prodigy’ frequently does not graduate to the top level. Hard, focused and appropriately- directed work trumps natural talent in virtually every case. The question is,
where to focus? Let us start by looking at the anatomy of the beast.
One key lesson that I took away from Lester Thurlow’s book, Head to Head, is the observation that, “Innovation in process trumps innovation in product.” Thurlow was contrasting the research investment strategies between the U.S. and Japan in the post-war years. His observation was that the U.S. took a materialistic approach to their investment, focusing on products, while the Japanese focused on process. His observation was that while the U.S. invented DRAM, the VCR or the LCD, it also incurred the highest up-front costs, while the Japanese reaped the primary profit due to their superior processes of manufacturing and distribution.
Today, we have a comparable example
in Apple and Dell. Apple is now below
Acer in PC market share, but they have
beautiful, design-intense systems. Dell’s
computers, on the other hand, are boring
and have virtually no technical or design
innovation. But Dell’s process has given
them a dominant market share. Some business
publications (e.g., Fast Company, Jan.
2004) have come to the dubious conclusion
that this says that innovation may not be all
that it was cracked up to be. Of course,
... middle of paper ...
level position? Do you have a Chief Design
Officer reporting to the president? My
view is that if you do not, you are not
serious about design or innovation.
Furthermore, you are telegraphing this fact
to all of your employees, along with a clear
message that they need not be either. As a
result, you might as well fire all of your creative
people, since you are setting them up
to fail anyhow.
As an executive, of course you have to
have creative and innovative ideas. But at
the top of the list should be ones that reflect
(a) how important innovation is to the
future of your company, (b) the role of
design in this, (c) a recognition that innovation
cannot be ghettoized in the research or
design departments, since it is an overall
cultural issue, and (d) an awareness of the
inevitable and dire consequences of ignoring
the previous three points..
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