Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Innovation: It Isn’t a Matter of Left or Right

I found this article to be incredibly thought provoking to the degree that I immediately ordered his book (“Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation”). The title implies implications for politics but it is much broader than that. How companies drive their ideation can be greatly influenced by the learnings of history. The usual model of companies driving innovation for profit is challenged.

A note. Many of you helped in defining the source for the last posting. It is: The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet, Wired September, 2010 By Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff

"In my research, I analyzed 300 of the most influential innovations in science, commerce and technology — from the discovery of vacuums to the vacuum tube to the vacuum cleaner — and put the innovators of each breakthrough into one of four quadrants.
First, there is the classic solo entrepreneur, protecting innovations in order to benefit from them financially; then the amateur individual, exploring and inventing for the love of it. Then there are the private corporations collaborating on ideas while simultaneously competing with one another. And then there is what I call the “fourth quadrant”: the space of collaborative, nonproprietary innovation, exemplified in recent years by the Internet and the Web, two groundbreaking innovations not owned by anyone.

The conventional wisdom, of course, is that market forces drive innovation, with businesses propelled to new ideas by the promise of financial reward. And yet even in the heyday of industrial and consumer capitalism over the last two centuries, the fourth quadrant turns out to have generated more world-changing ideas than the competitive sphere of the marketplace. Batteries, bifocals, neonatal incubators, birth control pills — all originated either in amateur labs or in academic environments.

Now-ubiquitous technology like GPS was created by public-sector agencies for its original military use. And most of the building-block innovations that make GPS possible — satellites themselves, or the atomic clocks that let them coordinate their signals so precisely — were first conceived in nonmarket environments.

The fourth quadrant, however, is not locked in a zero-sum conflict with markets. As in the case of GPS, this fourth space creates new platforms, which then support commercial ventures"

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