Adam Smith Experimental Innovator
The terms innovative conceptualist and experimental innovators do not have to be limited to the world of art. Further research has shown that a similar pattern is also evident across other disciplines, including the literature field (Galenson 2005 and Elias (2013)) and music (Galenson 2009) as well as the high-quality wine industry (Elias and Co 2020) and food and drink (Elias and colleagues 2022). Bruce Weinberg and David Galenson (2019) demonstrate that economists are also classified into two kinds of innovators. Conceptual economists find specific issues and resolve them through deductive reasoning. They typically make the most important discoveries during their early years as they are more likely to challenge the established paradigms. However, experimental economists pose more complex questions and resolve them through gathering evidence. The most important innovations are the result of a long period of study when they examine more evidence.
Inductive innovation is the method used by experimental innovators to think and base their inventions on their experience. Empirical research typically requires generalizing evidence. Therefore, they are usually experiments. A conceptual empiricist is one of the examples of an experimental innovator whose principal contribution was to test hypotheses that were formulated prior to. Douglass North, Robert Fogel, and Friedrich Hayek were among the most innovative experimentalists.
However, conceptual innovators make use of deductive reasoning, and their ideas originate from an a priori logic and often in response to previous work. Theorists are usually conceptual, and the most abstract mathematical theorists are the ones with the highest conceptualization. Kenneth Arrow, Paul Samuelson, and Harry Markowitz were brilliant conceptual pioneers.
Adam Smith: Experimental Innovator
Adam Smith possessed most of the characteristics of an innovative. He came up with his ideas on the basis of the evidence of experience and empirical research. A perfectionist, he wrote and was slow to progress by constantly refining and revising his writings. A Study of nature as well as the Causes of the Wealth of Nations The book, which he wrote in the latter part of his life at the age of 53, is considered, by any amount of influence, the most important work he wrote.
Smith’s idea of competition, as well as his idea of division of labor, are two examples of significant ideas that are rooted in observations. In the words of George Stigler (1957), Smith’s notion that competition existed “in in the context of competition in a race, a competition to obtain limited supplies or to eliminate excess supply… Smith did not specify what led him to these aspects of a notion of competition. We can reasonably conclude that the circumstances of many rivals and the autonomy of action by these rivals were the result of observation.”
In discussing how to work in the Division of Labor, Smith recalls, “I have been to a tiny manufacturing facility of this type with a mere ten employees employed, and some of them were able to perform three or two distinct jobs. However, even though they were in need, and thus unintentionally accommodated with the needed equipment, they were able to work hard enough to and were able to produce around 12 pounds of pins the course of a single day.”
Drawing a parallel with the world of art, Paul Cezanne, an icon of the experimental innovator, was a kin similar to Smith. Cezanne is famous for his meticulousness and never-ending pursuit of perfection. He expressed his longing to reach his artistic goals as well as the resulting feeling of unease until he had reached his desired degree of achievement.
Smith’s letters to Thomas Cadell further emphasized his commitment to his work and the need to improve his writing. In a letter from March 1788, just two years prior to his death, Smith admitted his slow progression, his numerous revisions on the Theory of Moral Sentiments, and his desire to pass on his work in perfect condition.