Scott Berkun wrote a post on ‘Why Innovation is Overrated’. He argues that successful organizations are successful not because they’re great innovators, more so because they are excellent at ‘making good things’. Indeed, none of the companies that he’s discussed were first in their field:
Apple did not invent the cell-phone, Motorola did. The first touchscreen was created in 1971. Archie, the world’s first Search engine was running in 1990, and pay-per-click was pioneered at Goto.com. And yes, the first motion picture was created by Edison in 1889.
I agree with Scott’s statement that ‘Making good things people love is the true spine of these companies successes’. But ignoring breakthroughs? I’m not sure if I get the drift? Everything that can be invented has been invented?
The DynaTAC, “The brick“, weighed 2 pounds, and offered just a half-hour of talk time for every recharging. Sure, it was a good thing, but it wasn’t good enough. In fact you wouldn’t even call it a cell phone. I’d blame a lot on innovation. ‘Merry Christmas’, the first text message was sent in 1992. NTT DoCoMo, a company that invested heavily in R&D came up with the ‘i-mode‘ to offer internet and email to its subscribers in 1999. Sometime in Y2K, the first Mp3 Phone was announced. And then in 2001, Sharp introduced the first Megapixel camera-phone. And you know what, now that we have e-books, Polymer Vision recently announced the Readius.
Now, while I agree that these are all truly great things, how did all those technologists come up with all those brilliant ideas? It would be tempting to lean on the powerful words in the vocabularies of those visionaries – problem, experiment, solve, exploration, change, risk and prototype. Sure, but don’t these very words lead to that one great thing – innovation?
Scott suggest that we don’t need to ask ourselves toothless questions such as ‘How can we be innovative?’ But, in fact, if we don’t…..we fall into a commodity trap. Price wars. Advertising wars. The fact is, we need innovation….processes and systems that take technological progress, discoveries, inventions, and bring them to commercial reality. If that didn’t happen, neither Scott nor I would be blogging today.