Over the years in many industries there have been many “improvements” in products. Often times these “improvements” are subtle and are a means of protecting patents. Less frequently, companies have focused on “discovery”. This has led to the new catch word…Innovation.
Innovation compared to improvement is the “creation” of new products, services, technologies or processes to better solve issues.
Think of innovation as a new and original solution to bring added value to the end user.
A story that appeared on CNBC in September, 2011 listed 15 of the top innovations in the past 50 years. Among them were:
- ATM – Automatic Teller Machine for banking
- DNA Sequencing ~ Unraveling of the Human Genome
- Electric Car
- Fiber Optics
- Laser & Robotic Surgery
- Bar Codes for scanning products
- Cell Phones
- GPS ~ Global Positioning Devices
- On-Line shopping ~ E-commerce
To be innovative, takes a great deal of perseverance, dedication and commitment. An inner drive and determination to pick yourself up and learn from every failure. Companies need to make the sacrifice to truly explore “discovery”. There are many risks to this sequence and you need to be in it for the long haul. Start-ups typically have the creativity but often times lack the funding. You need to be able to commit a significant amount of financial resource to fully unique ideas understanding that many of these will end up fruitless.
There are so many variables that will come into play depending on the markets, R&D expenditures, Operations Costs, Patents, etc…. Add to these costs, one has to make a calculated guess as to the product revenues, time to market, staffing etc…
Once a true innovation is discovered and marketed, Innovative companies will typically be working on new innovations that will eventually replace older ones. Successive s-curves will come along to replace older ones and continue to drive growth upwards. Here is an example of an S-curve:
In the figure above the first curve shows a current technology. The second shows an emerging technology that currently yields lower growth but will eventually overtake current technology and lead to even greater levels of growth. The length of life will depend on many factors as it relates to product life cycles. The bottom line is compared to “improvement” of products, innovative product and technology has far greater return and risks associated.
What is your vision for the future...we all need to improve but the real winners overall will be those who innovate!