The Virtues and Vices of Innovators



Innovation processes are extremely complex and opaque, which makes it tough or even impossible to govern them. Innovators lack control of large parts of these developments and lack of foreknowledge about the possible consequences of emerging technologies. Because of these features some scholars have argued that innovation processes should be structurally reformed and the agent-centered model of responsibility for innovation should be dismissed altogether. In the present article it will be argued that such a structural idea of responsible research and innovation presumes rational agents who can be motivated by reasons. Instead of dismissing the agent-centered approach to responsibility for innovation processes a virtue ethical approach will be developed. Virtues should be considered as the intellectual and moral dispositions presumed for good decision making. It will be shown that creativity and eagerness are creditable character traits that have a distinct positive value for managing the opaqueness of innovation processes. Such traits are mandatory for change and betterment. Furthermore, it will be argued that the notion of responsibility of innovators should not be understood merely as means for constraining them but also as a tool to perpetuate their integrity and happiness. Through discussing the captivating examples of Steve Jobs and the protagonist of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein it will be shown how to apply this virtue ethical framework for innovators in practice.


Virtue ethics Innovation Responsible research and innovation Creativity Technological pioneering 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)KarlsruheGermany

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