What is Innovation?

Peter : On Rad's Radar?
| Peter Radizeski of RAD-INFO, Inc. talking telecom, Cloud, VoIP, CLEC, and The Channel.

What is Innovation?

I hear the word bantered about a lot especially by media, C-Level execs and government types. This week it was the "Innovation Economy". well, that makes sense since the USA's only lead globally has been in innovation, but the rest of the world is catching up due to this thing called the Internet (an invention of ours, btw).

New and improved isn't really innovation. Innovation isn't something that government or anyone else can jump start. Innovation - really invention - takes creativity, quiet time, weird, environment of failure and failure.

Start-ups and Entrepreneurship have been the glow sticks that city leaders have been shaking since 2008 as they all try to emulate Silicon Valley. It doesn't work that way. The city needs to foster an environment that allows Richard Florida's Creative Class to bloom. then it needs to make it easy to do busy in that city. Then government should get out of the way.

Tampa Bay was lucky that in the 7 years since the seeds were sown for start-ups and entrepreneurs to get together in a safe place and play, things have progressed well. Not as fast as everyone would like but these things take time.

One of the cool things the county did in Tampa Bay (Hillsborough County) was to fund tech, hacker, makers and start-up events. Libraries are becoming a hub for makers groups (especially for kids, which takes the whole idea of STEM education to a granular level by giving them hands on experience in a safe environ.) That's how government can innovate - re-think how monies and facilities can be used to incubate inventors, makers, thinkers, start-ups and founders.

It's like billiards. You want these groups bouncing off each other because that's where the magic happens.

Innovation also takes re-investment. So the winners need to give back to the community with time, money and knowledge.

3M, Google, HP (in the old days), Richardson-Vicks (before P&G bought them) - all provide the environment where innovation can happen. You have smart people bouncing ideas around in a place where failure is an option.

When I worked in R&D as a chemist for a major manufacturer, innovation was copying the competitors. That's not innovation either. Innovation to me is taking the path less traveled (to paraphrase Frost for a second). It's seeing something not there yet. It's working on a new formula for Oil of Olay to remove all color, dye, grease. It's working on tanning lotion before there was a market for it (1990-92).

Think about Twitter. Even the owners weren't sure what it would become but it was a platform that they released so others could play with it.

Uber and Lyft have done to cab service what AirBnB has done to hotels. Sure, a lot of this is driven by a crappy economy and people wanting to leverage assets they have to trade time for money but the ideas are innovative. The regulations are being bent and broken in the process -- that's how you know it is a good idea!

Dropbox didn't invent file-sharing but it did innovate the user interface to make it stupid easy! And they hacked the marketing to make it grow like crazy.

Unfortunately, a lot of folks equate innovation with a new app doing the same old thing. Innovation can be anywhere, but from my experience innovation is largely done in an environment accepting of innovation and failure (because they go hand in hand). Look at pharma: 95% of experimental drugs fail to get to market. What can you do, stop trying?

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