When Naoh watches how a boy makes fire with a stick and flint, his life is changed forever. Matches and lighters didn’t exist thousands of years ago, Greeks thought that Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans, but more likely our ancestors obtained fire from natural sources and kept it burning to use for various purposes, such as cooking and heating, as Naoh’s tribe in La Guerre du feu (Quest for Fire).
When I read about innovation today, I feel that our current understanding of how new products and services are developed and introduced into the market, resembles our ancestors’ quest for fire. Even the iconography we use seems to be inspired by a similar way of reasoning. It is the case of those mythical unicorns that fire up the imagination of venture capitalists in quest for profit. And that’s probably the reason why today’s economies, which like old tribes do not know how to make a unicorn—I am not thinking about any particular one—have to carefully protect their established companies.
Having said that, Jean Paul Simon’s “How to Catch a Unicorn” is worth reading. At least, he has managed to ask a few interesting questions: What can explain the unicorn phenomenon? Are all unicorns born mobile? Did Europe miss the mobile turn? What policies do we need? And maybe the most interesting, the last side question: Are all unicorns platforms?
The control of fire was a turning point in human evolution, allowing humans to cook food and obtain warmth and protection. Many anthropologists believe that, without cooked food, the human brain would not have developed into what it is today. Like fire, innovation comes with the promise of increasing wealth, but we still need to ditch Prometheus and find the sticks and flint of innovation. Maybe only after we are truly able to produce innovation at will, will our (collective) brain develop into what we need for a better tomorrow.