Desire for innovation (day 179)

I was on a panel about innovation today.  Alex asked me to be on the panel yesterday after someone else cancelled.  I was a bit panicky at the idea of speaking about innovation because the word has been so overused that I can barely get a grasp on it.  It seems to be a word we use when we mean "something new that will make me lots of money" when really it should be more like "something new that makes life better for a lot of people".  Either way, it's simplistic and trite to add it onto practically every company and product and high-up person out there.

Things get even more murky when we delve in to 'newness'.  I've blogged about this before.  As we become more public and engaged with each other, the origin of new is harder to pinpoint.  Indeed, companies have stiff competition in the innovation business -- their clients.  An example is Napster as innovation coming from the user base.  It made life more pleasant for millions of music lovers and it did not come from the music industry.  What businesses can do is take an innovative product created by the user base and stabilize it, bring to it innovation in the business model, and give a platform for spin-off right back to the user base.   Value accrues for everyone.  I'd say Apple did half of that with iTunes.  Google does the other half.  Together they'd be unbeatable.  But that is not to be.

As to the origin of innovation, the juicy word of the day is 'desire'.  I think it is the real driver.  Not technology, not money...desire.  It's that longing for something better, something else, the constant craving that kd sings so well about.  It exploits technology but technology is not the root.  Imagination is the fuel of desire, play is the catalyst.  If we are willing to imagine something else, something better and play at creating far out scenarios and start prototyping, soon enough there will be innovation.  The issue is that often we are fearful that freedom of thought will distract us from the 'real business' at hand.  I get the protection instinct, particularly for small companies struggling to maintain their hold in a market.  But I think a company that forgets the spark that started it is doomed to boredom and ultimately, failure.

A song for this post.

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