Sunday, 28 September 2008

Innovation requires more than the idea...

I just caught the end of a television programme where presenter James May was remarking that if the motor car was invented today, then it would probably be banned under safety regulations alone!  The invention might have been described as a small metal box that individuals pilot themselves and travel at significant speeds with very little training, and which are powered by a tank of highly flammable liquid!  It's quite believable that the invention would be squashed before it was allowed to take off.  

Similarly, if I had rolled into a meeting to design a new messaging service, and had admitted that it would be priced as the most expensive data messaging (£/Mb) known to man, I would've been shown the door.  Instead I might have described the user interface, whereby you press a small key once to type 'a' and twice for 'b' and three times for 'c' and that each little button has at least three functions associated with it, again I can imagine being told to go and think again.  However the SMS service has been extremely popular with billions of messages being sent around the globe daily.  Indeed it was originally never designed as a service, but instead a diagnostic tool for engineers.  

Innovations like these which we take for granted today might never have come to pass had the circumstances and timing been different.  I wonder how many great ideas we stifle today for similar reasons? 

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