The myths of innovation

This is a guest post by James Gardner, an innovation author and chief strategy officer at crowd innovation company Spigit.
In the last decade, Microsoft has spent between four to five times as much every year on research and development as Apple. Yet, their stock price has been flat, whilst Apple’s has soared out of all proportion. If the conventional wisdom about innovation and R&D was correct, then surely the opposite should have been true.
It is an outcome which challenges one of the greatest corporate myths of our time: if you invest to create something genuinely new, something that’s a breakthrough, you have a better than average chance of windfall returns.
When I was head of innovation at a major European bank, I believed my job was to create the next breakthrough that would change the business. I wasn’t successful.
In my next role, as the chief technology officer of the biggest public sector organization in the UK, my challenge was again to create the next wave of innovation that would change everything.
Change happened, but none of it was of the breakthrough kind that reshaped the world. Instead, we made lots of little things happen, and they all added up to a respectable number over time.
The story of Apple and Microsoft, any my own personal experiences led me to research “Sidestep and Twist”, a book which explores these issues.
It turns out there are important lessons about innovation that leaders – especially technology leaders – can learn once you take away the myths.
For example, there hasn’t really been a genuine breakthrough that led to actual profits in the last couple of decades. All the “hit” products have been incremental improvements on something else. 
Another is this: patents, trade secrets, and copyrights seem to be less a driver of value than they ever have been. Those businesses that are relying on them are protecting yesterday’s innovation: newer kinds of businesses aren’t bothering.
And most importantly of all: competitive advantage is now less about features than building products that get better the more they’re used. 
What are your innovation efforts concentrated on? If, like most organisations you’re concentrating on genuinely new stuff, you might like to think again. History gives us a long history of failure for breakthroughs.
James Gardner’s book “Sidestep and Twist” is available on Amazon

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I do not think James quite understands what "real" innovation is about. First is to recognise from idea to a production ready product takes minimum 5 years more likely 10. He like many confuses innovation with just trying to a job better with established resources. I came across James at DWP where he was asked to look at our "disruptive" innovation in Business Software. It is what Bill Gates called the holy grail of software and removes over 90% of coding to build exactly what is required - including a benefit system. To sum up it was a fiasco - maybe James was under pressure to ignore breakthrough technology. James had real opportunity to tackle the very issue he raises about genuine breakthroughs and like most failed. See the paper I wrote re UK Government on a benefit system! We in UK are v good at real innovation but bad at supporting at the critical stage of exploitation. Maybe James has come out of his glass house.... because his comments do display understanding in particular the patent issue. We rely on prior art which we established by just getting out there a telling what we had dome - so when Microsoft IBM and SAP tried to patent what we actually had built some 8 years earlier it was effective! Prior art always wins with virtually no cost - but make sure you have marketed your ideas asap. Real innovation is going to be important for UK plc maybe next time James sees breakthrough technology he will stand up and be counted to help make it happen
The funny thing about innovation and leadership, is that creation and innovation is only half the story. The other half is how to get that innovation in front of the right people, industry players, or investors, and help them to realize that what one has in his possession is truly something different and revolutionary. The task is a bit harder then one would think. "Hold-on there Mr. Know-it-all, if a product, service, or system is truly Earth shattering, then there is no way you'd have to 'convince' the innovative and ever creative titans of IT of the potential and value!" To which I say, "In all honesty, I wouldn't know. I've have yet to meet any titans, but trying to introduce a product into the world of IT which is in fact populated with Gods and Titans of the IT universe is harder then one assumes. Especially, if you represent an unheard of company and brand, are you yourself a new comer to the world of IT, and to stick with the God and Titan analogy, are little more then a mortal peasant soldier alone with nothing more then this amazing gift which the Gods must see. You'd be surprised at the ego and fear based opposition one can face. Middle managers and even upper level IT get competitive and sneaky just like in any other business, where once they realize the potential of what you have they're quick to attempt to relieve you of your possession and shot at joining the ranks of the Gods and Titans yourself some day. After all, you have no name, no brand, few contacts, and a product and system that they would love to take to their employer God bosses and claim either the find or idea to be their own. Who'd believe you'd have such an amazing and game changing product or system, after all remember no one has ever heard of you. Thank God you are not naked, and you happen to be packing a trick or two up your own sleeve. They say a law degree helps as a powerful weapon, but in an industry like IT you'd find it best to rely on your charisma and ability to pen some interesting as heck content. After-all, I should know right, as by now you must know I am speaking from experience. So, what does one do then? Read endless industry articles and blogs. See who is talking about what, where it is happening, who may care, and how best to align yourself and your "marketing plan" in order to get the product you have in front of the right peoples eyes. At least that is where I am at, or what I am doing with my none existent budget, energies, and not-to-shabby ability to generate some at least un-boring internet content. Oh, the product is the Fligby leadership and management on-line simulation (, created by Aleas Learning Simulations (, and distributed by (yours truly) from Simulearner Elite ( This story, and my unique take on trying to launch or bring true innovation to the worlds or industries of education, corporate continuous education, gaming, human capital management, and beyond is all very true. Don't believe me, just check out the website ( or ( You'll see one of the most incredible products, with the most advanced graphics and learning systems, the whole time is also a learning management system which tests and scores individuals while they're in the simulation. I wouldn't be this confident, to leave a career of Estate Planning and Corporate Consulting if I didn't know and believe in this product and system. Now, the question and my opinion are still the same as when I started this blog, which is that it is harder then it looks or sounds to get a product or system noticed. And yes, it really is that good. The fact that you more likely then not won't go check out the five minute trainer on, to see for yourself, is my proof of the attitudes and emotional blocks a person like me needs to find a way to work with.