacement available. They need to be extended, refurbished, upgraded, or removed. In the USA, the failure of the Oroville Dam spillway is increasingly being seen as an example of failure to maintain ageing infrastructure to current standards. For excellent citizen reporting on this see: Juan Browne's YouTube channel 

Discussion

During #innochat on Twitter, starting at noon, Eastern time, on Thursday April 20th, let's discuss the other half of the lifecycle of innovations, when they are abandoned, replaced, extended, supplemented, or whatever else happens at the ends of their lives.

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