I’ve been in the high tech market for 8 years now, granted compared to some of my colleagues I am still the neophyte in the cube block. In those eight years, I’ve worked for big companies and start ups alike. Both struggle with the problem of innovation, for the start up, the problem is market adoption and being too “radical” in their line of thinking, and not considering enough market research before building a product. In high tech, the “If you build it, they will come” – idea is non-existent. There are other problems as well, lack of leadership, vision, funding, go to market strategies.
Larger companies have a different problem(s) or in some cases, opposite problems. To much top heavy leadership/influence, committed to core business (lack of vision) lack of investment, not radical enough.
I then read an article regarding smart phone innovation – My conclusion, Mr. Ranger perpetuates all the problems that companies have with innovation.
This lead me to the question, Is Innovation Dead on Arrival? as we understand it in North American IT markets today? The answer is I sure hope not, else I am very terrible at my job. So what’s the problem? – There are lots of small IT companies that are quite innovative and their ideas never make it to market for a variety of reasons. However, I am more interested in where the innovation has gone in some of these larger companies.
Before one can answer the question where innovation has gone in some of these larger organizations, it’s prudent to examine when great innovations have taken place.
Innovation happens as a result of a problem.
Consider Henry Ford, who brought us the assembly line technique of manufacturing. There was manufacturing prior to Mr. Ford, however it was slow and items weren’t mass produced quickly, which resulted in high costs, slow production, slow products being released.
Thomas Edison – invented the light bulb, the problem is obvious.
Alexander Graham Bell – Brought us the telephone.
IBM, BellSouth, Palm, Blackberry – All solved various problems in the invention of the early smart phone.
All of these organizations & people solved a problem for an end user, or a group of people. Which is certainly what led to their adoption wide spread in the market, as well as their products success. The groups where willing to be leaders, and pioneers, they failed early and they failed fast, went back to the drawing boards, rethought, retooled, and re-innovated when the first approach didn’t work. The other thing they did was they chased Paradigm change, the products that were innovated changed paradigms and the way people thought, worked & functioned.
Where is that level of innovation, courage and change among our business leaders today?
I work for a larger company, that is asking its employees to be more innovative, to develop new products that are or will bring the company in some new revenue. I understand where the need comes from, and where the desire comes from. However until a company is willing to explore a paradigm change & shift, they’ve got the same problems illustrated by Mr. Ranger’s ideas on how to make the smart phone more innovative. Mr. Ranger’s ideas, like a company that is riding a product line, don’t revolutionize anything, don’t challenge folks to think differently or change a paradigm. I completely understand that IT companies cannot just walk away from their bread and butter products. Nor am I asking them too, I am suggesting that while maintaining their bread & their butter, these organizations also change their focus to leadership in the market space they’re in.
Leadership isn’t just defining a new set of products in the same space that beat out your competitor. Leadership is changing the market, changing the paradigm of the space you play in.
To give you an example. If one considers device protection security companies, or Anti Virus/Anti Malware companies, there’s a lot of them out there. They all have product offerings that, pretty well compete with one another, protect your tablet, protect your phone, protect your computer, protect your network, backup solutions. These are their bread and butter products, both on the individual and business side, they sustain the company, these are where the security companies need to compete with each other. However what market do they play in? The security market. As Operating System vendors, make advances in their technology, the device protection market is a market where the bread loafs get a little smaller and butter gets a little saltier.
However, device protection and personal protection are loosely coupled and both exist in the security market. So why not start considering how these security companies can start protecting the end user or the end user’s home, family, belongings? Is it a product offering that’s outside of your normal run? YES – Will it work? I don’t know, but how do you know until you try?
Like Thomas Edison, these larger companies need to rely on their successes and failures and perhaps you need to fail 5,000 times before hitting a home run. This idea of innovation, and we’ll take and run with innovative ideas that are golden nuggets and exist within our core product lines is killing innovation in the IT Market in NA.
I see huge potential for companies operating in the device security market to switch to a product offering that offers me personal security or personal security devices at my house. I really believe the Internet of Things can seriously allow security companies to change their paradigm from device production to personal protection & security with Internet enabled devices.
Again should these companies give up their device protection products? Absolutely not.
Why not? – It might take 5,000 tries to get a good product and you need to feed the company in the meanwhile. But you’ll be leaders and paradigm shifters when you find that 1 product, which will drive more innovations.
Often times, it’s been my experience when 1 paradigm shifts, you can influence others, perhaps personal safety ties into the mobile market and folks start thinking of their mobile phone as a personal safety device. Which will drive more innovation, unlike the ideas that Mr. Ranger proposes.
My plea – to any manager in an IT business, don’t be afraid to be courageous, don’t be afraid to be a visionary and a paradigm shifter, – at the very least don’t be afraid to fund your employees whom are looking to change the paradigm.
I suppose I could have titled this post the radical engineer, maybe I am in left field with my thoughts, but then again, that was assumed of Edison and Einstein as well right? Be courageous!