Sunday, June 7, 2009

NYC Internet Week: Business Impact of Innovation

As part of a NYC Internet Week gathering, I got involved in a discussion on business impact of innovation in technology with two representatives from, Dana and Tom.

We discussed the poster child for technological innovation- the XEROX PARC center at Palo Alto. It was filled with the brightest minds who came up with amazing innovations in computing that are taken for granted today. Dana mentioned that the facility is a shadow if it's former self and is reflective of Xerox's current state of affairs.

The center had the first PC like workstation ready in the early 70s (the mouse was at hand in the 60s) and the Graphical User Interface available in the late 70s, but these brilliant ideas lay around within the walls of the facility. However, they captured the imagination of Steve Jobs, who successfully pushed them out to the market and created a successful company out to them.

The question is, was Steve Jobs alone responsible for the business impact of such innovation? Was Bill Gates the primary force? Would you also consider advancement in manufacturing technology, as well as the Palo Alto cluster of innovation bringing skilled individuals together as important factors in the business impact of innovation?

Another thought to consider- isn't Xerox also continuing to innovate in some way? Are there levels of innovation? Based on my brush with managing innovation at a beverage company, can a gated process truly manage innovation?

The impending release of newer versions of the iPhone, and the apparent dependence of Apple stock value on Steve Jobs' presence in the company, are interesting cases that make you probe the nature and sustainability of innovation.

What do you think?

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