technology and Change: The New Heraclitus

Schon, Donald A.

Schön builds the whole reasoning in the book around how humans relate to stability and change. Parmenides and Heraclitus are presented as advocates of two archetypal ways of understanding reality in relation to change. Parmenides represents the view where "stability was the only reality; being was continuous, changeless, one; change, in the form of creation or passing away, was inherently contradictory and therefore illusory". On the other hand, Heraclitus saw change as "the only reality" and to whom stability was illusory. Schön makes the case that society still hangs on to an understanding that is basically Permenidian, even though such a view do not fit with the radical and constantly ongoing technological development that defines our society (and did already in 1967). To cope with such an environment, innovation becomes a core activity and road ahead. Schön writes something that could be written today "Creativity, for the scientist, engineer and marketing man, and generalship in innovation for the manager, now rank with such traditional corporate virtues as loyalty, steadfastness and financial shrewdness. Increasingly, performance in the corporation has to do, in one way or another, with invention and innovation". In the book Schön dissects what he sees as the dominating understanding of innovation which he calls the "rational view" based on a Parmenidian understanding of reality. He then presents an alternative and Heraclitus inspired view of change, hence the title of the book. It is fascinating to see how in this early book he already have a "theory" of change that later becomes the foundation of his more known work on reflective practice.

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