Recombination is often considered a disruptive force for well-adapted phenotypes, but recent evidence suggests that this cost of recombination can be small. A key benefit of recombination is that it can help create proteins and regulatory circuits with novel and useful phenotypes more efficiently than point mutation. Its effectiveness stems from the large-scale reorganization of genotypes that it causes, which can help explore far-flung regions in genotype space. Recent work on complex phenotypes in model gene regulatory circuits and proteins shows that the disruptive effects of recombination can be very mild compared to the effects of mutation. Recombination thus can have great benefits at a modest cost, but we do not understand the reasons well. A better understanding might shed light on the evolution of recombination and help improve evolutionary strategies in biochemical engineering.