My theory of human evolution says that fashion (changing preferences for well-made goods) evolved so that artisans — the innovators of long ago — would not do the same thing over and over. In an excellent interview, music producer T Bone Burnett says something similar:
I don’t believe in crowdsourcing [for artists] because you’ll end up doing the same thing over and over again. People tend to want artists to do the same thing, and it is incumbent upon artists to do something that the audience doesn’t want — yet.
I’ve had a hard time finding interesting work by economists on the causes of innovation. It isn’t just institutional structures (“extractive” versus “inclusive”), as Acemoglu and Robinson say in Why Nations Fail. (Better title: One Reason Nations Fail.) An exception is Nathan Rosenberg, an emeritus professor at Stanford, for example this paper about aircraft design.