Sunday, December 05, 2010

Have You Misdiagnosed Your Innovation?

Just because you built a Web site doesn’t mean that your innovation is technological. The same would be true of footwear, sports or any other field. But this is a very common mistake. We look at an innovative product and assume that its core innovation is defined by it’s industry or market.

One example is facebook. It would be easy to say that facebook’s innovations are technological. However, as you listen to the recent 60 Minutes interview with Mark Zuckerberg, you begin to realize that the innovation that propelled facebook forward had more to do with sociology and connectedness than it did about code.

The same is true of Wikileaks. As a recent blog post from The Economist eloquently describes, the innovation in Wikileaks has nothing to do with technology. Instead the innovation is in how Julian Assange, founder of the site, strategically networked together servers within countries that have strong whistleblower laws and protections. Essentially, he has found a way to harness the globe’s legal protections in his fight to uncover secrets.

I have been fascinated with facebook and Wikileaks (see my recent post about Wikileaks and generosity) because these represent movements that have polarized people so dramatically but have not lost their ability to shape our relationships and our view of government and power. But as we get caught up in these dramatic stories of innovation, we tend to misdiagnose the innovative foundation. This can lead to a limited understanding of the innovation and how we can leverage it.

But more practically, it is possible that you have misdiagnosed your innovation! You may think that it is innovative for one reason, when really there is a deeper creative idea that is at play. Don’t settle for your assumptions. Dig deep into your idea and make sure that you understand your innovation and why it is unique.