Innovation can be iterative and lineal, as in re-engineering a product component or a work process. It can also be transformational, when entirely new technologies are discovered, such as life changing medical devices like the pacemaker, the Cochlear Implant, or the personal computer. Others come to mind, such as the automobile, or the internet.
All were truly breakthrough technologies enhancing lives, cultures, and impacting global economies. These inventions resulted from deep thinking, iteration, and persistence. The scientists and engineers engaged in each innovation might not have been thinking of the competition as they developed their ideas. Rather, they were focused on solving a customer problem, and continued to invent despite great odds against success.
“Innovation can happen in the least likely places…the places we don’t think can (or should) ever be changed.”, says Rick Smith in this great post on his Simplivative blog site. It describes how Billy Beane from the Oakland Athletics revolutionized the ‘art’ of scouting in baseball, and in the process, “He changed baseball…forever!”
When competition is the primary consideration, the real target is missed. Building long term growth and enduring value starts with building a culture of innovation, where processes, products, and technologies can be developed, evaluated, checked, and iterated. Innovations resulting from within a nurturing culture have a real impact on organizations, industries, and economies.
And if the innovative process is centered on optimize the customer experience, it might just wind up disrupting an entire industry.