Just came across this article from Bill Buxton in Business Week entitled “The Long Nose of Innovation.” He makes some very sober points about the innovation process. The “long nose” refers to what he sees as a mirror image to the long tail where “the bulk of innovation behind the latest “wow” moment (multi-touch on the iPhone, for example) is also low-amplitude and takes place over a long period—but well before the “new” idea has become generally known, much less reached the tipping point..”
He also writes:
“Here’s the message to be heeded: Innovation is not about alchemy. In fact, innovation is not about invention. An idea may well start with an invention, but the bulk of the work and creativity is in that idea’s augmentation and refinement. The newer the idea, the coarser the granularity of most analysis, and the more likely people are to say, “oh, that’s just like X” or “that’s been done before,” without any appreciation for how much work and innovation is involved in taking an idea from concept to wide practice.”
His example is the computer mouse. This invention was born 30 years before it became mainstream. The lesson is to not always focus on the sexy, new idea or invention but to also invest in developing existing technologies and products.