I recently listened to the podcast version of this episode of Uncommon Knowledge.
I then went out and bought the audio version of Viscount Ridley's book, How Innovation Works. His primary thesis is that innovation is the product of trial and error more than anything else. I have a couple of patents and spent some time as a research scientist in my younger days. His assertion didn't ring true to me until I started thinking about my experiment with tobacco.
He's spot on as far as I can tell. When I thought about my inventions and documents, I realized that a great deal of trial and error went into all of them.
Going back to tobacco, my experiment failed when the leaves molded in the last step, fermentation. My postmortem made me wish I could try about a half dozen different ways of fermenting the stuff. Hobbyist fermentation of tobacco is trying to replicate what happens when you pile up the leaves in bulk in hot and humid places like the Carolinas or Cuba.
Since I don't have mounds of leaves and I live in arid San Diego, what I really want is a set of parallel experiments to try different ways to ferment small quantities of tobacco. What I want is trial and error.
Trial and error acknowledges that there are more variables or more candidate values for your variables than you can solve for analytically. As far as I can tell, the Viscount is right. Innovation owes a great deal to trial and error.