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Bringing Tech to Market: The Rules of Innovation

jamie posted more than 12 years ago | from the 1-from-column-e-and-2-from-column-pi dept.

Science 170

Everyone knows that best-quality plus first-to-market doesn't always equal success. A Harvard prof who specializes in this stuff has a great article in Technology Review that digs a lot deeper, called The Rules of Innovation. It's a look at why some technologies are marketplace success stories and some are forgotten failures -- and more, an attempt at rules which predict which will be which. There are lessons here for the entrenched companies (e.g. Sony) as well as for the disruptive upstarts (e.g. Sony 50 years ago). You have to understand the battlefield to win the war.

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First Boast! (-1, Troll)

JWCoder (471074) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532547)

What, first boast isn't best?!?

First Post? (-1, Offtopic)

nybble_me (572503) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532551)

First Post? By accident too.

Re:First Post? (-1)

MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM (537317) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532601)

Your birth was by accident as well. Your mom was a prostitute.

Re:First Post? (-1)

Anonymous Cowrad (571322) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532639)

Your nick makes me think of pistachio ice cream. I think it's mostly because when I eat pistachio ice cream, I say "MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM".

yummy.

Accidents don't need to happen..perhaps i can help (-1)

ElCagado (575762) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532624)

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what? (1, Insightful)

cmmwhodi (312676) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532552)

i think the biggest factor boils down to luck...

Re:what? (1)

Zurk (37028) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532691)

he covered that when he noted the 33% success rate for disruptive and useful innovations from startups.
that 77% remaining is just bad luck.
so basically you have a 30% chance of being successful with a new venture based on a new innovative and useful idea. since not every idea is new useful or disruptive that rate is reduced to 10% which is the average success rate for a startup.
single page view : http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/christens en0602.asp?p=0

but not *nixs luck (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3532855)

Ahhhh - the easy low-end gets fat, while the complex elitists starve ... hehe ... thus the article certainly explains why/how/when Linux is totally fscked.

Re:what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3532978)

Ok, so all the IT companies now going out of business all had bad luck?

It's not bad luck, it's bad business-models (in this case) and geeks in charge who may know technology but certainly don't know who to make a working business-model.

The most amazing part is that many (if you read a little on slashdot anyway) still seems to think that giving man-years of work away for free pays the bills! Simply amazing!

first poem (-1, Offtopic)

sulli (195030) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532559)

I think that I shall never see
a first post lovely as a tree.

A post so delicate and short
Compared to the comments of sllort;

A post that reads slashdot all day
But has but two brief words to say;

A post that may in BSD
Say Kreskin you don't have to be;

A post that in Your Rights Online
Will never stop its endless whine;

My Karma surely will be toast,
but only I can get first post.

Re:first poem (-1, Offtopic)

sllort (442574) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532580)

What, are you calling me longwinded?

That's an unfair characterization. I'm more offtopic than longwinded. Sheesh.

Re:first poem (0, Offtopic)

sulli (195030) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532654)

fair enough. how about:

A comment that will knock the socks
Off any statement of FortKnox

?

Re:first poem (0, Offtopic)

sllort (442574) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533035)

That's pretty good. I mean, you should actually make fun of me; I deserve it. But if you wanna go after him, perhaps:


A comment that sucks manly cocks
Just like that blowhard FortKnox


Or something.

What about the SoundBlaster principle? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3532566)

In computers, it's the SoundBlaster principle. If you're first, you win. Even if your technology sucks. Creative Labs was putting out the crappiest soundcards out there for a LONG time - and took the market. Same with Microsoft, and 3dfx... 3dfx managed to blow it, but for the most part, in the computer market, if you don't blow your lead... first wins.

That's why all the VC's went nuts trying to stake out .COM

Re:What about the SoundBlaster principle? (2, Insightful)

GlassHeart (579618) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532738)

If you're first, you win.

VisiCalc was the first electronic spreadsheet. Lotus 1-2-3 destroyed it, and became so successful in the market that at least three competitors (including Excel) supported 1-2-3 keystrokes for compatibility. Excel now dominates.

WordStar, at one point, was the only viable word processor. Word now dominates.

Netscape Navigator, at one time, had over 70% of the web browser market share. Internet Explorer now dominates.

It's not that simple.

Re:What about the SoundBlaster principle? (2)

Radical Rad (138892) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533217)

All of your examples are for software and include Microsoft, who has had a monopoly on the IBM PC right from the get-go. But the parent was referring to hardware and what used to be a competetive market for sound cards. It's apples and oranges.

But I still disagree that first always wins. Even looking at his soundblaster example, it seems that the lowest price always takes the lions share of the market eventually. It's even starting to happen to Microsoft now.

So I think it all depends on what time frame you are looking at. In other words how mature the market is.

Re:What about the SoundBlaster principle? (-1)

OsamaBinLager (532628) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532755)

Ad-lib came out before Game Blaster if I remember correctly, so how can your little tale and "SoundBlaster principle" be true?

Adlib was first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3532794)

Soundblaster took over the market after it added 8-bit sound to Adlib's music synthesis capability.

Not blowing your lead is the hard part, and Microsoft's probably the only "first" still on top. And it wasn't really first at anything...

Re:What about the SoundBlaster principle? (2, Informative)

Jonathan_S (25407) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533003)

Soundblaster wasn't first.

I have an original SoundBlaster. 8bit ISA card, anchient, with box. It even sayes AT recomended (ie it will run in an IBM XT (8088) computer).

It also says 100% Ad-Lib compatable; becuase Ad-Lib came first and Creative Labs SoundBlaster killed them

And nVidia, ATI, S3, and Matrox were fighting it out for 3d acceleration long before 3dfx came on the scene. Of course they didn't hold a candle to the voodoo card, but they were the first. The nVidia Riva128, ATI Rage - Rage Pro, the S3 Virge (graphics decelerator), and matrox's m3d all predate the voodoo, and for quite a while 3dfx smeared them and took everying but the OEM market away from them. Except matrox for 2D only work...

Bad examples

Re:What about the SoundBlaster principle? (1)

phriedom (561200) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533351)

You didn't actually read the article did you? You just wanted to get your post up near the top. Right from the beginning of the article, he explains that sustaining innovation, like soundcards, in generally the realm of established companies, like Creative Labs. Only 6% of the time can a new company compete with the big boys in this way. Being "first" would be a part of that sustaining innovation.

The odds of success go up to 30% when the new technology is disruptive instead of sustaining. That is, it creates a new market that does not compete directly with the established market and is not attractive to the big boys who would crush you like a grape. Go read the article first if you want to comment on it.

Re:What about the SoundBlaster principle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3533357)

ya, he was karma whoring as an AC. he's an innovator.

In case of slashdotting... (0, Redundant)

wurp (51446) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532573)

Bringing new technology to market is a crap shoot, right? Wrong, says innovation guru Christensen. Follow his four rules to a new science of success.

Two decades ago, when I was just out of graduate school and working in the automotive industry, I got my first introduction to the statistical process-control chart. We used this laborious technique to make sure the machines employed in our manufacturing process did not drift out of control. Composed of three parallel horizontal lines, the "SPC" chart has long been an important tool in quality management. The center line represents the targeted value for the critical performance parameter of a product being manufactured. The lines above and below it represent the acceptable upper and lower control limits. If the product were, say, an axle, workers would plot the thickness of each piece they made on the chart. When I asked why there was typically a scatter of points around the target, my managers cited the randomness inherent in all processes.
The "Quality Movement" of the 1980s and '90s subsequently taught us that there isn't randomness in processes. Every deviation of the actual value from the target has a cause. It appears to be random when we don't know the cause. The Quality Movement developed methods for identifying those additional factors--and we discovered that if we could control or account for all of them, the result would be perfectly predictable, and there would be no need to inspect products as they emerged from manufacturing.

The management of innovation today is where the Quality Movement was 20 years ago, in that many believe the outcomes of innovation efforts are unpredictable. The raison d'être of the venture capital industry is belief in the unpredictability of new businesses. A few ventures will succeed; most won't, the VCs say. They therefore place a portfolio of bets, extracting premium prices for their capital in order to earn the high return required to compensate for the risk that unpredictability imposes. I believe, however, that innovation isn't random. Every undesired outcome has a cause. Those outcomes appear to be random when we don't understand all the factors that affect successful innovation. If we could understand and manage these variables, innovation wouldn't be nearly as risky as it appears.

The good news is that recent years have seen considerable progress in identifying important variables that affect the probability of success in innovation. I've classified these variables into four sets: (1) taking root in disruption, (2) the necessary scope to succeed, (3) leveraging the right capabilities and (4) disrupting competitors, not customers.

Of course, building successful businesses is such a complicated process, involving subtle interdependencies among so many variables in dynamic systems, that we're unlikely ever to make it perfectly predictable. But the more we can master these variables, the more we will be able to create new companies, products, processes and services that achieve what we hope to achieve.

Take Root in Disruption

The startling conclusion suggested by the research that led to my writing The Innovator's Dilemma was that many successful companies stumble from prominence not because they're badly managed but precisely because they are well managed. They listen to and satisfy the needs of their best customers, and they focus investments at the largest and most profitable tiers of their markets. Mastering these paradigms of good management gives established companies, as a group, an extraordinary track record in producing sustaining innovations that bring better products to established markets. It matters little whether the innovation is incrementally simple or radically difficult, as long as it enables good companies to make better products that they can sell for higher margins to their best customers in attractively sized markets. The companies that had led their industries in prior technologies led their industries in adopting new sustaining technologies in literally 100 percent of the cases we studied.
In contrast, the leading companies almost always were toppled when disruptive technologies emerged--products or services that weren't as good as those already used in established markets. Disruptive innovations don't initially perform well enough to be sold or used successfully in mainstream markets. But they have other attributes--most often simplicity, convenience and low cost--that appeal to a new, small and initially unattractive (to established firms) set of customers, who use them in new or low-end applications.

The chances a new company could become successful if its entry path was a sustaining strategy--trying to make a better product than the incumbents and selling it to the same customers--were about six percent in our study. The chances of success for firms that entered with a disruptive strategy were 33 percent. The disparity stems from the motivation and position of the leading firms. They have far more resources to throw at opportunities than entrants do. When newcomers attack customers and markets attractive to the leaders, the leaders overwhelm them.

All companies are burdened with "asymmetric" motivations in that they must move toward markets that promise higher profit margins and the most substantial and immediate growth and cannot move down market toward smaller opportunities and profit margins. When new entrants take root with customers in markets that are unattractive to the leaders, they are safer--and it has nothing to do with how much cash or proprietary technology they have. They are safe because the incumbents are motivated to ignore or even exit the very markets that the entrants are motivated to enter. Taking root in disruption, therefore, is the first condition that innovators need to meet to improve the probability of successfully creating a new growth business. If they cannot or do not do this, their odds of success are much smaller.

There are two tests to assess whether a market can be disrupted. At least one of these criteria must be met in order for an upstart to be disruptively successful. If a new growth business can meet both, the odds are even better.

1. Does the innovation enable less-skilled or less-wealthy customers to do for themselves things that only the wealthy or skilled intermediaries could previously do?

When an innovation fulfills this condition, even if it can't do all the things existing offerings can, potential customers excluded from the market tend to be delighted. For example, many people loved the first personal computers, no matter how clunky the booting process and limited the software the machines could run, because the alternative to which they compared the PC wasn't the minicomputer--it was no computer at all. Filling such a void reduces the capital commitments and technological achievements required for an innovation to become viable and creates new growth markets. I call the process of finding and nurturing these opportunities creative creation. After a technology takes root in new markets, and after new growth is created, disruption can invade the established market and destroy its leading firms.

Even if innovators succeed in cramming disruptive technology into an existing market application, the incumbents typically win. Digital photography, online consumer banking and hybrid-electric vehicles are examples of potentially disruptive technologies that were deployed in such a sustaining fashion. Billions were spent on these innovations to beat out already acceptable and habitual technology; little net growth resulted, as sales of the new products cannibalized sales of the old; and the industry leaders maintained their rule.

2. Does the innovation target customers at the low end of a market who don't need all the functionality of current products? And does the business model enable the disruptive innovator to earn attractive returns at discount prices unattractive to the incumbents?

Wal-Mart, Dell Computer and Nucor are examples of disruptive companies that attacked the low ends of their markets with business models that allowed them to make money at discount prices. Wal-Mart started by selling brand-name products at prices 20 percent below department store prices and still earned attractive returns because it turned inventory over much more frequently. Such a disruptive strategy can create new growth businesses but does not create new markets or classes of consumers. It has a high probability of success because the reported profit margins of established companies typically improve if they get out of low-end, low-margin products and add in their stead high-margin products positioned in more-demanding market segments. By assaulting the low end of the market and then moving up, a new company attacks, tier by tier, the markets from which established competitors are motivated to exit.

Pick the Scope Needed to Succeed

The second set of variables that affects the probability that a new business venture will succeed relates to its degree of "integration." Highly integrated companies make and sell their own proprietary components and products across a wide range of product lines or businesses. Nonintegrated companies outsource as much as possible to suppliers and partners and use modular, open systems and components. Which style is likely to be successful is determined by the conditions under which companies must compete as disruption occurs.
In markets where product functionality is not yet good enough, companies must compete by making better products. This typically means making products whose architecture is interdependent and proprietary, because competitive pressure compels engineers to fit the pieces of their systems together in ever more efficient ways in order to wring the best performance possible out of the available technology. Standardization of interfaces (meaning fewer degrees of design freedom) forces them to back away from the frontier of what is technologically possible--which spells competitive trouble when functionality is inadequate. This helps explain why IBM, General Motors, Apple Computer, RCA, Xerox and AT&T, as the most integrated firms during the not-good-enough era of their industries' histories, became dominant competitors. Intel and Microsoft (raps about the latter's supposed lack of innovation aside) have also dominated their pieces of the computer industry--compared to less integrated companies such as WordPerfect (now owned by Corel)--because their products have employed the sorts of proprietary, interdependent architectures that are necessary when pushing the frontier of what is possible. This also helps us understand why NTT DoCoMo, with its integrated strategy, has been so much more successful in providing mobile access to the Internet than nonintegrated American and European competitors who have sought to interface with each other through negotiated standards.

When the functionality of products has overshot what mainstream customers can use, however, companies must compete through improvements in speed to market, simplicity and convenience, and the ability to customize products to the needs of customers in ever smaller market niches. Here, competitive forces drive the design of modular products, in which the interfaces among components and subsystems are clearly specified. Ultimately, these coalesce as industry standards. Modular architectures help companies respond to individual customer needs and introduce new products faster by upgrading individual subsystems without having to redesign everything. Under these conditions (and only under these conditions), outsourcing titans like Dell and Cisco Systems can prosper--because modular architectures help them be fast, flexible and responsive.

Leverage the Right Capabilities

Innovations fail when managers attempt to implement them within organizations that are incapable of succeeding. Managers can determine the innovation limits of their organizations quite precisely by asking three questions: (1) Do I have the resources to succeed? (2) Will my organization's processes facilitate success in this new effort? (3) Will my organization's values allow employees to prioritize this innovation, given their other responsibilities?
Beyond technology, the resources that drive innovative success are managers and money. Corporate executives often tap managers who have strong records of success in the mainstream to manage the creation of new growth businesses. Such choices can be the kiss of death, however, because the challenges confronting managers in a disruptive enterprise--and the skills required to overcome them--are different from those that prevail in the core business. Many innovations fail because managers do not know what they do not know as they make and implement their plans. That is, they assume that the same strategies and customer needs that apply in mature, stable markets will apply in disruptive ventures. But this is not the case, and by making such assumptions, managers close themselves off from opportunities to discover what customers really find useful in new, disruptive products.

Innovators must avoid two common misconceptions in managing the other key resource, money. The first is that deep corporate pockets are an advantage when growing new businesses. They are not. Too much cash allows those running a new venture to follow a flawed strategy for too long. Having barely enough money forces the venture's managers to adapt to the desires of actual customers, rather than those of the corporate treasury, when looking for ways to get money--and forces them to uncover a viable strategy more quickly.

The second misconception is that patience is a virtue--that innovation entails large losses for sustained periods prior to reaping the huge upside that comes from disruptive technologies. Innovators should be patient about the new venture's size but impatient for profits. The mandate to be profitable forces the venture to zero in on a valid strategy. But when new ventures are forced to get big fast, they end up placing huge bets at a time when the right strategy simply cannot be known. In particular, they tend to target large, obvious, existing markets--and this condemns them to failure. Most of today's envisioned business opportunities for wireless Internet access, for example, involve big applications such as stock-trading and multiplayer gaming that have already found homes on wired, desktop computers. Billions are being sunk into new wireless ventures committed to taking over these markets before innovators have a chance to learn what applications wireless is really best at delivering.

Resources such as technology, cash and technical talent tend to be flexible, in that they can be used for a wide array of purposes. Processes, however--the central element in our second question--are typically inflexible. Their purpose is not to adapt quickly but to get the same job done reliably, again and again. The fact that a process facilitates certain tasks means that it will not work well for very different tasks. Failure is frequently rooted in the forced use of habitual but inappropriate processes for doing market research, strategic planning and budgeting.

Sony, for example, was history's most successful disruptor. Between 1950 and 1980 it introduced 12 bona fide disruptive technologies that created exciting new markets and ultimately dethroned industry leaders--everything from radios and televisions to VCRs and the Walkman. Between 1980 and 1997, however, the company did not introduce a single disruptive innovation. Sony continued to produce sustaining innovations in its product businesses, of course. But even the new businesses that it created with its PlayStation and Vaio notebook computer were great but late entries into already established markets.

What drove Sony's shift from a disruptive to a sustaining innovation strategy? Prior to 1980, all new product launch decisions were made by cofounder Akio Morita and a trusted team of associates. They never did market research, believing that if markets did not exist they could not be analyzed. Their process for assessing new opportunities relied on personal intuition. In the 1980s Morita withdrew from active management in order to be more involved in Japanese politics. The company consequently began hiring marketing and product-planning professionals who brought with them data-intensive, analytical processes of doing market research. Those processes were very good at uncovering unmet customer needs in existing product markets. But making the intuitive bets required to launch disruptive businesses became impossible.

A company's values--the focus of question three--determine the necessity of spinning out separate organizations for new ventures. Values are even less flexible than resources. Everyone in an organization--executives to sales force--must put a premium on the type of business that helps the company make money given its existing cost structure. If a new venture doesn't target order sizes, price points and margins that are more attractive than other opportunities on the organization's plate, it won't get priority resources; it will languish and ultimately fail.

Nor is it just the values of the innovating company that matter, because suppliers and distributors have values too, and they must put the highest priorities on opportunities that help them make money. This is why, with almost no exceptions, disruptive innovations take root in free-standing value networks--with new sales forces, distributors and retailing channels.

Disrupt Competitors, Not Customers

The fourth factor in successful innovation is minimizing the need for customers to reorder their lives. If an innovation helps customers do things they are already trying to do more simply and conveniently, it has a higher probability of success. If it makes it easier for customers to do something they weren't trying to do anyway, it will fail. Put differently, innovators should try to disrupt their competitors, never their customers.
The best way to understand what customers are actually trying to do, as opposed to what they say they want to do, is to watch them. For example, when interviewed by the college textbook industry, students say they would welcome the ability to probe more deeply into topics of interest that textbooks just touch on. In response, publishers have invested substantial sums to make richer information available on CDs and Web sites. But few students actually use these innovations, and little growth has resulted. Why? Because what most students really are trying to do is avoid reading textbooks at all. They say they would like to delve more deeply into their subjects. But what they really do is put off reading until the last possible minute--and then cram.

To make it simpler and more convenient for students to do what they already are trying to do, a publisher could create an online facility called Cramming.com. Like all disruptive technologies, it would take root in a low-end market: the least conscientious students. Semester after semester, Cramming.com would then improve as a new "cramming-aid" growth business, without affecting textbook sales. Conscientious students would continue to purchase textbooks. At some point, however, learning the material online would be so much easier and less expensive that, tier by tier, students would stop buying texts. This path of innovation has a much higher chance of success than a direct assault that pits digital texts against conventional textbooks.

The observed probabilities of success in innovation are low. But these statistics stem from the sum of sustaining and disruptive strategies, many of which are attempted in organizations whose resources, processes and values render them incapable of succeeding. Many innovators draw lessons from observing other successful companies in very different circumstances and attempt to succeed with just one or a few links in a chain of interdependent values. And many fail after assuming that what customers say they want to do is what they actually would do.

Hence, the observed probabilities of success don't necessarily reflect what the true likelihood of success can be, if the critical variables in the complex and dynamic process of innovation are understood and managed effectively. Indeed, success may not be as difficult to achieve as it has seemed.

Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen, a former Rhodes scholar and successful entrepreneur, specializes in the management of technological innovation.

How about... (1)

Penguinoflight (517245) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532577)

Rules of Marketing? The best quality product to market first IS the most innovative, but that doesn't mean it will sell.

Re:How about... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3532830)

Christians are evil. They are responsible for the most horrific atrocities in the history of man. Christianity is responsible for the Dark Ages, the various Inquisitions, the Crusades, the Pogroms, the Holocaust, the rewriting of American history, and worst of all: the notion that you should believe something in spite of evidence to the contrary because it somehow makes you a better person. Christianity is the age-old enemy of science and reason. It proposes the existence of a God that has no meaningful characteristics, and it proposes the possibility that such a "being" can have a human son, despite the fact that there is no non-Christian historical evidence to support the fact that he ever existed, and the strong correlation of the events of Jesus' life with the myths of the Mithras cult of Rome. When confronted with these facts, Christians first fall into a ridiculous world of baseless, liberal biblical interpretations; then they fall into a world wherein "faith" can serve as a useful tool of determining truth in the absence of reason. They fail to realize that reason is the only possible way of determining truth, and the whole concept of knowledge is meaningless if it is based on anything but reason. Christianity is a thoroughly invalid and silly concept, and I refuse to read any slashdot postings by anyone who is so weakminded that he values comfort over intellectual honesty.

Re:How about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3533411)

I refuse to read any slashdot postings by anyone who is so weakminded that he values comfort over intellectual honesty.

I agree with you 100% regarding christianity and most religion, but man, if you refused to read his post, you wouldn't have known he was christian in the first place!

Dvorak Keyboard A Good Example (2, Insightful)

SlipJig (184130) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532578)

This is something that's irked me for a while, since I switched over to the Dvorak keyboard layout (see sig for link to more info). The Dvorak layout is more efficient for typing English text than the standard Qwerty layout, but never succeeded due to market inertia.

Re:Dvorak Keyboard A Good Example (1)

BagOBones (574735) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532674)

Qwerty was make to be slow and the layout was also designed to reduce jams on the standard typerwriters of the time. There is no way that the Dvorak will take any market share unless you can replace all the keyboards in schools with them because it is next to impossible to get adults who type quickly to change to something that will make them relearn typing just to be a little more efficient in the end.. True geeks need only apply.

Re:Dvorak Keyboard A Good Example (1)

JiffyPop (318506) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532706)

True, but thanks to the ease of changing keyboard layouts in software there is a loyal, but small (growing?), group of uber-geeks that refuse to use the hand-wrenching monstrosity that is the qwerty keyboard layout. (I doubt that you could find a similar set of users for BETAMAX or 8-tracks.) Unfortunately there isn't anyone making any real money off of dvorak so it hasn't/won't be taking the world by storm. I do plan to have my kids start out with the dvorak layout, though, and save them the misery of qwerty...

BTW, I use the dvorak layout at home and work, and on my linux boxes I actually use a modified dvorak layout. Since I spend a significant amount of time in the console and my right pinky dislikes going up and over I move the '/' back to its qwerty position and shifted the 'z' and '-' keys up. Try it and I think you will prefer it.

Re:Dvorak Keyboard A Good Example (2, Interesting)

outlier (64928) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532754)

Let me provide a preemptive response to the inevitable post that will disagree with the parent post:

Whenever someone claims that the Dvorak layout is superior, there is usually a response that relies on the article The Fable of the Keys [utdallas.edu] by Liebowitz and Margolis.

The Fable is written by two economists. They rebut the claim that the failure of the Dvorak keyboard to replace the QWERTY layout represents a market failure. Essentially, they say that Dvorak isn't much better than QWERTY so there was no real advantage to it, and it added costs.

I have no doubt that Liebowitz and Margolis are first rate economists, and that they know all sorts of things about nework effects and market externalities. What I do strongly oppose is their misreading of the cognitive psychology literature, and their unsubstantiated and overblown attacks on August Dvorak.

I am a cognitive psychologist. I've read the literature. I understand my field, and it is apparent that the bias that Liebowitz and Margolis bring to their evaluation of the literature taints their paper. I make no claims about their economic arguments, but they have done their readers a great disservice by unfairly treating their subject (whether out of malice, bias, or incompetance).

For a decent layman's response to The Fable, check out this page [mwbrooks.com]

</rant>

The bottom line is that Dvorak is about 10% faster than QWERTY, given the same training. This is substantial, but one must consider that most of the time it takes to compose a document is not typing time, but rather content generation (e.g., thinking about what to say). Therefore, someone like a transcriptionist would benefit from a superior layout more than a typical knowledge worker. In addition, there's pretty good evidence that Dvorak error rates are significantly lower than QWERTY rates. This isn't as much an issue with computers as it was with old typewriters (it takes more time use use whiteout than it does to hit the Backspace key). There have been claims that Dvorak layouts reduce the likelihood of RSIs. There haven't been any really good studies, and it is unlikely that there will be (given the small number of Dvorak users)

I use a Dvorak layout, and I enjoy it for a number of reasons:

* I type a bit faster, but it is probably due to the fact that I engaged in dedicated practice when I learned to type Dvorak.
* People don't ask to use my computer
* I gained a lot of insight about the process of skill acquisition when I learned the new layout.

Oh, and I can still type pretty decently on QWERTY keyboards.

Re:Dvorak Keyboard A Good Example (2)

stain ain (151381) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532757)

From the article: "disrupt competitors, not customers".

I think the reason for Dvorak not to succeed is that forces users (customers) to change the way they type, and that's way too demanding.

Re:Dvorak Keyboard A Good Example (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3532771)

Considered an urban legend; see

Re:Dvorak Keyboard A Good Example (2)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532786)

The Dvorak layout is more efficient for typing English text than the standard Qwerty layout

In studies proctored by Dvorak himself. Funny, that

no, not really (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532821)

Dvorak failed because the mechanism it was designed for could not function properly.
The original type writer started with dvorak keyboards, actualy started with a lot of layouts, but the dvorak method caught on. But then they found out that people could type too fast, and the keys would get stuck. this would kill in aded efficience they were getting for switching to type write, which where very expensive, and there users required training.(sound familiar?)
so someone came up with the qwerty method bacause it slowed people down.
none of this applies to todays market, but training momentum has kept it going. what may finally begin qwerty's decent is the fact that I can change they layout of my keyboard through software.
The first CEO that demands there people learn Dvorak lay out will get a nice bonus from the increased productivity.
I would rather see people learn the dvorak method, then most coding 'techniques' that are implimented to imnprove code speed release, and usually don't

yes I know its probably Ironic that I typw something like this, and it will no doubt have typos, but /. aint really worth the effort.

Re:no, not really (1)

Cheetahfeathers (93473) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533018)

Um, no... the original typewriters were in alphabetical order. This caused problems of keys jamming. Then came qwerty, to slow things down. The person that invented qwerty tried to switch to something better, after the typewriter design improved so that it could handle the faster speed. It failed. Dvorak came after even that.

Re:no, not really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3533086)

So why don't they make them in alphabetic order now? Or at least change the alphabet to qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm?

Re:no, not really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3533052)

Um, no. Dvorak keyboards were invented in the 30s. Typewriters appeared in the late 19th century.

Not just typing-- text editor! (2)

DeadVulcan (182139) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533101)

This is drifting off-topic, but what the heck.

The first CEO that demands there people learn Dvorak lay out will get a nice bonus from the increased productivity.

Assuming you're talking about a software company, I could not disagree more. I think any difference in productivity would be small and it would be next to impossible to establish faster typing as the reason. (If you're not talking about a software firm, then you might possibly be right, and I have nothing to say.)

I think there are other things that contribute to software development productivity. Good and open communications between developers and a quick bug catching process that gets bugs fixed before they become panic-mode fixes... these two things by themselves would completely dwarf any productivity increases due to better typing.

The one place where I do believe that a mechanical skill would help productivity in a software firm is a twofold skill: touch-typing (either QWERTY or Dvorak), along with deep familiarity of a text editor. When I see some people poking away at their keyboards, it leads me to believe that my skill in the above two areas really does increase my productivity.

When I have sudden "what if?" flashes, it means I can bang out a quick test twice as fast as someone else, which means I can try twice as many different options. It also means that I don't mind taking the extra time required to format my code nicely, or even document it (gasp!), because for me, it's not that much extra time.

In the end, I believe it means I can produce either twice as much code, or in the same amount of time, I can produce code that's twice as good in quality.

Just MHO. Mostly off-topic. Moderate at will.

It's worse than that (4, Insightful)

epepke (462220) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532589)

Best quality + first to market almost never means success. Inferior but good enough, introduced when people are used to the idea almost always wins.

Re:It's worse than that (3, Insightful)

scott1853 (194884) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532780)

The trick to selling an inferior product is repeatedly saying "it's the best, it's the best" until you believe it as do all the cattle. That way they don't think it's an inferior product, they think the other solutions are just way overpriced.

There are plenty of exceptions... (3, Insightful)

aquarian (134728) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532896)

...most notably Amazon. They're still the leader in user-friendliness among ecommerce sites, and always have been, right from the beginning. Not to mention other quality issues. And they were the first major ecommerce player.

A couple real insights, a couple tired saws. (5, Informative)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532606)

The strongest insight in the article - and the best supported - is that well-managed companies that take care of their existing customers well are often not innovative, because processes and methods that are profitable are unlikely to be challenged, and because truly outre and novel ideas are too disruptive to be welcomed. The notion that innovation occurs in the context of and also creates disruption is a reasonable one. The rest of the article is questionable: his observations that lean projects are more adaptive than ones that have deep pockets which let them stick with a 'a bad strategy' begs the question of what a bad strategy is. It's the Right Thing To Say in a post-boom age (profits now! no vapor!) - but it omits the many successes that came of plodding along after initial disappointments. And, as soon as he used the word "leveraging" I know his article had run out of ideas.

Re:A couple real insights, a couple tired saws. (1)

Cato the Elder (520133) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532804)

"[I]t omits the many successes that came of plodding along after initial disappointments"

So, which companies are you thinking of?

Re:A couple real insights, a couple tired saws. (2)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533106)

Off the very tip-top of my head, there's Amazon and RedHat. For some products, Apple (the Mac, after the disappointment of the Lisa), IBM (the PS/2 after some false starts) and Microsoft (NT).

Re:A couple real insights, a couple tired saws. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3533400)

You're dead wrong about Amazon. Amazon has done very well since the get go. They just chose to grow rather than be profitable. In the capital markets of the time, this was a good strategy. The markets changed and look, they're now profitable. All of the other stuff you mention was sustaining, not disrupting, technology, and therefore is not relevant to the article.

Re:A couple real insights, a couple tired saws. (1)

WEFUNK (471506) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533450)

it omits the many successes that came of plodding along after initial disappointments

No it doesn't. Christensen continues to claim that innovation is an inexact science. His "rules" (observations really) merely recommend strategies to mitigate the risk of a project or venture, not to eliminate it entirely or even necessarily substantially.

For instance, toward the beginning of the article he discusses the impact of different types of companies taking on different strategies. If an existing leader innovates to appease their existing customers - they continue to lead 100% of the time. He recommends that new entrants take a disruptive approach to the market, but they are still only successful 33% of the time (vs. 6% when they try the sustaining approach).

He shows how to reduce the risk, but recognizes that even by following his rules, you're looking at relatively high rates of failure - "The observed probabilities of success in innovation are low."

As to the statement about a lack of original ideas - I would also point out that Christensen generally seems to do a pretty good job of backing his claims up statistically (check out his book). It's unlikely that he's just throwing out post-dot-bomb hindsight mixed with unsupported common sense. He's just taking observations from his research to point out the most important criteria for successful innovation, without any claim to originality of the individual suggestions.

A Lesson for Microsoft (3, Insightful)

yoyoyo (520441) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532619)

There's some interesting stuff in this paper. He says The first [misconception] is that deep corporate pockets are an advantage when growing new businesses. They are not. Too much cash allows those running a new venture to follow a flawed strategy for too long. Having barely enough money forces the venture's managers to adapt to the desires of actual customers, rather than those of the corporate treasury, when looking for ways to get money

Microsoft tends to solve problems by throwing money at them, but if this article is correct, that is a flawed strategy. The excess cash allows them to keep a flawed product on the shelves (e.g. XBox) long past the point where a poorer company would be focusing on improving the product to make it match the customers needs.

Food for thought, anyway.

Re:A Lesson for Microsoft (3, Insightful)

abigor (540274) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532720)

And furthermore, it can make them vulnerable when consumers start to associate a company with just that one product. MS has many, many software products, but none are market leaders except Windows, Office, and, on the back end, Exchange. That's it. Office alone accounts for 1/3 of their income. In the minds of consumers, the first two products ARE Microsoft, period.

So throwing money at inferior offerings can harm companies in more ways than just wasting cash: it can cement their image in the eyes of consumers.

Re:A Lesson for Microsoft (4, Insightful)

binaryDigit (557647) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532959)

Microsoft tends to solve problems by throwing money at them, but if this article is correct, that is a flawed strategy. The excess cash allows them to keep a flawed product on the shelves (e.g. XBox) long past the point where a poorer company would be focusing on improving the product to make it match the customers needs.

Well yes and no. Was the original version of IE vastly superior or "disruptive" technology, well NO. But they were able to use their deeeep financial resources (and desktop monopoly) to keep plugging away until they are now #1. So that tact can be made to work, given enough resources and the right set of circumstances.

Plus, I'm not sure if your example of the xbox is good, since many people do recognize that as a game machine, it has many strengths over it's competition. So in some ways it is the superiour product. Also, because of the lack of sales, they are in a position where they _have_ to innovate at a faster rate than Sony to make up the deficit (again, look at the browser wars, IE sucked at first but they were able to quickly, once they put their minds to it, start adding features to improve it, so much so that Netscape couldn't really effectively keep up).

Re:A Lesson for Microsoft (1)

tupps (43964) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533280)

I would say that on the Macintosh at least this was not the case.

At the time Netscape was slow/buggy. Microsoft came out with IE4.5 and then IE5.0.

It didn't take long for people to choose (Macs ship with both Netscape and IE) IE5.0, it was faster, more stable and looked like a Macintosh product.

Although I would have to say that IE5.0 for the Mac is better than nearly any other browser (as of a couple of months ago, Mozilla is better now).

Notable features:

Fast
Stable
Button that would get completely of the screen.
Printing that works (I worked in a company where I had the only Mac and people use to give me list of URLs to print).

Eg On the PC in IE6.0 printing is still broken (pages don't scale to get all the information on the page), but the Mac it was a sweet product and within months everyone was using it.

Re:A Lesson for Microsoft (2)

Christopher Thomas (11717) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533245)

Microsoft tends to solve problems by throwing money at them, but if this article is correct, that is a flawed strategy. The excess cash allows them to keep a flawed product on the shelves (e.g. XBox) long past the point where a poorer company would be focusing on improving the product to make it match the customers needs.

I'm not sure I agree with this. As far as I can tell, the X-box is doing exactly what it was intended to do - introduce Microsoft brand awareness into a different market, and to prime that market for future Microsoft offerings. The actual profitability of the X-box itself isn't very relevant (its goal does not seem to be to make money).

Re:A Lesson for Microsoft (2)

happyclam (564118) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533390)

Microsoft tends to solve problems by throwing money at them, but if this article is correct, that is a flawed strategy. The excess cash allows them to keep a flawed product on the shelves (e.g. XBox) long past the point where a poorer company would be focusing on improving the product to make it match the customers needs.

Not really. Microsoft is an example of an established company that can essentially build insurmountable barriers to entry by piling up bales of cash. To answer your example: If a non-established, non-disruptive innovator tries to enter the game console market with a product that competes with xbox, the new guy will fail because the market will go with the established company. In the example, the xbox is not a flawed product that is allowed to live on but rather a non-innovative product that keeps non-disruptive innovators out of the game console market.

In this way, Microsoft is not (and really has never been) an innovator. Even with DOS, the technology was not disruptively innovative. Now, their LICENSING deal was a disruptive innovation, and that is what allowed them to instantly move from non-established to established overnight.

Re:A Lesson for Microsoft (1)

Harlow_B_Ashur (35202) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533414)

One of Microsoft's reputed strengths is their ruthlessness in killing projects that aren't turning out right.

For instance, at one time they poo-pooed that Internet thing and resolved to one-up Prodigy, AOL, and whoever with their own MS network. MS had shloads invested in that strategy, but realized early enough that it wasn't going to fly and the next thing you know they're acting like they were helping Gore work out the details of TCP-IP all along.

Also they seem to have quietly abandoned any pretense of competing in the more-real, less-time market, and have moved instead to providing configurable versions of the normal mondo-memory 32-bit one-user stuff.

So it seems to me they're quite conscious of the need to avoid throwing cash at projects that are going nowhere, but it's hard to say whether they can avoid the natural progression into pissing away time and money on glib PowerPoint presentations outlining bright futures some fine day.

Innovator's Dilemma (5, Interesting)

geoffsmith (161376) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532627)

This is the concept Christensen is famous for (and there is a book titled after it which you should all read) Here's my 10 second synopsis of Innovator's Dilemma:

Your old customers are demanding you spend all your resources on your old technology (eg. 5 1/4 inch disk drives) But there are new potential customers who want to buy new technology you haven't developed yet (eg. 3 1/2 inch disk drives) There are more potential new customers than old customers, and thus more profits in devoting your resources to new technology. But you already have your old customers, and you're supposed to *listen to your customers* So there's the dilemma.

Solution to the dilemma? Sometimes it doesn't pay to listen to your customers. And that's a tough pill for an established company to swallow, since that's how they made money in the first place.

Websurfing done right! StumbleUpon [stumbleupon.com]

Re:Innovator's Dilemma (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3532973)

This [cramming.com] is innovation?

Re:Innovator's Dilemma (3, Insightful)

Restil (31903) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533181)

You don't give up on your old customers, you just "encourage" them to upgrade, but not in a way that actually hurts them.

5 1/4 users have large quantities of 5 1/4 disks. They're not going to want to replace all of those with 3 1/2 even though they can store twice, 4x, or 8x (depending on the drive and media) the amount of data. They want you to continue supporting them, and they will continue to buy products, even though they're inferior to a better product at the same price.

And that's where you get them. Keep selling the old products, but market your new products at a lower price. Encorage your customers to see that in the long run, it would be cheaper if they upgraded, or at least started migrating. It only makes sense. If they want to stay behind the times, then you'll still be there to support them, but by the time you finally close the door on your own manufaturing process, if you've marketed your products well, that old company will either have converted, or gone belly up.

If they decide not to upgrade, even after you've long since quit supporting them, there IS always that market of old working, but useless junk that nobody wants anymore and will pay people to take away. This company will just have to seek out those sources.

-Restil

Sounds like Apple reads Christensen (2)

EccentricAnomaly (451326) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533188)

Your old customers are demanding you spend all your resources on your old technology (eg. 5 1/4 inch disk drives) But there are new potential customers who want to buy new technology you haven't developed yet (eg. 3 1/2 inch disk drives) There are more potential new customers than old customers, and thus more profits in devoting your resources to new technology. But you already have your old customers, and you're supposed to *listen to your customers* So there's the dilemma.

Sounds like Jobs must read Christensen, since he's all about dumping old technology for the new (e.g. floppy disk drives). He must just do s/distruptive new market/Next Big Thing/g... it does seem like Apple has become pretty good at keeping its existing markets safe while disrupting its competitors.

The First Rule of Innovation (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3532642)

1. You do not talk about Innovation
2. If you do talk about Innovation you must be Microsoft.
3. If you are not Microsoft you DO NOT INNOVATE
4. Bring lawyers too.

Like what he has to say... (1)

Interrobang (245315) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532652)

But I must quibble with a few points. I suppose he knows more about it than I, but does all innovation in a given field necessarily take place on the low end? What about new products that may or may not be higher-end than existing products? (Example: The runaway popularity of SUVs, which are certainly NOT low-end impulse purchases, and newer models of SUVs seem to subscribe to the Micro$oft bloatware model: more, more, more [useless] features and a higher and higher price tag. But people sure buy 'em.)

Secondly, I'm not sure his hypothesis works for all his examples. I'm pretty sure, for instance, that Wal-Mart got where it is by a combination of unscrupulous business tactics and leverage, NOT just by providing the lowest cost per item. I've heard that Wal-Mart pressures its suppliers into giving it the lowest possible price, and generally creates "race to the bottom" conditions wherever it goes.

Third and least important quibble: Fergodssakes, man, if you've got something to say, write it so it's actually readable! "Creative creation"?! I've heard MUCH better phrases for that concept (including "wealth creation"), that DON'T leave one wishing one's office had a shower cubicle. "Leveraging"?! Pleeeease... Is it just me, or are all biz-school types these days just far too in love with the euphony of buzzwordiness?

Nevertheless, I'm going to forward this one on to my entrepreneurial boss. Let him take the advice...and the shower.

?!

Re:Like what he has to say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3532840)

You're overlooking something though. His point was about sustaining innovations versus disruptive innovations. The SUV is a sustaining innovation -- its still a gas powered automobile afterall -- as are the feature heavy programs that Microsoft releases.

Wal-Mart's business model proved disruptive because it was about undercutting the competition. Whether or not they used unethical business practices is -- in this case -- irrelevant. What is important is that through whatever means they chose, they were able to lower their costs which they then passed along to their customers (while keeping similar margins through higher inventory turnover).

And as for the stylistic issues... well... he is a Hardvard guy after all. haha...

Re:Like what he has to say... (4, Informative)

markmoss (301064) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532891)

But I must quibble with a few points. I suppose he knows more about it than I, but does all innovation in a given field necessarily take place on the low end? What about new products that may or may not be higher-end than existing products? (Example: The runaway popularity of SUVs, which are certainly NOT low-end impulse purchases, and newer models of SUVs seem to subscribe to the Micro$oft bloatware model: more, more, more [useless] features and a higher and higher price tag. But people sure buy 'em.)

SUV's were sold by existing companies to existing customers. This makes them a "sustaining innovation" in the language of the article -- listening to the existing customers and making improvements to the product. And that's if you call them an innovation at all; they are not much different from the GMC Carryall my father bought used in 1963, drove for 15 years, and replaced with a new Carryall.

Sustaining innovations often do tend towards the high-priced end. The customer demand an established company is least likely to respond to with major innovations is "lower price" - you know your existing customers have the money, so making things cheaper just reduces the part of it you get, while making the product better and more expensive might milk more money out of them.

It's not impossible for a new company to be successful selling high-priced products -- think fashion designers and fancy restaurants. But note that you don't get GMs, IBMs, or Microsofts out of such markets. I can remember two computer companies that tried to start at the top: CDC (tried to sell bigger mainframes than IBM in the 1960's, went bankrupt, "refinanced" via an antitrust suit against IBM, and lost the money in supercomputers, IIRC), and Cray (supercomputers). There's also Amdahl, which made imitation IBM mainframes (a little faster or a little cheaper) so I'd call that starting almost at the top. None of these ever did very well. By contrast, starting at the bottom produced the mini-computer companies, at least two of which (DEC & Data General) were apparently quite successful until the PC companies found a lower bottom. And many PC companies have been very successful, although not at all secure - PC's are a nasty bottom-end commodity market where any company that lets its cost control or marketing lapse for a moment is dog-meat for momentarily more efficient competitors. Or possibly to competitors that have managed to lower the quality even further without getting buried in bad units...

Re:Like what he has to say... (2)

david duncan scott (206421) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532900)

What's innovative about the SUV? Chevy Suburbans have been around since what, 193x?

Innovative marketing, maybe, but not the product.

SUVs (1)

phriedom (561200) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533486)

Well, there was incremental innovation in the whole SUV market that has changed what people drive. They used to be work trucks. Luxury SUVs are a relatively new thing, as are Mini-SUVs. (built on a car unibody chassis) People who would have bought a station wagon back in the 70's are now buying some sort of SUV's. The fact that a company like Land Rover was an early leader, but that the market is now dominated by the Big 3 sort of proves his point about how hard it is for a new or small company to break into a market using sustaining innovation.

Re:Like what he has to say... (2)

happyclam (564118) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533456)

"Leveraging"?! Pleeeease... Is it just me, or are all biz-school types these days just far too in love with the euphony of buzzwordiness?

I don't see the problem. Leveraging is a perfectly acceptable word that means using something to gain greater benefit than if you didn't have that thing. (like a lever) Just because something has been used as a buzzword does not eliminate it from the list of useful, valid words.

Give me where to stand, and I will move the earth.
-- Archimedes, expounding on the theoretically limitless power of the lever

Point 4 is the only significant factor (5, Insightful)

gelfling (6534) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532662)

If the transition costs you impose on your customers is too high they'll run for the door screaming. It doesn't matter how wonderful your technology is. That's why DIVX and HDTV are dead or dyeing for example. You can't make it so hard to use or purchase or install that only primary adopters use it.

cough cough hack linux cough bsd

That's the lesson of desktop linux - it doesn't matter HOW BAD MS is - what matters is HOW HARD the transition to something else is.

Re:Point 4 is the only significant factor (3, Insightful)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532717)

There's also more than one transition that has to be made. You have to move a product from pioneers to early adopters, then to early majority, then to mass market, and so on.

A related book is "Crossing the Chasm", http://shop.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInqu iry.asp?userid=18DNABCSR0&mscssid=UW03MK30SS548PM5 DG7XDX17J0AJD5X5&isbn=0066620023. It argues that there's a discontinuity between early adopters and early majorities which has to be addressed by focusing maximum effort on a narrow niche to get a beachhead, and by making the technology nondisruptive.

Amusingly, CtC starts with a gedankenexperiment asking whether the reader would buy an electric car if it worked like a normal car. Amusing, because I drive a Toyota Prius gas-electric hybrid, which was carefully engineered to fit into the put-in-gas-and-put-it-in-Drive market.

freakin' use a link tag! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3532871)

jeez, how hard is it to put <a href="LONG ASS LINK">BOOK TITLE</a> and link the book title instead of putting that huge-ass, ugly link next to it?!

Slightly off-topic -- beaker text (0)

JWCoder (471074) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532669)

Slightly off-topic -- but...

Did anyone else notice that the "500 mL" printed on the beaker (at the right of the page) seems to be backwards?

Re:Slightly off-topic -- beaker text (2, Funny)

nolife (233813) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533045)

You know..
I read the /. headline for the article. Spent about 5 minutes reading various replies and comments about the article and I still had no real interest in actually reading the article. Then I read your comment which sparked my interest and I went and looked.

Now I know I have nolife and hang out on /. too much..

FIRST POST!!! (-1, Troll)

Chronic Bluntt (579863) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532695)

First post, assholes! You tried to stop me with your registration crap, but you FAILED!!!!

Is Linux Innovation? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3532724)

Even though Linux has set back the state of computing by 10 years reimplementing what's already in FreeBSD and reimplementing it badly, witness the VM and networking instabilities, can it be considered innovation because no one ever bothers to look under neath the hood and see little squirrels running in a wheel trying to pass off as a real Unix(tm) kernel?

Re:Is Linux Innovation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3532839)

linux is innovative cause it doesnt have assholes like those freebsd developers which constantly piss off and disrupt their customers ( lusers to the freebsd team)

This shallow analysis is as wrong as it is right. (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3532729)

It makes some obvious points, and others that are dead wrong.

The "integration" description attempts to acribe attributes of integration to Microsoft that were far more true of the competitors who lost and were buried due to marketing muscle. WordPerfect, PlanPerfect, WordPerfect Library, WordPerfect Office (email, scheduler, calendar, etc.), etc. were much better integrated early on, but that wasn't a very important facor in competing.
Gee, look Microsoft won. Their products are integrated, and the only ones we know enough about to talk intelligently. Let's compare them to the few scraps of the competitors that are still being hawked by their third-hand owner on the market today.

Re:This shallow analysis is as wrong as it is righ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3532806)

Actually he said not integrating with competitors is what you are supposed to do, since doing so limits your innovation. This is the reason Microsoft was held up as an example -- they were free to put whatever they wanted into Word since they their format didn't play nicely with everyone else.

Talk the talk, walk the walk (1)

ed1park (100777) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532776)

He seems to have figured it all out. But can anyone point to a resource that describes the author's own success in developing an innovative product/company? And I'd like to see something more substantial than an unknown consulting company or similar.

There's the academic world, then the real world...

Re:Talk the talk, walk the walk (2)

happyclam (564118) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533467)

  • Those who can't do, teach...
  • those who can't teach, teach gym
  • those who can't teach gym are put in charge

Sony (2)

seanadams.com (463190) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532777)

A well written article. His main point is that contrary to the VC's thinking, you can analyze and predict success. However, he gives a powerful counterpoint aswell:

What drove Sony's shift from a disruptive to a sustaining innovation strategy? Prior to 1980, all new product launch decisions were made by cofounder Akio Morita and a trusted team of associates. They never did market research, believing that if markets did not exist they could not be analyzed. Their process for assessing new opportunities relied on personal intuition.

Re:Sony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3532843)

The part that left me curious was the statement that Sony didn't release any disruptive technologies between 1990 and 1997. I was wondering which product they released after this period that he considered disruptive. CD-R? Did Sony do that? Anyone have a clue what he's referring to?

Re:Sony (2, Interesting)

shrikel (535309) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533152)

I think the "intuition" he was referring to is Morita's dreams that people would buy things -- but those innovations were based on a real understanding of how people live and what people do. Like the walkman -- people jog, and people travel -- wouldn't it be great if they could listen to music while they do it?

VC's nowadays who use just their intuition probably don't succeed as much because they don't know what makes an innovative company succeed and what makes it fail. To overcome this problem, they use statistics and keep a large portfolio so they can make a profit even if a lot of their companies fail.

The point of the article, at least in my mind, is to show the VCs what they need to know to make more intelligent bets. In short, this study tried to figure out the attributes of innovative companies that really succeed.

I think the analysis and prediction on the part of the investors could (and should) more closely resemble the intuitive product selection and development by Morita and his group.

Just my thoughts.

"Harvard prof who specializes in this stuff " (0, Flamebait)

CathedralRulz (566696) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532802)

Please. If he specialized in it he would be doing it. I have no interest in listening to what some academic is pontificating about from his ivory tower about how us groundlings can do stuff better.

EG: "those who can, do. those who can't, teach."

Re:"Harvard prof who specializes in this stuff " (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3532883)

Um, he's sort of extremely well-regarded on this issue, having written The Innovator's Dilemma (which is a must-read for any business type). If you don't believe me, ask Intel -- they developed the Celeron for the exact reasons cited in this article (and in the book).

Re:"Harvard prof who specializes in this stuff " (1)

Cato the Elder (520133) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532924)

Why do you assume he's not doing it? Someone once asked the economics professor at my school "If you know so much about starting companies, why aren't you a millionaire?" He answered "I am."

Re:"Harvard prof who specializes in this stuff " (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3533363)

Um, he's also a businessman who's, apparently, made quite a lot of money.

Sample Web Site Bad Example (2, Funny)

adamy (78406) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532831)

Not that I think the there is a problem with the concept of helping students Cram for exams.

But the url www.cramming.com forwards you over to a pornographic website.

I don't think that this is the type of cramming he had in mind.

Re:Sample Web Site Bad Example (2)

happyclam (564118) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533482)

I don't think that this is the type of cramming he had in mind.

No, no... he's an investor.

Early with great technology doen't always help (3, Interesting)

eyegor (148503) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532870)

A few years back, I worked for a small company that was developing a cell phone localization technology. We had a patent on one of the primary means of locating an unmodified phone (worked rather well too). The problem was that while we were developing the technology, we had to beat people over the head at the same time to make them see how valuable the idea was.

Nowdays, the FCC and all the carriers are still trudging towards the goal of fully implementing E911 and we ended up having to sell out to a competitor having spent too many resources building the market. sigh. :)

Sound like ... Punctuated Equilibrium (5, Interesting)

AsOldAsFortran (565087) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532901)

One element of this article sounds just like Stephen Jay Gould's evolutionary theory of Punctuated Equilibrium.

IANAET (evolutionary theorist) so take these comments with care.

One element of the theory of punctuated evolution says that new species arise not by direct competition against their parent species, but by finding an isolated and protected niche where they can develop.

Say a new species of horse is to develop. A subpopulation becomes isolated and has a chance to develop new characteristics and to become reproductively distinct (no longer interbreeds with the parent species).

Then, when the geographical isolation ends, the new and parent species come into contact and competition. The new species spreads rapidly, having had a chance to strengthen in isolation.

This theory is designed in part to explain gaps in the fossil record. The small, original populaiton of the new species leaves few fossils - we only see them after explosive growth - so some intermediate forms are lost.

That sounds like the article's model of innovation succeeding by finding a niche market before improving the product to compete head on head in the general marketplace.

Wonder what other analogies exist with evolutionary theory and this article.

Sounds like a Punctured Theory. ;-) (1)

shrikel (535309) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533203)

I'm afraid I don't buy that theory. It seems to say that evolutionary innovation only occurs in small, isolated groups. The fact is, the innovations the isolated group develop would be more likely to occur in the larger group, because the larger group has a wider domain of agents for mutation and innovation. If only the smaller group is forced to adapt to the new environment, why would its adaptation be likely to be better suited to survival in the original environment? (After re-contact.) I guess I challenge the ideas that any change will be a "strengthening," and that evolution would occur faster or better in an isolated environment.

That aside, I think you summed up the business model that he's talking about pretty well. It's a good parallel.

Business-sense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3532925)

People with business-sense are good for business. If you have a good idea and doesn't have much sense for business, FOR GODS SAKE hire someone who do!

During the IT industry melt down the last couple of years it's quite clear that many of those companies are run by people who just isn't good at it. I mean, how unrealistic business-models haven't we seen and are still seeing? They are good at the technical bits but when it comes to business most don't have a clue of what they are doing.

The worst part is even if you DO handle your business in a responsible and long term viable way there are other who bastardize the market by doing stupid decisions, giving things away or something and ruin the whole market.

Infact, unrealistic business-models are demostrated here on slashdot from time to time :-)

Art v. Science (3, Interesting)

mallo (543316) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532928)

After reading the article, the one thing I want to do is hear from Akio Morita about why his intuitions were so often correct at Sony. Doesn't that put a lot of MBAs out of jobs?

Re:Art v. Science (2)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533157)

MBA's aren't in that business. MBA's are mostly in the business of turning someone else's innovation (or even lack of innovation) into a viable business plan, and then turning a business plan into an organization and processes. Ideally. Often, MBA's are in the business of bilking customers, investors, and workers and bailing out before it all crashes in around them.

Article text (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3532960)

Here's the article text for the slashdotted (anonymous because I don't need the karma):

Bringing new technology to market is a crap shoot, right? Wrong, says innovation guru Christensen. Follow his four rules to a new science of success.

Two decades ago, when I was just out of graduate school and working in the automotive industry, I got my first introduction to the statistical process- control chart. We used this laborious technique to make sure the machines employed in our manufacturing process did not drift out of control. Composed of three parallel horizontal lines, the "SPC" chart has long been an important tool in quality management. The center line represents the targeted value for the critical performance parameter of a product being manufactured. The lines above and below it represent the acceptable upper and lower control limits. If the product were, say, an axle, workers would plot the thickness of each piece they made on the chart. When I asked why there was typically a scatter of points around the target, my managers cited the randomness inherent in all processes.

The "Quality Movement" of the 1980s and '90s subsequently taught us that there isn't randomness in processes. Every deviation of the actual value from the target has a cause. It appears to be random when we don't know the cause. The Quality Movement developed methods for identifying those additional factors--and we discovered that if we could control or account for all of them, the result would be perfectly predictable, and there would be no need to inspect products as they emerged from manufacturing.

The management of innovation today is where the Quality Movement was 20 years ago, in that many believe the outcomes of innovation efforts are unpredictable. The raison d'être of the venture capital industry is belief in the unpredictability of new businesses. A few ventures will succeed; most won't, the VCs say. They therefore place a portfolio of bets, extracting premium prices for their capital in order to earn the high return required to compensate for the risk that unpredictability imposes. I believe, however, that innovation isn't random. Every undesired outcome has a cause. Those outcomes appear to be random when we don't understand all the factors that affect successful innovation. If we could understand and manage these variables, innovation wouldn't be nearly as risky as it appears.

The good news is that recent years have seen considerable progress in identifying important variables that affect the probability of success in innovation. I've classified these variables into four sets: (1) taking root in disruption, (2) the necessary scope to succeed, (3) leveraging the right capabilities and (4) disrupting competitors, not customers.

Of course, building successful businesses is such a complicated process, involving subtle interdependencies among so many variables in dynamic systems, that we're unlikely ever to make it perfectly predictable. But the more we can master these variables, the more we will be able to create new companies, products, processes and services that achieve what we hope to achieve.

Take Root in Disruption

The startling conclusion suggested by the research that led to my writing The Innovator's Dilemma was that many successful companies stumble from prominence not because they're badly managed but precisely because they are well managed. They listen to and satisfy the needs of their best customers, and they focus investments at the largest and most profitable tiers of their markets. Mastering these paradigms of good management gives established companies, as a group, an extraordinary track record in producing sustaining innovations that bring better products to established markets. It matters little whether the innovation is incrementally simple or radically difficult, as long as it enables good companies to make better products that they can sell for higher margins to their best customers in attractively sized markets. The companies that had led their industries in prior technologies led their industries in adopting new sustaining technologies in literally 100 percent of the cases we studied.

In contrast, the leading companies almost always were toppled when disruptive technologies emerged--products or services that weren't as good as those already used in established markets. Disruptive innovations don't initially perform well enough to be sold or used successfully in mainstream markets. But they have other attributes--most often simplicity, convenience and low cost--that appeal to a new, small and initially unattractive (to established firms) set of customers, who use them in new or low-end applications.

The chances a new company could become successful if its entry path was a sustaining strategy--trying to make a better product than the incumbents and selling it to the same customers--were about six percent in our study. The chances of success for firms that entered with a disruptive strategy were 33 percent. The disparity stems from the motivation and position of the leading firms. They have far more resources to throw at opportunities than entrants do. When newcomers attack customers and markets attractive to the leaders, the leaders overwhelm them.

All companies are burdened with "asymmetric" motivations in that they must move toward markets that promise higher profit margins and the most substantial and immediate growth and cannot move down market toward smaller opportunities and profit margins. When new entrants take root with customers in markets that are unattractive to the leaders, they are safer--and it has nothing to do with how much cash or proprietary technology they have. They are safe because the incumbents are motivated to ignore or even exit the very markets that the entrants are motivated to enter. Taking root in disruption, therefore, is the first condition that innovators need to meet to improve the probability of successfully creating a new growth business. If they cannot or do not do this, their odds of success are much smaller.

There are two tests to assess whether a market can be disrupted. At least one of these criteria must be met in order for an upstart to be disruptively successful. If a new growth business can meet both, the odds are even better.

1. Does the innovation enable less-skilled or less-wealthy customers to do for themselves things that only the wealthy or skilled intermediaries could previously do?

When an innovation fulfills this condition, even if it can't do all the things existing offerings can, potential customers excluded from the market tend to be delighted. For example, many people loved the first personal computers, no matter how clunky the booting process and limited the software the machines could run, because the alternative to which they compared the PC wasn't the minicomputer--it was no computer at all. Filling such a void reduces the capital commitments and technological achievements required for an innovation to become viable and creates new growth markets. I call the process of finding and nurturing these opportunities creative creation. After a technology takes root in new markets, and after new growth is created, disruption can invade the established market and destroy its leading firms.

Even if innovators succeed in cramming disruptive technology into an existing market application, the incumbents typically win. Digital photography, online consumer banking and hybrid-electric vehicles are examples of potentially disruptive technologies that were deployed in such a sustaining fashion. Billions were spent on these innovations to beat out already acceptable and habitual technology; little net growth resulted, as sales of the new products cannibalized sales of the old; and the industry leaders maintained their rule.

2. Does the innovation target customers at the low end of a market who don't need all the functionality of current products? And does the business model enable the disruptive innovator to earn attractive returns at discount prices unattractive to the incumbents?

Wal-Mart, Dell Computer and Nucor are examples of disruptive companies that attacked the low ends of their markets with business models that allowed them to make money at discount prices. Wal-Mart started by selling brand-name products at prices 20 percent below department store prices and still earned attractive returns because it turned inventory over much more frequently. Such a disruptive strategy can create new growth businesses but does not create new markets or classes of consumers. It has a high probability of success because the reported profit margins of established companies typically improve if they get out of low- end, low-margin products and add in their stead high-margin products positioned in more-demanding market segments. By assaulting the low end of the market and then moving up, a new company attacks, tier by tier, the markets from which established competitors are motivated to exit.

Pick the Scope Needed to Succeed

The second set of variables that affects the probability that a new business venture will succeed relates to its degree of "integration." Highly integrated companies make and sell their own proprietary components and products across a wide range of product lines or businesses. Nonintegrated companies outsource as much as possible to suppliers and partners and use modular, open systems and components. Which style is likely to be successful is determined by the conditions under which companies must compete as disruption occurs.

In markets where product functionality is not yet good enough, companies must compete by making better products. This typically means making products whose architecture is interdependent and proprietary, because competitive pressure compels engineers to fit the pieces of their systems together in ever more efficient ways in order to wring the best performance possible out of the available technology. Standardization of interfaces (meaning fewer degrees of design freedom) forces them to back away from the frontier of what is technologically possible--which spells competitive trouble when functionality is inadequate. This helps explain why IBM, General Motors, Apple Computer, RCA, Xerox and AT&T, as the most integrated firms during the not-good-enough era of their industries' histories, became dominant competitors. Intel and Microsoft (raps about the latter's supposed lack of innovation aside) have also dominated their pieces of the computer industry--compared to less integrated companies such as WordPerfect (now owned by Corel)--because their products have employed the sorts of proprietary, interdependent architectures that are necessary when pushing the frontier of what is possible. This also helps us understand why NTT DoCoMo, with its integrated strategy, has been so much more successful in providing mobile access to the Internet than nonintegrated American and European competitors who have sought to interface with each other through negotiated standards.

When the functionality of products has overshot what mainstream customers can use, however, companies must compete through improvements in speed to market, simplicity and convenience, and the ability to customize products to the needs of customers in ever smaller market niches. Here, competitive forces drive the design of modular products, in which the interfaces among components and subsystems are clearly specified. Ultimately, these coalesce as industry standards. Modular architectures help companies respond to individual customer needs and introduce new products faster by upgrading individual subsystems without having to redesign everything. Under these conditions (and only under these conditions), outsourcing titans like Dell and Cisco Systems can prosper--because modular architectures help them be fast, flexible and responsive.

Leverage the Right Capabilities

Innovations fail when managers attempt to implement them within organizations that are incapable of succeeding. Managers can determine the innovation limits of their organizations quite precisely by asking three questions: (1) Do I have the resources to succeed? (2) Will my organization's processes facilitate success in this new effort? (3) Will my organization's values allow employees to prioritize this innovation, given their other responsibilities?

Beyond technology, the resources that drive innovative success are managers and money. Corporate executives often tap managers who have strong records of success in the mainstream to manage the creation of new growth businesses. Such choices can be the kiss of death, however, because the challenges confronting managers in a disruptive enterprise--and the skills required to overcome them-- are different from those that prevail in the core business. Many innovations fail because managers do not know what they do not know as they make and implement their plans. That is, they assume that the same strategies and customer needs that apply in mature, stable markets will apply in disruptive ventures. But this is not the case, and by making such assumptions, managers close themselves off from opportunities to discover what customers really find useful in new, disruptive products.

Innovators must avoid two common misconceptions in managing the other key resource, money. The first is that deep corporate pockets are an advantage when growing new businesses. They are not. Too much cash allows those running a new venture to follow a flawed strategy for too long. Having barely enough money forces the venture's managers to adapt to the desires of actual customers, rather than those of the corporate treasury, when looking for ways to get money--and forces them to uncover a viable strategy more quickly.

The second misconception is that patience is a virtue--that innovation entails large losses for sustained periods prior to reaping the huge upside that comes from disruptive technologies. Innovators should be patient about the new venture's size but impatient for profits. The mandate to be profitable forces the venture to zero in on a valid strategy. But when new ventures are forced to get big fast, they end up placing huge bets at a time when the right strategy simply cannot be known. In particular, they tend to target large, obvious, existing markets--and this condemns them to failure. Most of today's envisioned business opportunities for wireless Internet access, for example, involve big applications such as stock-trading and multiplayer gaming that have already found homes on wired, desktop computers. Billions are being sunk into new wireless ventures committed to taking over these markets before innovators have a chance to learn what applications wireless is really best at delivering.

Resources such as technology, cash and technical talent tend to be flexible, in that they can be used for a wide array of purposes. Processes, however--the central element in our second question--are typically inflexible. Their purpose is not to adapt quickly but to get the same job done reliably, again and again. The fact that a process facilitates certain tasks means that it will not work well for very different tasks. Failure is frequently rooted in the forced use of habitual but inappropriate processes for doing market research, strategic planning and budgeting.

Sony, for example, was history's most successful disruptor. Between 1950 and 1980 it introduced 12 bona fide disruptive technologies that created exciting new markets and ultimately dethroned industry leaders--everything from radios and televisions to VCRs and the Walkman. Between 1980 and 1997, however, the company did not introduce a single disruptive innovation. Sony continued to produce sustaining innovations in its product businesses, of course. But even the new businesses that it created with its PlayStation and Vaio notebook computer were great but late entries into already established markets.

What drove Sony's shift from a disruptive to a sustaining innovation strategy? Prior to 1980, all new product launch decisions were made by cofounder Akio Morita and a trusted team of associates. They never did market research, believing that if markets did not exist they could not be analyzed. Their process for assessing new opportunities relied on personal intuition. In the 1980s Morita withdrew from active management in order to be more involved in Japanese politics. The company consequently began hiring marketing and product-planning professionals who brought with them data-intensive, analytical processes of doing market research. Those processes were very good at uncovering unmet customer needs in existing product markets. But making the intuitive bets required to launch disruptive businesses became impossible.

A company's values--the focus of question three--determine the necessity of spinning out separate organizations for new ventures. Values are even less flexible than resources. Everyone in an organization--executives to sales force--must put a premium on the type of business that helps the company make money given its existing cost structure. If a new venture doesn't target order sizes, price points and margins that are more attractive than other opportunities on the organization's plate, it won't get priority resources; it will languish and ultimately fail.

Nor is it just the values of the innovating company that matter, because suppliers and distributors have values too, and they must put the highest priorities on opportunities that help them make money. This is why, with almost no exceptions, disruptive innovations take root in free-standing value networks--with new sales forces, distributors and retailing channels.

Disrupt Competitors, Not Customers

The fourth factor in successful innovation is minimizing the need for customers to reorder their lives. If an innovation helps customers do things they are already trying to do more simply and conveniently, it has a higher probability of success. If it makes it easier for customers to do something they weren't trying to do anyway, it will fail. Put differently, innovators should try to disrupt their competitors, never their customers.

The best way to understand what customers are actually trying to do, as opposed to what they say they want to do, is to watch them. For example, when interviewed by the college textbook industry, students say they would welcome the ability to probe more deeply into topics of interest that textbooks just touch on. In response, publishers have invested substantial sums to make richer information available on CDs and Web sites. But few students actually use these innovations, and little growth has resulted. Why? Because what most students really are trying to do is avoid reading textbooks at all. They say they would like to delve more deeply into their subjects. But what they really do is put off reading until the last possible minute--and then cram.

To make it simpler and more convenient for students to do what they already are trying to do, a publisher could create an online facility called Cramming.com. Like all disruptive technologies, it would take root in a low-end market: the least conscientious students. Semester after semester, Cramming.com would then improve as a new "cramming-aid" growth business, without affecting textbook sales. Conscientious students would continue to purchase textbooks. At some point, however, learning the material online would be so much easier and less expensive that, tier by tier, students would stop buying texts. This path of innovation has a much higher chance of success than a direct assault that pits digital texts against conventional textbooks.

The observed probabilities of success in innovation are low. But these statistics stem from the sum of sustaining and disruptive strategies, many of which are attempted in organizations whose resources, processes and values render them incapable of succeeding. Many innovators draw lessons from observing other successful companies in very different circumstances and attempt to succeed with just one or a few links in a chain of interdependent values. And many fail after assuming that what customers say they want to do is what they actually would do.

Hence, the observed probabilities of success don't necessarily reflect what the true likelihood of success can be, if the critical variables in the complex and dynamic process of innovation are understood and managed effectively. Indeed, success may not be as difficult to achieve as it has seemed.

Good ideas! (1)

Daveamadid (200369) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532985)

Too bad cramming.com [cramming.com] is already taken!

Re:Good ideas! (1)

Morgoth_Bauglir (261701) | more than 12 years ago | (#3532993)

whew-- I'm really glad I have my own office and am not in an open plan work environment, cause that would've been embarassing.

Cramming.com ceratinly appears to be about cramming, but it's about women cramming things in places other than their brains.

I Don't Believe Him (5, Insightful)

CaptainCarrot (84625) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533019)

It's not uncommon that I encounter articles such as this one where I know very little about the subject being discussed, but I do know a bit about some of his examples, and they are sometimes faulty.

Take his criteria for a successful disruptive technology. I can't help but observe that the light bulb, a successful innovation if ever there was one, satisfies neither. The answer to 1 is negative because neither the poor nor the wealthy were capable of lighting their homes with electricity at the time. Likewise the answer to 2 because there was no existing market. Yet this technology was undeniably disruptive; just ask the manufacturers of candles, oil lamps and gaslights.

Later on in discussing (as far as I could tell) allocation of resources, he says, "Processes, however--the central element in our second question--are typically inflexible. Their purpose is not to adapt quickly but to get the same job done reliably, again and again." He must be completely unfamiliar with the Software CMM (and now the CMMI for other disciplines) where to attain the highest rating and organization's processes must be flexible. Continuous improvement of processes is one of the more important lessons from the quality movement Prof. Christensen discusses in the opening of his article, so I'm a little surprised he chooses to ignore it here.

This leads me to suspect that some of his other examples are flawed too, but I don't know enough about all of them to detect it. I don't trust his conclusions, in any event.

Re:I Don't Believe Him (1)

Morgoth_Bauglir (261701) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533103)

>> Likewise the answer to 2 because there was no existing market.

There were markets for candles, oil lamps and gaslights, but no market for clean, odorless light that was less likely than existing light sources to burn your house down? I can't follow that logic.

Re:I Don't Believe Him (2)

CaptainCarrot (84625) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533167)

That's right, there was no existing market. A market, by definition, has products in it. No market existed for light bulbs before they were invented. And at that point, "less likely to burn your house down" was something that had to be demonstrated.

Re:I Don't Believe Him (2, Insightful)

rabidcow (209019) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533465)

The market was not "light bulbs." The market was illumination. Have you ever worked for a rail road company by any chance?

The first criteria for disruptive products is a little flawed, it should probably be: "Does the innovation allow customers to do things that were previously too expensive or required too high skill?"

There, now light bulbs fit both.

Re:I Don't Believe Him (3, Informative)

happyclam (564118) | more than 12 years ago | (#3533507)

Take his criteria for a successful disruptive technology. I can't help but observe that the light bulb, a successful innovation if ever there was one, satisfies neither.

It is instructive to note that he indicates there is a success rate, albeit very small (6%), for innovations that do not meet his criteria. Thus, simply finding an example of a success that does not follow his rules does not, by itself, invalidate the rules.

Plus, if I recall correctly, Edison had hundreds of innovations that were commercial flops. So perhaps the 6% rule is right along the proper lines for your example...

The cultural problem.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3533219)

The USA is awfully good at many things, but sometimes I think it's too good. As research into disruptive marketing improves, the big companies learn more and more about maintaining their control.

David Korten, in his book "When Corporations Rule the World" has pointed out that big corporations have made the feedback loop between innovation and corporate-control extremely small. In the old days, kids could get into a new style of music and it would be a genuine rebellion against the system. But MTV and all the big corporations can now take this subculture and re-market it to the population within months, and this time will shorten as time goes on. There is no chance for a genuine counter-culture anymore.

What's the underlying problem with a "formula for innovation"?

It's that the culture itself gets stuck inside of a Local Maxima. It takes genuine innovation - revolution, if you will - to prevent cultural stagnation.

I've lived in the USA for two years now, and I fear for this country's culture. This is why.

Explained: Why FreeBSD is dying (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3533289)

The End of FreeBSD

[ed. note: in the following text, former FreeBSD developer Mike Smith gives his reasons for abandoning FreeBSD]

When I stood for election to the FreeBSD core team nearly two years ago, many of you will recall that it was after a long series of debates during which I maintained that too much organisation, too many rules and too much formality would be a bad thing for the project.

Today, as I read the latest discussions on the future of the FreeBSD project, I see the same problem; a few new faces and many of the old going over the same tired arguments and suggesting variations on the same worthless schemes. Frankly I'm sick of it.

FreeBSD used to be fun. It used to be about doing things the right way. It used to be something that you could sink your teeth into when the mundane chores of programming for a living got you down. It was something cool and exciting; a way to spend your spare time on an endeavour you loved that was at the same time wholesome and worthwhile.

It's not anymore. It's about bylaws and committees and reports and milestones, telling others what to do and doing what you're told. It's about who can rant the longest or shout the loudest or mislead the most people into a bloc in order to legitimise doing what they think is best. Individuals notwithstanding, the project as a whole has lost track of where it's going, and has instead become obsessed with process and mechanics.

So I'm leaving core. I don't want to feel like I should be "doing something" about a project that has lost interest in having something done for it. I don't have the energy to fight what has clearly become a losing battle; I have a life to live and a job to keep, and I won't achieve any of the goals I personally consider worthwhile if I remain obligated to care for the project.

Discussion

I'm sure that I've offended some people already; I'm sure that by the time I'm done here, I'll have offended more. If you feel a need to play to the crowd in your replies rather than make a sincere effort to address the problems I'm discussing here, please do us the courtesy of playing your politics openly.

From a technical perspective, the project faces a set of challenges that significantly outstrips our ability to deliver. Some of the resources that we need to address these challenges are tied up in the fruitless metadiscussions that have raged since we made the mistake of electing officers. Others have left in disgust, or been driven out by the culture of abuse and distraction that has grown up since then. More may well remain available to recruitment, but while the project is busy infighting our chances for successful outreach are sorely diminished.

There's no simple solution to this. For the project to move forward, one or the other of the warring philosophies must win out; either the project returns to its laid-back roots and gets on with the work, or it transforms into a super-organised engineering project and executes a brilliant plan to deliver what, ultimately, we all know we want.

Whatever path is chosen, whatever balance is struck, the choosing and the striking are the important parts. The current indecision and endless conflict are incompatible with any sort of progress.

Trying to dissect the above is far beyond the scope of any parting shot, no matter how distended. All I can really ask of you all is to let go of the minutiae for a moment and take a look at the big picture. What is the ultimate goal here? How can we get there with as little overhead as possible? How would you like to be treated by your fellow travellers?

Shouts

To the Slashdot "BSD is dying" crowd - big deal. Death is part of the cycle; take a look at your soft, pallid bodies and consider that right this very moment, parts of you are dying. See? It's not so bad.

To the bulk of the FreeBSD committerbase and the developer community at large - keep your eyes on the real goals. It's when you get distracted by the politickers that they sideline you. The tireless work that you perform keeping the system clean and building is what provides the platform for the obsessives and the prima donnas to have their moments in the sun. In the nd, we need you all; in order to go forwards we must first avoid going backwards.

To the paranoid conspiracy theorists - yes, I work for Apple too. No, my resignation wasn't on Steve's direct orders, or in any way related to work I'm doing, may do, may not do, or indeed what was in the tea I had at lunchtime today. It's about real problems that the project faces, real problems that the project has brought upon itself. You can't escape them by inventing excuses about outside influence, the problem stems from within.

To the politically obsessed - give it a break, if you can. No, the project isn't a lemonade stand anymore, but it's not a world-spanning corporate juggernaut either and some of the more grandiose visions going around are in need of a solid dose of reality. Keep it simple, stupid.

To the grandstanders, the prima donnas, and anyone that thinks that they can hold the project to ransom for their own agenda - give it a break, if you can. When the current core were elected, we took a conscious stand against vigorous sanctions, and some of you have exploited that. A new core is going to have to decide whether to repeat this mistake or get tough. I hope they learn from our errors.

Future

I started work on FreeBSD because it was fun. If I'm going to continue, it has to be fun again. There are things I still feel obligated to do, and with any luck I'll find the time to meet those obligations.

However I don't feel an obligation to get involved in the political mess the project is in right now. I tried, I burnt out. I don't feel that my efforts were worthwhile. So I won't be standing for election, I won't be shouting from the sidelines, and I probably won't vote in the next round of ballots.

You could say I'm packing up my toys. I'm not going home just yet, but I'm not going to play unless you can work out how to make the project somewhere fun to be again.

= Mike

--

To announce that there must beno criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not nly unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. -- Theodore Roosevelt
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