Which kind of people tend to be more innovative in a given area; those who are knowledgeable or those who are inexperienced in the area?
Innovation is more likely to originate among those knowledgeable regarding a certain field of study or industry. While truly innovative ideas can originate from individuals or groups having no prior knowledge of or experience with the area in question, it is through observation and experience that ideas are more likely to incubate. One may look at some of the most innovate individuals in modern history, such as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, and conclude that their inexperience and youth did not prevent them from being the successful entrepreneurs that they were/are, but neither entered their chosen field of industry ignorant of the fundamentals of those industries. Zuckerberg was virtually raised as a computer programmer and was considered particularly adept at understanding computing and code. Jobs was a considerably more complicated figure given his unconventional teenaged and college-aged years and his countercultural proclivities, especially his experimentation with mind-altering substances like LSD. Additionally, Jobs’ brilliance aside, there would likely have been no Apple without Steve Wozniak’s innovations. Jobs’ interest in computing, however, was instrumental in his success as a businessman.
In order to develop a truly practical idea—in effect, something with a realistic application—knowledge of fundamentals is important. Wally Amos might not have been the success that he was had he not learned cooking from his aunt and developed important business connections while employed at a major talent agency. Famous Amos cookies does not rank with such revolutionary developments as social networking and home computing, but Amos was an entrepreneur who understood chocolate chip cookies and the requirement for financial investment on the part of those with money. One can identify examples of successful innovators who entered their field blindly or lacking in knowledge of the subject matter. It is difficult to be innovative, however, without some level of knowledge. Otherwise, the prospects of a viable project are very unlikely to bear fruit.
Innovation entails bringing something new to an activity or operation. Thus, an innovative person would be one who comes up with creative ideas that are beneficial to the process. Innovation often improves a process in order to make it more efficient or effective. The creative idea may also come about when a solution is needed to solve a particular problem.
With regards to the kinds of people who tend to be more innovative, the knowledgeable as well as the inexperienced have a chance to come up with creative ideas, albeit through different processes. The knowledgeable individual has an advantage when it comes to understanding the existing processes and the challenges. Thus, they are more likely to discover how to make improvements because they have a deeper understanding of the problem and its causes.
The knowledgeable person is also likely to come up with an innovative solution because they are motivated to make their work easier, faster, or more convenient.
On the other hand, an inexperienced person enjoys the advantage of not being tied down by existing knowledge. They have more leeway to think “outside the box” or unconventionally and this presents an opportunity to stumble upon creative ideas that would improve the process.
Additionally, an inexperienced person may not suffer from complacency brought about by routine and predictability. Thus, the situation motivates them to discover other new methods that may ultimately achieve better results.
Thus, both kinds of people have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the innovation process.
It is not really possible to answer this in a quantitative way that is clearly correct. It is not possible to measure innovation and degrees of innovativeness and to correlate those things with inexperience or knowledge. Instead, we should note that both kinds of people can be innovative, but that some people think that inexperience helps bring about innovation.
People who are knowledgeable certainly can be innovative. They know a particular area inside and out and may have a good sense for what sorts of changes are needed. This allows them to innovate.
However, it is possible to argue, as the famous entrepreneur Richard Branson does in this article, that inexperience is very beneficial. People who are inexperienced do not know the conventional wisdom in a given area. They are not aware of all the things that supposedly cannot be done. Therefore, they are more likely to try things that more knowledgeable people would not try. Because of this, their inexperience and lack of knowledge can be a real plus for them.
Thus, while we cannot quantify the extent to which each sort of person is innovative, it is certainly possible that inexperienced people will be more innovative than knowledgeable people