Innovation: a thought exercise

It has been a long time since I’ve written on this blog…
and, frankly, I miss it.

While I have been writing, sometimes at excess, for work purposes…my personal author activities have been overwhelmed by the activities of the summer (see previous posts for more). With that said, my daughter is now healthy and my internal musings desire to be put onto a series of servers in html format.

In August of 2010 I wrote a post entitled Solving Problems: Innovation Upon -or- Innovation In Spite Of. In it, I discussed two blog posts that had similar content and spoke about the import of innovation. At the time, I made the following assertion.

You are either simplifying the experience for Software Companies, addressing their needs, and thereby enabling “innovation upon.” Or, your policies are such that tangible business problems are not being addressed, or are greatly complicated, by your technology…in which case you are enabling “innovation around” or “innovation in spite of”.

Software Companies will innovate.

I am, by no means, encouraging you adopt unnatural, potentially dangerous technologic implementations or business practices. However, I am encouraging that you take pause and determine whether you are taking steps to fostering innovation and gaining the market share that comes with it.

Software Companies will innovate. Software Companies are innovating.

Will your technology enable that innovation directly? Or will your technology force innovation around?

And, as I sit on a plane today traveling to PayPal’s X.commerce developer event, I find myself pondering the same topic…but from a slightly different perspective.

I still maintain that Software Companies, or application developers, will innovate in spite of the best of efforts of some in the industry.

However, I find that there is another consideration that is oft forgotten.

Innovation is for a reason.
Innovation occurs as a result of pain.
Innovation occurs as a result of desiring convenience.

– and –

Innovation serves multiple audiences.

The term Platform is bandied about so widely that it is becoming one of those meaningless technology buzz phrases. Here, for your convenience, is a litmus test of whether something is a Platform (and I promise, this does tie to the topic of innovation).

A Platform facilitates interaction between multiple audiences.

And, yet, so many Platform companies lose sight of this. They begin to tell stories of their innovation without elucidating, or realizing, that Platform innovation must serve multiple audiences. When a Platform also offers a service themselves*, particularly when that service is billed as “innovative”, there must be benefits for all who participate in the value chain.

Take the payments industry, for example.

You may have the most compelling, secure, exciting new payment tender ever created. But success of this offering requires consumer adoption, retailer adoption, and application developer (creating retailer solutions**) adoption. If your “innovation” creates pain for any of these participants you will, likely, not achieve the desired network effect.

Similarly, do not be surprised if you new payments offering is questioned from the perspective of each of these audiences.

Innovation does not require that all audiences are benefited.
However, none of the audiences involved should be adversely impacted.

Know all of your participants.
Know all audiences.
Don’t become so insular in your focus that an important Platform participant is ignored.

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

written while in seat 21f from DEN to SFO
written while listening to Calle 7 – Vinicius Cantuaria, Bill Frisell

* And, arguably, that makes them no longer “open” for that service. More to come on that at another point.
** Again, more on this word in the future.

October 11, 2011

Comments are closed.