What makes a successful innovation?
Photo: Dani Simmonds. Source: Morguefile
The modern world has been dramatically changed by its innovations: air travel, electric lights, telephones, automobiles, computers. These have had a revolutionary impact, changing not only how we do our jobs, but the jobs we do. Indeed, mastering the dynamics of innovation is critical for any company. Companies talk about innovation in their quarterly reports almost as much as they discuss earnings.
But innovation is unpredictable. Doing new things in new ways upsets the status quo. Email is a problem for the Postal Service; digital photography bankrupted Kodak, smartphones dethroned the PC only 15 years ago.
Photo: Viktor Hanacek. Source: Picjumbo
And getting innovations in place is risky. When social networking was just starting out, there were lots of companies trying to get started: Sixdegrees, Tribe.net, Friendster, and MySpace all tried to jump on the trend. We hardly remember any of them today. One of the reasons Facebook succeeded was that there is little stigma in the US to failing at a startup. Bankruptcy laws allow entrepreneurs to walk away, and the lessons from those failures will be incorporated into their next attempt.
If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly, at least in the beginning. Our institutions and startup culture are willing to accept failure, so we’re a hub for innovation around the world. The results can be jarring, but using new technologies to improve the way we do things has helped make the United States the most productive economy in the world.
But it often starts with failure.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Charter Trust Company
“The Best Trust Company in New England”