A question of innovation

Since the iPad was announced there’s been much talk about how Apple is the world’s most innovative company. Is that true and if so, what lessons does that have for other businesses?

There’s two schools of thought about what innovation is; the big, new invention that changes industries, like the light bulb or the Hills Hoist, or incremental improvements like the stump jump plow and the wave piercing catamaran. The latter, building a better mousetrap, is what Apple do best.

When the Apple Mac was released there were hundreds of personal computers, at the time of the iPod’s launch there were thousands of MP3 players in the shops and Apple’s iPad enters a tablet PC market that has been around for a decade. With all of these products, and most notably the iPhone, Apple redefined the market by releasing a better mousetrap.

The good news is most business don’t need Apple’s fat margins to test ideas. Cheap computers, pervasive broadband, rapid prototyping and social media tools allow you to design and develop new solutions while monitoring how your staff and customers respond to the changes.

We’re living in a time of great technological change — new products and business methods are overwhelming or about to overwhelm most industries. It’s going to be the innovative companies that survive and prosper in this new era.

It’s time to start experimenting.

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Paul Wallbank is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on technology issues. He founded national support organisation PC Rescue in 1995 and has spent over 14 years helping businesses get the most from their IT investment. His PC Rescue and IT Queries websites provide free advice to business computer users and his monthly newsletter has over 3,000 subscribers.


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