Nick Carr on Innovation

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StartupJournal has an interesting interview with Nick Carr about innovation. Carr took a shot at I.T. with his "I.T. Doesn't Matter" article a few years ago. Now he is saying similar things about innovation.

Mr. Carr, 47 years old, also has turned a skeptical eye on another popular notion: If innovation is a good that companies should pursue, more innovation is even better, and the best innovations are those that upset existing markets or industries. Instead, Mr. Carr says, companies need to be prudent — even conservative — in where and how much they encourage innovation.

What he is really attacking here is the two ways most companies do business. First they use management-by-fad to mindlessly copy the hottest companies of the moment, then they use hammer-and-nail syndrome to apply that fad across the board, even when it doesn't make sense. So I think Carr's assertion that companies latch on to innovation and think that more is always better is accurate, but is symptomatic of a larger problem.

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The other interesting quote is Carr's response to a question about being the first mover.

The studies that I've seen indicate that it's rarely the very first mover into a market who ends up winning that market. Today we think of the iPod as being an enormous innovation, and in one way it was. But in fact, when the iPod came along there were already MP3 players and there were already lots of digital jukeboxes.

The point here is that there are different types of innovation and functional innovation – the introduction of a product that does something new – isn't always the best kind to pursue since, as Carr said, first movers don't really have the advantage that everyone assumes they do.