The ARF was invited to an event at which Jeffrey Cole, Director of the Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School and Kumar Mehta, consultant, prior Microsoft, and author of “The Innovation Biome”, discussed their views on innovation, especially the role of innovation at “the big four, maybe five”, Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. Their conclusions:
- Today’s leading companies owe their success to constant innovation and improvements—not to invention. (They did not invent the products that they are now the leaders in; i.e., Google did not invent search.)
- To insure and promote innovation, a company needs to have a process, such as Amazon’s, that encourages innovative thinking and risk-taking at all levels.
- Profitability of a company often turns out to be “the enemy of innovation”; i.e., Kodak failed to embrace digital photography since their “old” business was so profitable.
In this context, they discussed the “The Next Big Thing Fallacy”:
- The Next Big Thing in the sense of a surprising invention is quite rare. Innovators who find a better way to execute—not inventors—usually lead successful change.
- It doesn’t have to be “big,” but can be a relatively small improvement that enhances and changes the consumer experience. And it doesn’t have to be a “thing”. Calling it a “thing” makes us think of a device, but success more often comes from a change in a process. Examples: Frequent Flyer Miles (instead of a discount) or “Amazon Prime” (instead of a shipping fee).