Friday, January 22, 2010

Machiavelli on Innovation

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 - 1527) is perhaps most famous for his book on political science, The Prince (1513).  In Chapter 6, Machiavelli offers some telling insight on the difficulties of the innovator.  Like most of what Machiavelli wrote, it is as true today as it was in 1513.

There is nothing more difficult and dangerous, or more doubtful of success, than an attempt to introduce a new order of things in any state. For the innovator has for enemies all those who derived advantages from the old order of things, whilst those who expect to be benefited by the new institutions will be but lukewarm defenders. This indifference arises in part from fear of their adversaries who were favored by the existing laws, and partly from the incredulity of men who have no faith in anything new that is not the result of well-established experience. Hence it is that, whenever the opponents of the new order of things have the opportunity to attack it, they will do it with the zeal of partisans, whilst the others defend it but feebly, so that it is dangerous to rely upon the latter.

[I read this quote in a piece by Jim Toedtman, editor of the AARP Bulletin, Jan-Feb, 2010.]

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