Re: OT: Innovation A Random Process?

Most of the big success stories in technology were by individuals who

> got lucky, and you don't hear much about the tens of thousands who > didn't. One key metric is whether the big winners, after making their > billions, are able to do it again. Most aren't, which indicates that > their ability to predict the directions of technology is nil. Name a > few people who have had multiple, large-scale successes at innovation.

I have often wondered about that: whether one-trick-ponies are one- trick becaus they

  1. Had only one real trick (but a really good trick)
  2. Are fatigued from the years of perfecting that one trick
  3. Impatient with future tricks, not appreciating the requisite effort to make a trick work, as evidenced by 1st trick.
Many markets today develop bottom-up, with fads emerging from nowhere.

That's true. And the naysers like to work that angle. The general public loves too embrace the idea that the innovator was tinkering in his lab on something unrelated and just happened to stumble upon a revelutionary idea. It makes the rest of us feel better.

Steve Jobs seems pretty good at anticipating, and even instigating, > trends; he is an exception. Microsoft can't; they "embrace and extend" > other proples' ideas.

Thinking of embracing and extending, I happened across small bio on Heaviside today, and it said that he was the one who actually developed Pupin coils. Is that true? It also said that he "cleaned up" Maxwell's equations with vector notation:

And of course, he died poor because all of his innovations where without merit. ;)

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-Le Chaud Lapin-

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Le Chaud Lapin
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  1. They accidentally had the right idea at the right time.

Recall, the subject here is, as you posted, "the acceptance of innovative products", as distinct from prolific scientific discovery or invention. It's like classic neo-Darwinian evolution, or modern politics: tens of thousands, or millions, of things get invented and exposed to the market, pretty much at random. Some few are successful, by a combination of chance, fashion, and positive feedback. These are called "successful innovations" after the fact. Once you make a few billion, even by accident, no matter how big a jerk you are, lots of reporters will fawn about your brilliance.

An idea is declared to be revolutionary BY the general public.


Reply to
John Larkin

You make some convincing points, but let me ask another question. Let's supposed we could turn back the clock to say, 1990, when people were still using Discman's in place of solid-state MP3 players and IPods.

Let's go to a popular USA electronics store in 2008 and pick the 2nd- worst solid-state MP3 player on the shelf and hypothetically put it on the market for roughly 20% more than the average cost of a Discman in in 1990, selling both the .MP3 player and the Discman in 1990.

My guess is that there would be a sufficient at that cost that would make it a worthwhile purchase for a lot of people.

The same could be said for the average $5 calculator at the local grocery store. In 1950, such machines would have been a steal, even at $20.

But it is not just cost alone. If you take that same $5 calculator and require that you shake it vigoroulsy ever 15 seconds to make it useful, it would be less accptable.

So I guess my point is that, with all most any product, you can point to a reason, after the fact, why it did not fail. Yes, sometimes it is poor marketing. But more time than not, it is something else like:

  1. Oooh--Oooh!, Me Too!!! Product.
  2. Too expensive
  3. Too awkward to use.
  4. Buggy, prone to roll-over, or explode randomly (exploding turns people off).

There are people who make a living analyzing the relative merits of consume products. It is hard to imagine that, if you were to ask them about a product that failed in the market, their answer would be "Great product...have no idea." Usually they will have an opinion, many times accurate.

What's frustrating is when an inventor claims to have something revolutionary, and says that the market (or his boss) is being obstinate, and you finally decide to spend your own time examining the product, and find that there is a flaw so significant that no one in his right mind would touch it.

  1. " it does gives off a little particle that really such a big deal?"
  2. "Well, technically yes, bio-fuel production *is* 4.5 times more expensive than pretrol, but at least the polar bears will be happy."
  3. "No, it's not PC compatible. It runs on an Earth Simulator. We have a partnership with NEC if you're interested."
  4. "Yes, it cures rheumatoid arthritis. Also causes kidney, pancreas, liver, gall bladder, and heart failure, but only in a small percentage of patients...please consult with your doctor if you take aspirin...."
  5. "The sound quality is incomparable. You just need to replace all your wiring with ours. You also need to replace your entire sound system with ours. No we do not have rigorous proof that the sound quality is better, but our experts say so."
  6. "No, it's not TTL-compatible, but that doesn't really matter...once the world switches to my new...."
  7. "It mows the lawn all on its own. Keep your kids and pets inside while it works, and tie a chain to it just in case."
  8. "It flies from New York to London in only 4 hours! But, it's a bit specialized. Fuel needs to be manually moved around in the aircraft by pilots for balance during flight. Tickets are currently 00/seat, and we should be profitable in 30-35 years. No, you cannot fly it from Paris to London. You need that much distance to safely turn it around."
  9. "It makes your lips fuller. But when you turn 60, your lips will start a process of exponential decay."

I think, especially in 2008, that there are enough people with a little extra money who are willing try something new just because they think it's cool. No, there will not be millions of early adopters, but there might be a few hundred, if it is a promising consumer product with potentially broad market appeal, and from this, a lot can, and does happen. To see this...all one has to do is pay close attention to the products that are on the shelf. Generally there is not one of a kind, but several, some never heard of, but the company is selling because for whatever reason, some consumer bought on a promise.

-Le Chaud Lapin-

Reply to
Le Chaud Lapin

It's refreshing to come across and article that is written for general consumption but champions the innovator's point of view - that he must sweat for his art. :)

=46rom an article of New York Times entitled: 'Eureka! It Really Takes Years of Hard Work'

"WE'VE all heard the tales of the apple falling on Newton's head and Archimedes leaping naked from his bath shrieking "Eureka!" Many of us have even heard that eBay was created by a guy who realized that he could help his fianc=E9e sell Pez dispensers online.

The fact that all three of these epiphany stories are pure fiction stops us short. As humans, we want to believe that creativity and innovation come in flashes of pure brilliance, with great thunderclaps and echoing ahas. Innovators and other creative types, we believe, stand apart from the crowd, wielding secrets and magical talents beyond the rest of us.

Balderdash. Epiphany has little to do with either creativity or innovation. Instead, innovation is a slow process of accretion, building small insight upon interesting fact upon tried-and-true process. Just as an oyster wraps layer upon layer of nacre atop an offending piece of sand, ultimately yielding a pearl, innovation percolates within hard work over time."


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-Le Chaud Lapin-

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Le Chaud Lapin

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