Speed of Innovation

Paul Sloane in his latest article Is the Innovation engine running out of steam? compares the key innovations that happened over last couple of centuries that changed the way we lived or gave us new dimensions like ability to travel with speed, to walk on the moon and how in last 30-40 years no substantial innovation has really happened. He has obviously discounted the Internet revolution as something that has not added value.

While in the first part he makes sense as the speed of travel kind of halted after a while, but is it not possible that we reached a level beyond which you can not increase the speed without compromising the safety or at the viable costs. Every innovation has a peak value and once it reaches around that, leap frogging from there may not be possible, while incremental innovations will keep happening.

Internet is still its nascent stage. In the developed world it has become an integral part of the personal and professional lives, developing world is still catching up. The applications are still in the process of taking a mature shape. It may be too early to say if this can be compared to the invention of steam engine or telephone or not. I would say if we wait while the rest of the world also goes online, there may be much bigger impacts waiting to happen, and as Thomas Friedman said it would definitely flatten the world by creating the level playing field for everyone. Now, should this worry the developed world as they might loose their innovation edge or the differential that kept them above the rest of the world, the differential that made them aspirational for the people of not so developed world, may be yes.

Article does make you think are we sitting back and simply enjoying the innovations of our grand fathers and great grand fathers? Should we be doing something to make lives different for our grandchildren?

Bust your Innovation Myths

Art Markman in his HBR article tells you to bust your Innovation Myths. And for a change I like an HBR article. We indeed need to understand that lot of well celebrated innovations did not actually happen in an ‘Eureka’ moment. There was a whole lot of work that went behind the scenes before someone took credit for it all and portrayed as if it happened in one genius moment. 
This explained, we need to understand that coming out with innovations, big or small, needs a disciplined and persistent effort and that too on part of a team and not just one individual. Even if you get the idea in a magic moment, you need to work on making it a practical reality by testing it, tweaking it and working on its application. All this needs hell lot of effort and patience. Magic moment myths sometimes tend to convey the otherwise and create apprehensions in those are working on innovation programs.

Information revolutions in the history of mankind

Historian Elin Whitney-Smith in her interview on Strategy and Business identifies 5 major information revolutions in the history of mankind and shows how the leaders were replaced by the innovators on the fringes of the society and how the leaders ignored change that was all around them. 

I like her view on how in the revolutions, be it hunter gatherer, be it printing press and be it the latest digital revolution, it was always the access to information and an ability to organize it that made the difference. In all the revolutions the new leaders had a better handle on the information.