Across the globe, many of the opportunities for sustainable innovation will be in mature markets like energy, transportation, agriculture, construction and will present very different challenges from those of innovating in information technology, Internet applicaitons, or social media. The differences between driving change in these different conditions is a defining characteristic of each—something that entrepreneurs, investors, and policy makers alike seem to forget.
Last week, Bob Sutton asked me to add my two bits to the dog-pile surrounding the “Steve-Jobs-is-the-modern-Thomas-Edison” analogy. I initially balked. There were plenty of folks who’d already made this connection. Then I balked because Bob’s own brilliant post on Apple took the discussion in a much more productive direction. Over the weekend, however, I bit. Not because of how the analogy fit, but because of how it didn’t.
This morning our 2011 Biomedical Engineering Entrepreneurship Academy comes to close. 45 university research scientists from across the country, full professors to first year grad students, arrived on Monday morning with their research and the desire to see it become a reality. After an intensive week of work, they're pitching their proposed businesses for the first time and to a jury of potential investors.
What if innovation was not about solving problems? This thought nags me whenever I'm forced to read about the grave responsibility of "innovation" to solve such persistent problems as climate change, healthcare, poverty, and education. Or listening to how innovation might solve all of Acme, Incorporated's problems but especially that gaping hole in Q3 revenues for 2012, their obsolete technology platform, or declining share values.
Most every bit of advice you’ll find for entrepreneurs is about making the leap, but leaping is not for everyone so it’s important to figure out whether it’s for you. Just beware of setting out to test your entrepreneurial DNA.
I’ve never met anyone who was against innovation. Why is that?
My hunch is because we are too lax with our words. Innovation, creativity, invention, and entrepreneurship are one-sided terms—they refer, typically, only to those successful outcomes we read about, enjoy in our daily lives, or look to for solving major problems like healthcare or global warming. Before talking any more about innovation and entrepreneurship, then, let’s make sure we’re talking about the right thing.
I posted earlier about the different ways that valuable ideas may come out of university research labs. But this series of posts is as interested in how ideas, born inside large and established companies, can also emerge to have significant impacts on broader society. This may seem like an unnecessary charity—like helping corporate executives cross the street—but it’s not. Large companies are arguably the most infertile ground in which to grow an idea into a new business.