Sometimes Innovation focus goes too far

Who first brought to market these breakthrough products: Graphical User Interface Computers and Personal Digital Assistants? Microsoft (Windows) and Palm? Nope… Apple Computers.

Apple is reknown for its product and design innovation, the iPod being the latest design marvel. But the company has never reaped the benefits of these innovations, getting creamed in the marketplace by others:

Apple’s products are not only trailblazers but also easier to use, often more powerful, and always more elegant than those of its rivals. Yet those rivals have followed its creative leads and snatched for themselves the profits and scale that continually elude Apple’s grasp

This quote is from the cover story in the current issue of Fast Company. The article goes on to distinguish product innovation from business model innvoation (Dell Computer being a success in the latter). Quoting Gary Hamel:

“You can be tremendous at innovation on the technical side. But if you can’t wrap that innovation into a compelling value proposition, with a dynamic distribution strategy and attractive price points, than the innovation isn’t worth much at all.”

Major takeaway: product innovation alone is not enough to ensure success, which implies that taking innovation models wholesale from other entities is doomed to failure – one must incorporate into the overall, balanced business startegy.

Apple Computer and the limits of innovation (story available online on Jan 1)

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  1. The first question I asked when the FI Center first met was, “Who says we need innovation?” The reason to ask is because unless the organization (i.e., top 5 or 6 staff people) is committed to implementing innovation, it’s often just an exercise. There’s a lot of innovation around but not nearly as much follow-through.

  2. Today I was speaking with a colleague, who said, “you know, perhaps we should stop talking about innovation, and talk instead about communication and information sharing” (dare we say ‘knowledge management?'” Folks are trying new things and having small successes, failures… learnings, but does the organziation learn?

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