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Looking for innovation at the American Museum of Natural History

February 12, 2007, 10:56 AM

Hall_of_human_origins When it comes to innovation, is it too much of a simplification to say that there are two types of people -- creationists and evolutionists? Creationists believe that most innovation results from a random spark of creativity somewhere within the organization. These folks tend to focus much more on the "fuzzy front end" of innovation, and rely on creativity-inspiring tools such as brainstorming to push forward the innovation process. In contrast, evolutionists believe that most innovation results from a long, hard slog of continuous innovation, as each small bit of innovation builds on itself in a recursive manner. Instead of focusing on the "fuzzy front end" of innovation, these folks tend to focus on the "process" of innovation.

As you might have guessed from the format and layout of this Endless Innovation blog, I tend to place myself in the evolutionist camp of innovation. (Oh, and for any Bible-thumping bloggers out there, my "belief system" about innovation says nothing about my "belief system" when it comes to religion, spirituality and the cosmos). Anyway, if you are inclined to take an evolutionist view of things, though, the new "Hall of Human Origins" exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City looks quite interesting. (Especially the milky white vials of DNA from 40,000-year-old Neanderthals!) The permanent exhibit opened over the weekend (February 10-11), and I hope to get up to the Upper West Side sometime within the next week or so in order to refine my thinking about the evolutionist view of innovation. Anyway, here's a brief blurb about the exhibit from the New York Times:

The museum’s new permanent exhibition on human origins, which opens tomorrow, merges notable achievements in paleontology and genetics, sciences that have made their own robust evolutionary strides in recent years. Each introduces evidence supporting the other in establishing a genealogy extending back to protohuman species that arose in Africa from earlier primates some six to seven million years ago.

These two scientific threads run through the exhibition like the strands of the DNA double helix. Ellen V. Futter, the museum’s president, said the “mutually reinforcing evidence” was organized in the exhibition to address three fundamental questions: Where did we come from? Who are we? And what lies ahead for us?

[image: The Hall of Human Origins]

 

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