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Apple iPad and Google Buzz: Harsh Reality of Innovation


Nothing like putting your heart and soul in an innovation, and then getting this:

Man, tough audience. But very much in keeping with some the best advice on innovation. Which is, you can’t have innovation without some failure along the way. It’s inevitable.

That advice is both true, and glib. Innovation consultant Jeffrey Phillips catches the right spirit when he says:

Another thing about “failure” is that we try to kid ourselves that failure is a “good thing” a learning opportunity.  Well, not in most cultures.

This is the reality of innovation. It’s tough. The more disruptive an innovation, the tougher it gets. And we’re in the middle of seeing how it plays right now with Apple iPad and Google Buzz.

Let me ask you this: Do you personally think either the iPad or Buzz will be guaranteed successes for their respective companies? Be honest now.

My guess is you’re like most of us: I don’t know.

Well, truth be known, neither do Apple and Google. But they’ve got a history you’d bet on.

Apple and Google: Big Time Failures, Big Time Innovations

Both Apple and Google have had their share of duds in the market:

Obviously, these companies do not have a perfect record of successful innovations.

But they do have a record of pressing through failures and continuing to roll out innovations. In fact, they’re consistently ranked the best in the world:

It pays to stick-to-it in trying out innovations. But can everyone?

Does Your Company Really Want Radical Innovation?

In Psychology Today, a professor at the University of Michigan gets to the issue:

From vaccines to Velcro, many inventions were spawned from accidents, seeming failures. But when Fiona Lee, psychology and business professor at the University of Michigan, explored which conditions help people experiment with novel ideas, she uncovered an interesting phenomenon: “Managers talk a lot about innovation and being on the cutting edge, but on an individual level, many people are not willing to try new things.”

What’s holding us back? A fear of failure.

Think about your own reaction to the question of whether the iPad and Google Buzz will be successful. It’s easy enough to be uncertain as an observer. But imagine if you have to put shareholder capital in to it, affect your brand in the market and risk some career trajectories?

I will often read of the importance of taking risks and accepting some level of failure for companies to be innovative. This is very true. But it can be glib to summarily dismiss companies for not “getting it”. When they’re made up of people like you and me who possess ordinary…well, human characteristics.

Because how do you know when you’re iterating toward a true high-value innovation, or you’re just spinning your wheels? I’ll turn again to Jeffrey Phillips:

As Edison and countless others have demonstrated, you rarely get it right the first time, and if you are stymied by early failure, then you’ll never find and implement the best ideas.  Innovation, as has been pointed out by individuals with far more to say about it than me, will create some failures.  Your job isn’t to avoid the failures, since you can’t predict them in advance, but to reduce the cost and impact of the inevitable failures.  In other words, keep moving.

As I said before, I can’t know for sure whether the Apple iPad or Google Buzz will be successful. But kudos to those companies for rolling out innovations that might fail. And in case you’re wondering whether allowing employees some latitude to fail is worth it, check out the 5-year stock performance of Apple and Google versus the S&P 500:

Let’s take this one out with the great speech from Teddy Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Indeed.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

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About Hutch Carpenter
Senior Consultant for HYPE Innovation (hypeinnovation.com)

22 Responses to Apple iPad and Google Buzz: Harsh Reality of Innovation

  1. Pingback: Apple iPad and Google Buzz: Harsh Reality of Innovation | CloudAve

  2. Pingback: How to fail the Apple and Google way « Chicago Mac/PC Support

  3. Mayur says:

    Sync your posts from Facebook to Google Buzz. Now, you can update Facebook from Buzz and Buzz from Facebook

    Sync Facebook with Google Buzz

  4. Mark Dykeman says:

    Did Apple and Google actually create all of those products? If memory serves, Jaiku was purchased by Google. Also worth noting that Google bought YouTube, which buried their own app.

    • Nope – a couple were acquisitions. Still considering those in the innovation context (they sort of “acquired” the FriendFeed model for Buzz, didn’t they?). The acquisition of YouTube is a tacit admission that Google Video just wasn’t making it.

  5. Excellent Hutch.

    I’ve used Apple, 3M and Google for years as examples of successes and failures but you’ve highlighted the issues perfectly here.

    • Hey, thanks Eric. And I like your post today on this subject: Culture of Failure?

  6. Pingback: How to Fail at Innovation « Evolving Economic Entities « Innovation Leadership Network

  7. Jeffrey says:

    Hey Hutch. Great post. I always use the Newton and Lisa as examples of Apple’s failures, which they learned from and quickly created new products based on the best features of those “failures”. It’s good to know that even these mavens of innovation occasionally stumble.

    However, I have to tell you that I think the iPad will be successful, if for no other reason than it has many of the same “whole product” features that the iPod and the iPhone have – namely, a community of developers and a wide range of apps. If Jobs is successful and pushes the iPad into the rentable textbook market, it could open up educational opportunities that we can only imagine today.

    • Thanks Jeffrey. I also share your optimism about iPad. I can see actually getting one (although not off the bat – I’m not that early an adopter.

  8. Pingback: Culture of Failure? - The New CIO

  9. Otto says:

    Buzz will eventually not suck quite so much.

    The iPad is a lost cause.

  10. Great post! You presented a fair and balanced analysis punctuated well be T.R.’s quote. It’s amazing how many people drink the Kool Aid from these companies and are oblivious to their missteps.

    • Thanks Steve. They should get credit for continually innovating, even if some stuff ends up in the dust bin.

  11. Pingback: Collecting knowledge and inspiration! « Intuinovare

  12. mobiledepot says:

    nice article and writeup keep it up.

  13. Pingback: Apple&Google: anche i migliori sbagliano « Surus

  14. link2mobile says:

    UK and Europe is most expensive places on the world’s to buy a new Apple product, iPad. That’s about a quarter higher than in the United States. “In the UK, Germany, France and Italy iPad prices 20-25 percent more expensive than in America,” said Craig James, chief economist at CommSec division in Australia.

  15. A business needs failure together with tough audience to help them improve. As they say, there’s always room for improvement. If not for the criticisms of these audiences, these companies will not take time to research and work on their products.

    When I first saw the iPad launched, I got excited! But thankfully, I read the reviews first. So, I guess I’ll stick with my IPhone for now.

  16. Pingback: Are you looking for some great readings? You just found it! « Intuinovare

  17. These companies have failed with several products but the ones that have hit, really made their marks that i sometimes forget about the failures.

    The iPod/iPhone along with Google adwords/adsense have really hit the spot. the iPad will succeed as well.

  18. Well it’s 2 years later and the iPad is a hit and there’s still not much Buzz around Google Buzz. Do I have an account? yes. Do I use it? not really. On the other hand I have an iPad that I use daily. However, when we talk about innovating around what customer’s value – I’m starting to think that Apple is getting a little ahead of itself and at least us. They’ve decided that it is a good idea to take optical drives (CD/DVD rom drives) out of all laptops. This will force everyone to buy the latest software which is only available through a download; to get all of it’s entertainment through iTunes or another similar service, and to only be able to give grandma the pictures from Christmas through the cloud. Problem is, grandma still has dial up. Additionally, if you need to reformat your hard drive, you need internet connection to do it. But what if the problem is you keep losing internet connection through a virus or software glitch?

    I don’t believe that that Apple has thought this thing through – it appears that they’re only thinking of potential iTunes revenue and new software purchase revenues as oppose to people abandoning the platform altogether – as a lot of live event editors did when Apple abandoned Final Cut Pro.

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