The Independent has an article "The Car that changed our world" celebrating the centenary of the Model T Ford. In the article Sean O'Grady notes....
The truth is that what Ford and his little troupe of engineers came up were two remarkable machines, dependent on one another, and both still with us, in a way.
The first machine, the Model T Ford, was a sturdy, comfortable, reliable
method for humans to get around and, yes, have some fun. The second machine
was the modern manufacturing corporation,
Persuading punters to choose a car over a horse may seem a bit of a no-brainer nowadays, but then it obviously required a talented ad copywriter, another trade that, largely unacknowledged, the Model T and its peers did much to create.
Ask yourself why we complacently expect the price of the new technological and electronic wonders of our time to continually fall until such point that they become virtually disposable? Why does a £10 DVD player – that would have cost 20 times that a decade ago – fail to amaze us? Because that's what the Model T led us to expect, as a right.
We also have Andrew Hargadon talking to Spotlight about Menlo Park and Edison and his lighting system.
Here's the final Q&A:
Spotlight: Why do previously innovative firms, i.e. those that 'led the previous revolution', frequently fail to embrace later breakthrough technologies?
Andrew Hargadon: This is an intriguing problem. Take, for example, Edison, who produced the electric light. He was known worldwide as 'the wizard of Menlo Park Lab.' He was wildly innovative. But then, just a few years after he produced the electric light, he fought a mighty battle with Westinghouse over the standard of AC electricity and not only did he lose (because AC was a better technology for distributing electricity), but his image was irrevocably tarnished in the public eye. Henry Ford suffered a similar fate. Some ten years after Ford became famous for perfecting mass production, General Motors won the market with its offering of a range of different automobile models.
Technology brokering is not just about moving between multiple 'worlds' and recognizing connections. Ultimately, when you identify a good combination, that's when the hard work starts. That's when you need to be able to devote the years it may take to building an industry, building a market.
The problem is that when faced with a challenge, the people who are really good at moving between 'worlds' become easily bored and tend to want to move on to something else, to learn something new. There is a real risk that they won't hang around long enough to find a solution. The very focus needed to turn an innovative combination into a reality, a breakthrough product, while keeping the market going until it grows, poses a challenge. The only way the people who led the previous revolution were capable of leading it was by this completely blinkered belief that theirs was the right way. Ultimately their way is no longer the best, and something else comes along. Their belief in themselves and the old ideas make it impossible for them to see the value of the new ones.
Then we have the iPod and iPhone from Apple...
Umair Haque has written a great deal about the Apple phenomenon including this:
What's Apple's larger strategy behind the iPhone? Is there even one, or is the iPhone just a pretty face?
Since - to my surprise - it's not transparent, let me try and offer my perspective.
1) Pick an industry which sucks (ie, imposes significant nuisance costs/menu costs/externalities on consumers)
2) Redress the imbalance by making something consumers love
3) ...Which disrupts the long-standing industry equilibrium, and shifts market power
4) Use said market power to redesign (a hyperefficient) value chain
I also remembered Matt Taylor and Brian Coffman's take on the stages of enterprise and looping and learning
take on quantum mechanics... metaphor for new business behaviour... which seems to confirm the challenge of continuous recognition of the innovative opportunities that innovative 'products' throw up and how difficult it is to stay on top of the situation... maybe openness and complementors are the solution.. or part of it! They certainly have the potential to bring a different perspective.. but are we willing to listen, sense and respond?