Reinvention: Good for us, bad for wheels

We in the Appropedia community frequently talk about the value of sharing sustainable solutions. “Let’s not reinvent the wheel” is the cliché that often pops up. Meanwhile, I’m keenly aware of the need for humans to reinvent they way we do things. We talk about reinventing just about everything (and usually it’s said like it’s a good thing): energy production, health care, government, transportation, and even international aid. We reinvent ourselves as individuals. My wife has written a book on reinventing strategy creation in business.

So why is one reinvention “good” and the other “not good”? I expect someone’s answered that already. If so, do please leave it in a comment.

My off-the-cuff answer is that reinvention to a new better never-before-seen thing is good, in theory. But inventing is risky – success is not certain. Reinventing things that already exist, like wheels or slow sand filters or solar vaccine refrigerators, is a poor use of resources when you can find a proven solution easily.

In the ancient history of, say, 15 years ago, it was a lot harder to uncover someone else’s clever idea, even if the inventor wanted to share it. Nowadays the sharing and finding have been solved (yay!). We can take advantage of that and reinvent our patterns of behavior away from reinvention and toward sharing and leveraging proven solutions.

So what useful invention, adaptation or optimization have you invented? Can you share it and save someone else the time in the weeds?