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There is a strange phenomenon in innovation and business growth. To make a splash in the marketplace, an entrepreneur or business must think outside the box, creating an innovative product or service that consumers demand but is not offered by existing companies. Yet, once that business finds success and cultivates a lucrative consumer base, the company is limited in how innovative it can continue to be. This is the “Legacy Trap.”
In recent years, Fortune 500 businesses have utilized a variety of approaches and positions to encourage an innovative culture within their organizations, with varying degrees of success. Now that growth is once again a corporate priority (after years of cost cutting efforts) and the understanding of how to create innovative cultures improves, there has been increasing focus on this issue from executive leadership.
The need for job creation and economic growth dominates nearly every aspect of the current public debate, from STEM education to immigration reform to government programs. For many, whatever does not contribute to improving the job market and the national economy is a low priority, relegated to the sidelines until the country is back on its feet.
Amazing! Today’s iPhones have the same capabilities (and more!) than 13 distinct electronics gadgets, worth more than $3,000, found in a 1991 Radio Shack ad.
As a tough winter marches on, I am reminded of the adage parents sometimes hand down to their children: "Every person is a unique snowflake." It’s the kind of sentiment that makes children feel special, but within that saying is a sage piece of wisdom for businesses competing in the globalized marketplace. Every consumer is unique; realizing new opportunities demands a new approach to responding to very different product demands by different parts of the world.
Prizes are among the most effective—and overlooked—tools for incentivizing breakthrough solutions to the thorniest problems we know. They have existed since the dawn of man. As modern civilization has grown, prizes have become a tool for incentivizing progress. Yet it has been only in the past few centuries that we have come to view prizes institutionally, channeling human nature toward valuable endeavors.
Information technology is elevating and disrupting most of the economy, and its potential to transform public sector services and lagging portions of the private sector is obvious and important. When governments do deploy IT, however, they often spend too much and increase complexity without improving service. Witness the botched launch of Healthcare.gov – perhaps the largest IT failure in history. In other cases, public policy discourages private firms and industries from investing in IT and using it to innovate.
Data fuels America’s economic engine, but few of us ever look under the hood. We’re usually content to leave its detailed workings alone while we go on consuming and producing endless streams of information. All the while, data grows in significance and value to our everyday lives.