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Reflection – Daylen Thane

by on November 27, 2007

Innovation: Your friend, but can it backstab you?

Most humans really enjoy being comfortable. I say most because you have the occasional risk taker that loves to sleep in the woods while mountaineering Mt. Rainier, or the one who enjoys the adrenaline rush of jumping off a plane during a skydiving session. However, how does being comfortable relate to organizations? Can they truly reach a stage of conformability and stop innovating? When does innovating reaches its threshold and backfires on your organization?

It seems to me that the clear and obvious answer is that being comfortable (aka. “stop innovating”) is not necessarily a good thing because it stops the growth and change in the organization and let other companies get ahead. Look at Yahoo and AOL for example, they had control of the search engines for years, then “along came Google”, and took it all! I strongly believe that these companies got comfortable with their product and stopped innovating, until a major competitor appeared and they “got back to work”. However, most likely there were other issues at hand that caused their lost of market shares.

There are multiple examples in which companies have lost market share due to “lack of innovation”. For example, Intel lost to AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) because the latter did a better job (price including at the time of release) with 64 bits processors (even though Intel is now winning with the core 2 duo)1, Sony lost market shares to the music-God Apple (with the iPod), and Gmail taking over the webmails (“GMail is really the leader of webmail”2) over Hotmail, Yahoo, and AOL email services is just another example of many.

Competition has a lot to do with keeping evolving organizations busy, working, and constantly innovating. For example, in communist countries, the government “owns” everything, organizations included. Thus, companies have no reason to thrive and innovate, and everything is in a stale stage. Luckily enough, USA is a capitalist country where competition drives innovation, and this is why our technology and society is so much more advanced here. There are other factors (such as economic factors) that influence this whole concept, but they will be examined another time.

Furthermore, we were talking in class about how companies never reach a constant and steady innovating stage. They almost never follow this pattern:
Instead, they follow a much diverse and ever changing pattern, going up and down in innovation as time goes by. In class, we came up with different causes that keep companies from following the above mentioned pattern. Some of these are: Legal, Government, Market, Social, Shareholders/Stakeholders, and innovating so much that your product/services become un-needed. I think this last one was the most interesting because it is a factor that the company has total control over it. Yet, there are many organizations that have innovated themselves out of business. Like our instructor said: has anyone seen a Betamax (video tape format) around lately?

In conclusion, successful organizations need to stay in the lookout for constant innovation if they want to stay afloat this ever-changing technology world. Staleness is just not allowed because the price is too high to pay.

References:
Extreme Tech: http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,1697,1860533,00.asp
Rev2.org: http://www.rev2.org/2006/02/12/gmail-vs-windows-live-the-arguement/

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