The 2 Steps of Innovation: an ordered list and mini-rant

After spending the better part of this week speaking with partner Software Companies in the Bay Area, I find myself motivated. That motivation, and excitement, is the genesis of this rant.

Or, perhaps the genesis is sitting in a somewhat uncomfortable airline seat somewhere above California…No, definitely the former.

In discussions this week, there was a consistent (and important) theme.

“There is mystery in innovation.”

This is, in fact, a good thing…but, it is also the source of much confusion.

The term itself has become so wildly overused that the actual process, and perhaps value, has become dangerously obfuscated. “But Tyler”, you may say*, “how is the mystery valuable if the term has become somewhat meaningless?”

I will discuss. However, it is important to understand the 2 steps of innovation:

The Two Steps of Innovation**

  1. Identify a problem.
  2. Solve it.

Easier said…eh? I maintain that the root of all notable “innovation” has been the simple identification of a need. The actual “innovation” comes in the resolution of said need.

The mystery inherent in innovation is, ultimately, driven by perception.

If I leverage a solution, software or otherwise, that meets a need (quantifiable or not) there is an immediate personal desire to understand and the “how”. This innate passion for understanding seems to be magnified in the software community. Without empirical research, I cannot make the case quantitatively***…but my personal experience has formed a perception that the “how” is more important to those who tend to build solutions to meet needs.

This desire to understand the internal mechanics of solutions has led to a false dichotomy of innovation being relegated to big, industry changing deployments. And, somewhat humorously, the backlash to this has been to associate the term with every new, potentially meaningless, social media widget. But that discussion is, perhaps, best left to another post…

The focus on the “how” is not shared by all. The adage “it just works” was not popularized due to its apparent dismissive nature. Rather, it provides a sufficient level of context for the vast majority of a innovative solutions user base.

What is innovation?

Innovation is, simply, solving problems.

IP Commerce, as a Platform company, enables innovation in payments and the scope of that innovation differs by audience. If I am a banking industry regulator, I may consider innovation to be the development and deployment of a tender easily leveraged by the un-banked (that is not cash). However, if I am a small business innovation is much more simple to quantify…

I have a problem (expense reports, accounting, invoicing, timely payment, presentment of tender I can’t accept, etc) and the first software company that solves that problem for me gains my affinity…and is innovating on my behalf.

Innovation is simple.
Innovation is necessary.
Embrace the mystery and solve problems.

What’s your perspective? Agree? Disagree? Anything to add? Critiques? The comment form is below…

* Yes, I am putting words in your mouth.
** Using a heading tag somehow seems to increase the grandeur
*** And, I’m on a plane without access to the internet

December 2, 2010

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