Echo Breaker-Innovation

7 Oct

Echo Breaker Innovation is about a single question-how does an academic idea add value to a business? It’s a question that’s tried to be answered with big ticket sales, marketing, networking events all with limited to no results. It’s a tough question to answer and Nassim Taleb (2013) has empirically demonstrated that no university, anywhere, has ever produced anything new or productive. However, we’re going to try and answer the question by a) taking on the risk commercially b) reframing the question as a problem which has already been answered before.

Ok, a) taking on the risk commercially- we’ve formed an R & D company, Echo Breaker Research and Analysis Ltd, whose future is going to be dependent on answering this question effectively; this site will chart the progress. B) Reframing the question- getting an academic idea to add value into a business isn’t a sales\ marketing issue, it’s a knowledge acquisition issue.

The field of natural decision making faces a central challenge- how does an expert perform so effortlessly yet finds it so hard to articulate how they do it? The reason is tacit and semi tacit knowledge-things people do without even thinking about, and things people do which they feel is barely worth mentioning. This knowledge is the ingredients of expert sense making but incredibly difficult to get at. Traditional methods like interviews and questionnaires can extract limited amounts of data, but don’t allow complete access to how experts make sense of situations-especially challenging, non-routine events.

You can imagine how this issue has caused a lot of headaches for software developers, products on which success can literally be life or death. As a result, a range of methods have been developed to illicit this knowledge from experts (see Crandell et al, 2006, Rugg et al, 2013).
Getting ideas from one domain effectively to another is innovation; I think Taleb’s (2012) example of wheels on suit cases is an excellent example. To achieve this, the structure of one domain must become transparent so cross links can be identified with the structure of another domain. The structure of a domain is culturally constructed meaning its messy and tacit\ semi tacit. Discovering the structure of a domain is essentially the same problem as trying to elicit tacit and semi tacit knowledge from an expert.

So, you have two domains, the domain of the academic idea (it’s creator, the institution, the subject discipline for example) and the domain of a potential commercial sector (it’s risks, culture, and how value gets added for example). To get the idea from the one domain to the other domain means identifying the relative structures and then making the cross links-literally, effectively translating the idea. This may change the idea significantly, but the change is aimed at adding genuine value not maintaining an abstract integrity.

This is the challenge- to apply knowledge acquisition research to solve innovation problems because they are essentially the problem. We’ll post our case studies here.



Taleb, N.N. (2013) Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder. Penguin

Crandall, B. Klein, G. Hoffman, B. (2006) Working Minds: A Practitioner’s Guide to Cognitive Task Analysis. Bradford Books

Rugg, G. (2013) Blind Spot: Why We Fail to See the Solution Right in Front of Us: How Finding a Solution to One of the World’s Greatest Mysteries. Harperone


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