The Failures of Innovation

In business, today’s hottest innovation may become tomorrow’s old news.  This week Cisco announced that it is halting production of its highly successful FlipCam, which allowed millions of consumers to easily shoot, edit, and share video.  Media reports suggested that the Flipcam struggled to compete as smartphones became more and more integrated.  “It was unusually fast,” Pacific Crest Securities analyst Brent Bracelin said of the FlipCam, “It’s a testament to the pace of innovation in consumer electronics and smartphone technology…”

However, for newly obsolete innovations such as these, all is not lost.  Out of the ashes of situations such as these arise opportunities to develop new and innovative products and technologies.

The two most prominent examples of this phenomenon are two of America’s most innovative companies: Apple and Google. Apple introduced the wildly successful Mac computers only after learning from its failed prototype, LISA.  Likewise, Columbia Business School Professor Rita McGrath argues that it is precisely because Google is willing to take risks and has promoted numerous failed innovations, among them Google Wave and Google Notebook, that it has become so successful.

Some argue that failure is more than an opportunity, but that it is this very failure that lends itself towards creativity and innovation.  Mitchell Osak, a business consultant, has said, “The sooner firms realize that failure is not bad, the quicker they will be on their way to breakthrough innovation.”

Posted by Rachel Barker

Sources: Business Week, Financial Post, Harvard Business Review, New York Times

Photo Credit: Flip Morning courtesy of flickr user Artotem


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