At the UC Davis Center for Entrepreneurship, we built our Entrepreneurship Academies on a simple observation, that the myth of the better mousetrap was undermining innovation.
Recall Emerson's famous line: “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” People are obsessed with building better mousetraps. For scientists, this creates a mindset in which the hard work lies in coming up with the idea—usually culminating in publishing a paper. For the engineer, this usually means developing a design, or a model. For the would-be entrepreneur, or corporate innovator, this usually means an extensive excel spreadsheet or polished powerpoint description of the next great idea. And for managers managing for “innovation,” to revive or maintain their business’s growth, this usually means searching for better ideas from inside the company, from among its customers, or from the larger “idea” marketplace.
If I have learned anything while traveling the country, talking to people in companies about their innovation process, and working with scientists from around the globe, it is this: There is no shortage of good ideas. We are waist-deep in ideas, good and bad. We’ve just lost the ability to recognize them, separate the good from the bad, and throw ourselves into building the best ones into real businesses.