It’s the “crazy” ideas that change everything

Imagine if I went to my economics teacher in 1987 and explained any one of these seemingly crazy ideas to them:

  • I’m going to ask a ton of brilliant authors and historians to donate their time, write factual articles, check each other’s work, and not pay them a penny. Afterwards, I’ll offer their work for free.
  • I’m going to have a horde of programmers develop all sorts of programs to make people’s lives easier. Their work will be gratis, and the users don’t have to pay.
  • I’m going to move to Memphis, Tennessee, buy 14 airplanes, and compete with the postal service and charge less to deliver faster.

The teacher would ask me when I hit my head and how hard.

If you haven’t already put it together, the aforementioned ideas lead to Wikipedia, Google, and FedEx. They say hindsight is 20/20, so it’s easy to look back and marvel at the successes of innovative pioneers, but do you think these ideas were so critically acclaimed when pitched at their humble beginnings? read more

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Innovating With Acquihires?

How Acquihires Can Hurt Your Business

A number of companies I’ve worked with seem to have a pattern for innovating – instead of looking to build products and services based on the ideas of their own people, they typically scan the market for interesting companies to buy up, and acquihire them into the belly of the beast. I can see why the model seems to work for them, they let the startup founders take the risk, do all the work, gain traction (or at least develop some interesting IP) then give them an offer that they can’t refuse. I’ve seen a ton of companies do through this – Yahoo!, Google, Facebook, all of the major internet companies seem to do this – they seem to want to be innovative by snapping up these companies, instead of innovating internally. Well, maybe in addition to innovating internally, but from both the employee perspective and external company watcher perspective, it seems that they look like they aren’t capable of innovating anymore. This is, of course, untrue: there are plenty of innovators and innovative ideas within these companies. But without a comprehensive innovation program which helps to extract those ideas and reward the innovators, and the drive to take those ideas to market, they never seem to see the light of day. read more

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Ways We Innovate: Make Serendipity Our Good Buddy

The Popsicle was invented by enterprising an 11-year-old called Frank Epperson in 1905, who left a glass of soda on his San Francisco front porch with a stirring stick still it. The next day, after a cold night, the drink had frozen. Frank pulled the stick and, to his surprise, the drink came with it. Nine years later, he patented them as “Popsicles”. read more

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