Common Innovation

Common Innovation

How We Create the Wealth of Nations

G. M.P. Swann

Common innovation is the contribution of ordinary people to innovation and the wealth of nations. Innovation and wealth creation are not merely the monopoly of business. While Schumpeter described business innovation as a, ‘perennial gale of creative destruction’, common innovation is more a, ‘gentle and benign breeze’. This book analyses some illustrations of the destructive side of business innovation, and provides numerous examples of the ‘benign breeze’ of common innovation. It builds on the pioneering work of von Hippel, but takes that a step further. In common innovation, the ordinary citizen is centre stage and business can be quite peripheral

Chapter 19: Education

G. M.P. Swann

Subjects: business and management, organisational innovation, economics and finance, economics of innovation, innovation and technology, economics of innovation, organisational innovation


In this chapter, I shall start with four examples of common innovation around education. The first refers to an ancient example of common innovation – without doubt the most ancient such example quoted in this book. The last refers to one of the most recent educational tools. EXAMPLES Board Games This sections concerns how activities that we might class as consumption (or leisure) can be educational. In particular we consider how ‘board games’ can educate the player. The common innovation may be in the game itself, or in the way that the player learns from experience – or both. Although I refer to ‘board games’, the lessons here are not limited to board games alone: they also apply to computer games and other popular games. But I have used the term ‘board games’ to make it clear that this section is not about game theory! I start with a very old game, which is perhaps best known as Oware, its name in Ghana. It is an abstract strategy game, reckoned to be the oldest board game that is still widely played, and is one of the ‘pit and pebbles’, or Mancala games,1 which have been around for seven thousand years. The game is believed to have originated in Africa, and diffused across the world (including the Far East, Middle East, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean).2

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