Excellent interview. Regarding the locus of great ideas, in 1945 Friedrich Hayek — the famed economist and philosopher — wrote the following in his oft quoted paper The Use of Knowledge in Society:
“Today it is almost heresy to suggest that scientific knowledge is not the sum of all knowledge. But a little reflection will show that there is beyond question a body of very important but unorganized knowledge which cannot possibly be called scientific in the sense of knowledge of general rules: the knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place. It is with respect to this that practically every individual has some advantage over all others because he possesses unique information of which beneficial use might be made, but of which use can be made only if the decisions depending on it are left to him or are made with his active cooperation. We need to remember only how much we have to learn in any occupation after we have completed our theoretical training, how big a part of our working life we spend learning particular jobs, and how valuable an asset in all walks of life is knowledge of people, of local conditions, and of special circumstances. To know of and put to use a machine not fully employed, or somebody’s skill which could be better utilized, or to be aware of a surplus stock which can be drawn upon during an interruption of supplies, is socially quite as useful as the knowledge of better alternative techniques. And the shipper who earns his living from using otherwise empty or half-filled journeys of tramp-steamers, or the estate agent whose whole knowledge is almost exclusively one of temporary opportunities, or the arbitrageur who gains from local differences of commodity prices, are all performing eminently useful functions based on special knowledge of circumstances of the fleeting moment not known to others.”
I think in part innovation has a locus to it — it occurs in a context of particular people, resources, timing, and specific circumstances. Many of the great ideas we know about started as local phenomena but were able to find something universal that could scale. Facebook, AirBnB, the telecom industry, Walmart, McDonalds… All of these started somewhere. Where someone had a great idea about something that would work.
I think Hayek is prescient in this regard.