We’re back with thoughts on boring breakthroughs

Greetings all! It’s been a long, long time. Lois and I have been way busy with the third phase of the Radical Innovation Research program. We have visited 9 companies in 3 countries over the past year and conducted over 150 interviews. Lots to digest about roles and responsibilities for Breakthrough Innovation in large established companies. But enough about us. There’ll be more to follow as we figure out what we’re learning. Right now it’s like drinking from a firehose.

Even more exciting is what’s happening at the Lally School…our school. We have an incredible group of MBA students who are extremely interested in this whole breakthrough innovation/corporate entrepreneurship thing. They are an inspiring bunch. Some of them have asked about why this blog has stalled,…and have offered to help. So I’d like to introduce one of them, Peter Roberts from Utah. See below some thoughts on the Tesla Electric Vehicle. Let us know what you think.


The Tesla/New York Times spat this February overshadowed a great achievement in innovation. Some would say that Tesla’s model S is a radical innovation; however, they would be wrong, Thomas Parker invented the electric car in 1884. The real radical innovation from Tesla was accomplished was with the refueling stations. Tesla has already made inroads on the west coast as seen in this map. Tesla has been working to this implemented since 2011. By focusing on changing current infrastructure, Tesla is setting themselves up for success. They now aim to expand electric car potential from their lone pair of charging stations in NY and DC throughout the east coast.
In a broader sense, Tesla has opened up several possibilities for the future. By controlling both the vehicles and the charging stations, Tesla can work out pricing strategies with electricity and/or vehicles. Tesla is creating a whole new market and setting up the infrastructure for this market. The question we should all be asking is, ‘when the rest of the automakers jump on the electric bandwagon will Tesla’s infrastructure make them a dominant player in the marketplace?’.
Others seem to agree with this, see Adam Morath’s blog from 2/14/13 (http://translogic.aolautos.com/2013/02/14/opinion-tesla-versus-new-york-times-debate-misses-the-point/). Still other see adoption of the of the electric car will require an infrastructure revolution See Ben Holland post in January of this year (http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2013/01/17/how-important-charging-infrastructure-ev-adoption).

So, while electric cars are all the rage, they’re the small part of the picture. It’s the infrastructure that’ll make this happen.


  1. I agree with Peter. This story is not unlike the story in the fuel cell industry or “Hydrogen Economy” as it’s called. Fuel Cell technology has been around for some time and has had many incremental innovations. However, its the distribution and infrastructure that would make it a game changer and often the technology will catch up to the infrastructure. This was the case in the Oil Industry. So we see, history repeats itself.

    There are challenges of course, how does Tesla convince “Gas” stations to carry their charging station when other electric options are becoming more prevalent? Although consumers can put up with a different charger for each of their different mobile devices, tablets, and computers, they may not react so willingly towards that same approach for their cars.

    Tesla will need to find a way to be the leader in defining the standard and make sure that they walk away as one of the winners.


  2. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an very long comment but
    after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr…
    well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say superb blog!


    1. Hi Colby, Sorry we don’t get to see the benefit of your post! Please do try again when you have the patience. We haven’t been good about posting lately but do have news. Our participating companies for the latest study will be gathering in mid May to hear the results of our study on roles and responsibilities for an Innovation function. We’re hard at work getting all of that together. Lots of interesting insights to come!


  3. Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular article!
    It is the little changes which will make the largest changes.

    Many thanks for sharing!


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