Not all innovations work. Not all innovations last. But the ability to innovate… is critical

The Internet formula for success turned traditional capitalism on its head.  Traditionally a company persuaded people to invest in it by making profits.  Now it persuaded people to invest in it first, and hoped the profits would follow.
A single assumption underpinned the entire boom:  the future would be better than the past.
(Michael Lewis, The New New Thing)

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We are an age born of innovation.  The entire assumption was based on this — if this idea won’t be the big one, then we will keep innovating until we find the next new new thing.  And find it we will!

Not all innovations work.  Not all innovations last.  But the ability to innovate – to change, even with genuinely big changes in big ways, is maybe the ultimate business success trait.

Microsoft's early days:  Microsoft wanted to build software tools

Microsoft's early days: Microsoft wanted to build software tools

In an article I found on the Huffington Post business page entitled 10 Huge Successes Built On Second Ideas from BusinessInsider.com, there is a list of ten companies that made major changes in their business plans.  Here’s the list:

Here are some more companies that only saw huge success after a good bit of evolution:

Facebook was briefly a “Hot Or Not” for Harvard.

AOL began as a videogame on-demand service.

Twitter started as podcast delivery service.

Intel sold computer memory, not microchips.

Microsoft wanted to build software tools.

Tiffany & Co sold paper.

Google wanted to search bulletin boards.

Silicon Graphics got its start making graphics terminals.

Avon sold books door to door.

(go to the article to click through for complete descriptions for each of these company change stories)

And here’s a little smart advice:
Marc Andreessen, the serial entrepreneur who successfully created and sold two billion dollar companies — Netscape and Opsware — preaches this lesson:  “Trying to understand how a tech company is going to be successful is a little bit like looking at a sonogram and trying to predict the baby’s hair color,” Marc said recently.
“The idea really matters and the products really matter, but you know so little about the adventure you’re undertaking when you’re starting a new tech company, you have to assume that things are going to change. You have to have a very healthy awareness of what you don’t know. You have to be super flexible and able to reverse yourself very quickly.”

The path to success is riddled with ideas that did not quite work right, and other ideas that caught on, and then even these have to change in order to remain on the cutting edge of success.  Yesterday’s good ideas do not always lead to ongoing success.  So, yes, “you have to be super flexible.”


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