Entrepreneurial Innovation

March 2, 2009

Wow. I haven’t posted since 2008!!! I will not make excuses, I love blogging, and I am excited to get back into the groove. So much has happened over the past 2 months like the inauguration of President Obama, Sully the Pilot’s heroics, and hitting a 10 year low in the stock market. Over this period I’ve had some epiphanies, one which I would like to present today… that being, innovation is incremental.

Innovation is Incremental – Since August I’ve been working with a team of engineering students to develop a mobile application for a Fortune 500 company. We’ve had our ups and our downs. Recently we had an internal discussion regarding our goal; the question was if we needed to create an innovative interface or an innovative application? The application we began developing was clearly an innovative interface; all the content existed, the basic idea and concept is widely available via other applications, all we were doing was presenting it in a “cooler” manner. I hated this application, and voiced my opposition on the grounds of lack of innovation. Before revealing the idea to the sponsor company, we had an internal review revealing our application to a group of PhD’s. During the review the innovative interface application was bashed by the PhDs also due to lack of innovation. We had a list of 8 other applications we created, 3 of them which I considered innovative. The presented application was dumped. Our new task was to choose 1 of these 8 remaining ideas using innovative application as the main criteria. This is when I realized innovation is incremental.

People used mail before electronic mail (email), listened to Walkmans before iPods, and instant messaged before twittering. These are incremental innovations. While selecting a new mobile application to develop I was unaware of the incremental nature of innovation. I campaigned for the most innovative of the 8 applications, but my team pushed back saying the idea is a new paradigm, which is bad. New paradigms change behaviors, which is a risky endeavor (especially for a conservative Fortune 500 company). I became aware the most innovative application may be ahead of its time, and too far a jump from the current market. Eventually we settled on an application using current content, presenting it not only in a “cool” manner, but also in a different manner by mixing medias to create an interactive experience unlike any other. The mobile application we are moving forward with is an innovative interface and an innovative application, but without creating a new paradigm. The application marries two behaviors together in a manner never done before to create an incremental innovation with great potential. Taking the innovation is incremental approach facilitates us in delivering a great mobile application.

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Technical Know How: Ask For Help

September 8, 2008

The summer is officially over; I’m back to Business School and back to the daily grind. After a weekend in the Cape (where I received one of the worst sunburns ever), I’ve begun one of the most interesting projects I’ve ever been a part of in my life. This school year I am working on a project with a group of five engineering students to develop an educational mobile application for higher education students. The con of the project is that I have to pay for the college credits earned while working on it, but the pro is it’s an opportunity of a lifetime. I hope by working on this project I will solve a question that I’ve struggled with in the past: How does someone with no experience in engineering create a technical product?

The simple answer is: He Doesn’t! No one person can possess all the information in the world; at times people need to call upon others to help. Repeatedly we see examples of leaders rounding themselves out by hiring complementary pieces. Two vibrant examples occurred in the past month when Barack Obama chose Joe Biden, and John McCain chose Sarah Palin as their respective Vice Presidential Candidates. Obama and McCain’s decisions were based upon choosing a partner who encompassed the characteristics and knowledge they lacked. As entrepreneurs we need to acknowledge that we can only be experts in so many things; we have time constraints and other areas that need our attention. I hope the 5 engineering students I am partnering with teach me as much as I can understand about the engineering and code writing needed to create mobile applications, but I know that I will never be an expert engineer or code writer. The 5 engineering students complement my marketing, accounting, sales, organizational, and leadership skills. I would find the task of creating a mobile application on my own almost impossible, just as the 5 engineering students would find bringing an emerging technology to market. The team dynamic of a complementary knowledge base is one main reason why I am excited about this project. I know I cannot create a sophisticated technical product by myself, so in a way I am asking others for help in this opportunity of a lifetime.