Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Three Levels of Innovation

These insights were extracted from an article titled:

Where innovation creates value.
FEBRUARY 2009 • Amar Bhidé
I thought this was an interesting way to define innovation, particularly for technology companies. I suggest going to the full article which talks about the impact of globalization on innovation and how it might affect the U.S. economy going forward.

"Innovation involves the development of new products or processes and the know-how that begets them. New products can take the form of high-level building blocks or raw materials (for example, microprocessors or the silicon of which they are made), midlevel intermediate goods (motherboards with components such as microprocessors), and ground-level final products (such as computers). Similarly, the underlying know-how for new products includes high-level general principles, midlevel technologies, and ground-level, context-specific rules of thumb. For microprocessors, this know-how includes the laws of solid-state physics (high level), circuit designs and chip layouts (midlevel), and the tweaking of conditions in semiconductor fabrication plants to maximize yields and quality (ground level).

Technological innovations, especially high-level ones, usually have limited economic or commercial importance unless complemented by lower-level innovations. Breakthroughs in solid-state physics, for example, have value for the semiconductor industry only if accompanied by new microprocessor designs, which themselves may be largely useless without plant-level tweaks that make it possible to produce these components in large quantities. A new microprocessor’s value may be impossible to realize without new motherboards and computers, as well.

New know-how……also requires interconnected, non- technological innovations on a number of levels. A new diskless (thin-client) computer, for instance, generates revenue for its producer and value for its users only if it is marketed effectively and deployed properly. Marketing and organizational innovations are usually needed; for example, such a computer may force its manufacturer to develop a new sales pitch and materials and its users to reorganize their IT departments."

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