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Again with the Ipod!

| On 01, Jan 2010

Message: 510
Posted by: Kelly
Posted on: Monday, 30th April 2007


Why do people still think the iPod is an innovation? It's not. Mp3 players already existed. iTunes was innovative, not the iPod itself. Invetive – evolution – not innovation. — It's in the bottom-up innovation article on the homepage on this site.

Where's a definition for innovation when you need one?


Message: 517
Posted by: InnovationColorado
Posted on: Wednesday, 2nd May 2007


Kelly,

It may sound like beating a dead horse, but I respectfully disagree. I believe the IPod still definitely qualifies as an innovation.

What you say is true: MP3 players did already exist. So did portable music players (like the Sony Walkman, right)?

In fact, most of the bits and pieces — the hardware bits and pieces — of the IPod already existed. The hard drive? — yes, already existed and used in other devices. White lastic casings? — sure, already existed (take a look at an old Apple iBook laptop computer — virtually the same look and feel). ITunes? — really, just another evolution (a good evolution, for sure, that is much easie to use) of some other software that was already around to play MP3 files.

Nevertheless, the IPod is still an innovation, due to HOW it brought all the pieces together. Much of HOW it brought the pieces together are patented (one indicator, albeit imperfect, that you have a technology inovation).

The interface, the simplicity of use, the compactness, the user-friendliness, and – yes — the “cool” and sleek design all make this an Innovation with a capital “I”.

In addition to patents, the “marketplace” is a good arbiter of what an “innovation” is. The IPod definitely qualifies here — think about it. Apple, through the IPod, pushed competitors like Sony's Walkman line out of the market. How could that happen? At one time, Sony virtually owned the market for compact, portable music players.

Sony's domination was ended due to an innovation that brought together mostly existing technology, through in a few “neat” items, packaged it as it had never been package before, and won over the hearts (and ears) of the customer and marketplace in the process of doing so.

… just my 2 cents worth …

Best regards,InnovationColorado


Message: 520
Posted by: Trev
Posted on: Thursday, 3rd May 2007


Hi InnovationColorado,

I don't think I agree with you:

“the marketplace is a good arbiter of what an innovation is”: so the pet rock, which was enormous in the 1980s was an innovation because people bought it?

Sony Walkmans were dead well before the iPod. Apple didn't push them out, plenty of other MP3 players that came out well before the iPod pushed the Walkman out. The Walkman's demise were accelerated because the Sony design team faultered to launch new products.

Patents by themselves are a poor indication of Innovation. Edison himself said something like “I don't want to invent anything that I can't sell.” Patents without commercialization = not much of anything. I'm not convinced that the iPod's success has to do with any of it's patents. By the way, do you know what patents it really has on the iPod?

The one area I *will* agree with you on:

The combination of (iPod and iTunes) = Innovation, but it's due mainly (in my opinion) from the iTunes portion.

… just my 2 cents worth …


Message: 522
Posted by: Mike Carnell
Posted on: Thursday, 3rd May 2007


Trev,

I am having a hard time with the stuff you and Kelly are putting up in terms of this very restrictive definition of innovation. I tried to get some clarity on this definition and I have come to the conclusion it is about as likely to be defined as Six Sigma is to have some central body control certification.

You brought up Edison. Edison bought the patent on the lightbulb. All the materials existed before he (maybe not even he when you consider the number of people who worked for him) got the correct combination? I mean we have had sand for a long time so why do we believe a lightbulb is innovative?

The iPod is to MP3 players what the Greatful Dead were to roadbands. Yea they were not the first to play music (that was Edison again – so now he is the father of the iPod?) but they have spawned an entire industry around their product that goes way beyond iTunes. Take a look at the various docking station type players, chargers, cases, etc and tell me this is about MP3 players.

Just my opinion.


Message: 523
Posted by: Trev
Posted on: Thursday, 3rd May 2007


Mike,

I appreciate your thoughts and the discussion.

Edison commercialized a new product. The light bulb did not exist commercially before he commercialized it, did it?

The idea of sand being around before the light bulb isn't a strong argument. You could say the same for silicon wafers, right? The point is that it was transformed into a 1) new, 2) commercial product that 3) sells. I think the three things are required to be “innovation.” Number 1 by itself is just invention. Numbers 1 and 2 by themselves is, say, MP3 players before the iPod :). the iPod — by itself — cannot be innovation because it is not new, by my definition. HOWEVER, as I said previously, the (iPod and iTunes) together does make innovation. They are paired nicely.

Just my opinion too.


Message: 524
Posted by: Trev
Posted on: Thursday, 3rd May 2007


Mike,

I forgot to address your other point: that iPods and the Grateful Dead spawned an entire industry as a result as support that they are innovative. This is an interesting criteria. I don't think it makes things innovative though.

If viewing my definition of innovation, things need to be 1) new, 2) commerial products and 3) sell. New is the tough one. It can't just be new for a company, it needs to be a new product. I like the definition of “having just come into being.”

If t-shirts have been around for a while, I would make the argument that putting the GD on the front be innovative?

If charges, cases, protective covers have been around long before the iPod, why would makeing a slightly different shape be innovative?

Docking stations, however, would be new, I believe.

Trev


Message: 525
Posted by: Kelly
Posted on: Thursday, 3rd May 2007


Trev & Mike,

Trev – I agree with your points except for one – docking stations already existed for handheld technology. Not sure they can be innovative now that they are used with iPods.

Mike – I understand your frustration with restricting the definition of innovation, but if there isn't some restriction applied, then innovation will continue to be meaningless and used incorrectly – as inventive – etc.

Kelly


Message: 526
Posted by: Mike Carnell
Posted on: Thursday, 3rd May 2007


Kelly,

It already is meaningless. You have a lot of people talking about it because it is the hot topic and of course you need to use the current buzz word. At the end of the day it is creating something and getting it to market and it doesn't matter if it is completely new or an iteration – it all lands on the revenue line.

We are playing with words and the customer doesn't care. They want the result.

Just my opinion


Message: 527
Posted by: Mike Carnell
Posted on: Thursday, 3rd May 2007


Trev,

If the iPod was just another MP3 player it would have sold like just another MP3 player. Maybe the issue with you seeing what the innovation was is what made it drive the market to where no other product had been before. FYI my iPod does a lot more than play music – it is like some kids science project. It does however play movies and if you are going to park your butt on an airplane for 17 hours it is nice to know that you have more options that the latest Bollywood releases.

The Greatful Dead were in my mind innovators. Look at the volume of records sold and look at the amount of number 1 hit records. They innovated the road band. Jimmy Buffett same story. We had music long before these guys but what let them create a market for their product without getting the normal time on the radio and all the other “success formula” stuff that they do for musicians. Both of them had 1,2 & 3.

iPod just like Buffett's Margaritaville has become its own industry.

The question becomes is it important to satisfy the participants in http://www.triz-journal.com that this was real innovation or is it enough of what a shreholder considers innovation. Unless you are holding a bunch of stock I am guessing the BOD doesn't care if we consider it innovation. They will probably continue to speak to their customer, stockholders, employees, etc. and refer to it as innovation because it got them where they wanted to go.

Just my opinion.


Message: 528
Posted by: InnovationColorado
Posted on: Friday, 4th May 2007


Mike,

Well said — completely agree.

Best regards,

InnovationColorado


Message: 529
Posted by: Trev
Posted on: Friday, 4th May 2007


Yeah, the question is not “isn't it enough that we have innovation?” The question is how to drive innovation all the time. Apple had a great computer system in the Mac, then it died and atrophied for years after Steve Jobs left. Then he came back, resurrected it and launched the iPod and iTunes.

If I were a shareholder I would not want one person responsible for innovation. I hear you're a Six Sigma expert. Is that what you teach the companies you consult with — how one person can be the “innovator” and change agent, forget the rest of the organization, the culture change, changing the way work is done? (I know that it's not, just being the devil's advocate.)

The point I make is that the participants of this forum are trying to get to answers that will change the way companies work. Leaders and shareholders don't know enough to say “get a process for innovation”…yet, but years ago they probably didn't know to say the same for process management, right?

Trev


Message: 531
Posted by: Terry
Posted on: Saturday, 5th May 2007


It's good to see my favorite subject active again.  Bringing a common definition to “innovation” should be a primary objective of this community.

Before my comments, two disclaimers.  First, I am in the camp of thinking quite broadly when I consider the topic, “innovation.”  Second, I have no relationship to The University of Texas and only came across some references in my own search for deeper meaning on Innovation.  (You'll understand this disclaimer later.)  Now, to my comments.

The belief that an innovation must involve commercial success is widespread.  Trev believes that “invention” is insufficient to qualify as “innovation”.  (My personal view is that all inventions are innovations, so that says something about my struggle with the commericalization requirement.)

But . . . can there be innovation in thought and practice?  Is “management innovation” a blasphemous phrase?  Is “innovation in thought” irrelevant to our work?

If you have not read the brief works of Alfred Lorn Norman on this topic, I urge you to do so.  I don't believe he has the answers, but I do think you will find his perspective useful in evolving your own.  (Norman is a professor in the Dept. of Economics at The University of Texas at Austin.  His readings on the topic can be found at http://www.eco.utexas.edu/faculty/Norman/long.extra/DII.paper/DisInvInn-paper.html, though the focus on the definition of innovation is in Section 3, “Bounded Rational Innovation.”  Remember when you read his work, he is an economist.)

Norman states that, “Criteria are necessary to distinguish between change and innovation.”  That's easy for me to accept.

Two of his requirements for something to be an innovation are that it is positive to the “common weal” (an archaic but useful concept focused on impact to the general welfare of society) and that it be imitated.

Accepting his first criterion might knock out the Pet Rock.  Creative, but did it really bring benefit to society?  His second premise, that it be imitated, might (for me) be a useful compromise to those who require an innovation to be commericalized, or even a commercial success.  Maybe the operative element is the imitation–being repeated–more than the commerical aspect.

These are just some thoughts . . . I'm eager to hear more of yours.

Regards,

Terry


Message: 535
Posted by: Kelly
Posted on: Monday, 7th May 2007


Mike,

I disagree. Maybe this is semantics, but I don't see that it is wrong to work to find the 'right' definition of innovation. You find it everywhere–even my wife's Cooking Light Magazine is celebrating its 20 years of innovation and I fail to see how cooking has undergone any major innovation since the microwave came around.

I care about messages continually telling me the wrong thing as much it bothers me when major signs have spelling errors (and assuming the world is going as usual, there are probably several errors in what I am writing now).

If 'innovation' is being used as a selling point and it isn't innovation, I laugh and it may even make me not buy the product because it's an absurd claim. That affects the bottom-line, so I think companies really should care about this stuff. I do.

In your words, just my opinion.


Message: 539
Posted by: InnnovationColorado
Posted on: Tuesday, 8th May 2007


Kelly,

This is a very interesting thread that has deveoped ….

George Bernard Shaw commentary that “England and America are two countries divided by a common language”immediately comes to mind.

 

It is often difficult to get good “operational definitions”, as various improvement disciplines like Six Sigma recommend.  This is true even for things we can touch.  In the U.S., for example, a “bonnet” is young girl's headcovering; in Scotland can refer instead to a young boy's headcovering; and in England, it refers to the front of an automobile (what we in the Rocky Mountain states call the “hood” of a car).

Same concept, different words.  The reverse is often true too: same word, but with much different meanings.

This is even more difficult for things that we cannot touch or see, like “innovation”. In these cases, a good “operational definition” will usually require the consent of the people using the word.  Inside a corporation that is striving to become better than what it is, it is probably more useful to get people around the table to agree to (and get excited about) the “local” definition of innovation, as opposed to finding the “right” universal, theoretical definition and trying to get people to understand it (and then trying to get them to buy into it).

 

… just my additional 2-cents worth …

Best regards,

InnnovationColorado 


Message: 541
Posted by: Bob
Posted on: Tuesday, 8th May 2007


As an Englishman living in the USA I can relate to the analogy about language. In istudying the word nnovation this is also true. Ask 3 people about innovation and you get 3 different answers. Google the word and there are 128 million hits. Most people think of innovation in intellectual terms, the science, technology or engineering that introduces something new, but I believe this misses out on some key elements. Innovation has to add value and that is why our customers care. The emotional connections we have with our customers enable us to validate the intellectual efforts. My research shows that innovation is successful when there is a balanced approach between the intellectual, organizational and human (emotional and behavioral) elements. When there is im-balance we tend to fail. This is true whether we assess business models, strategies, new business pursuits and even career opportunities. The human element is the 'Why' we do it, the intellectual element is the “What” we do and the organizational element is the “How” we do it. All three elements validate each other.


Message: 542
Posted by: Mike Carnell
Posted on: Tuesday, 8th May 2007


InnovationColorado,

Thank you.

Regards


Message: 543
Posted by: Mike Carnell
Posted on: Tuesday, 8th May 2007


Trev,

I am a Six Sigma consultant and have been for about 13 years so I would suppose that gives me some level of SS expertise. What you spoke about isn't a SS expert it is a deployment question and that is a different issue.

When any consultant walks into a company for the first time it is one and everyone else. You start converting people. At no point have I ever believed I needed to convert everone. That would be a waste of the customers money. Regardless of the nonsense that has been published recently there is innovation involved in every SS project – even a DMC project. There is always going to be a change and that means you move from old to new and that move is justified by a benefit (not always financial – or at leas

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