Two events related to Innovation caught my attention this week. The first one is an article from HBR : “Defend your Research: imitation is more valuable than innovation” and the announcement that Palm is now for sale.
You may remember that Palm innovated in the 90’s to provide us with the first PDA. Personally, I have not invested in a Palm for 10 years. It was however my first e-Reader, my first electronic Agenda, contact manager, game console… So why did I stop investing in Palm products like a lot among us? Simply because a lot of products imitated Palm but provided more features. So Palm was in free fall since then and instead of innovating again, they tried to play the same copycat game but lost it. Their last products are just pale copies of what exists today.
Do you want other examples of copycat games? Facebook could be in reality a copy of ConnectU. How many times Facebook reviewed its first page in order to copy what works on Twitter and other social networks? Google buzz is not an innovation but a copy of Friendfeed. You can also look up the new HTC phones which are just copying what works on the iPhone. The frequencies to which these copies emerge are shorter and shorter and the patents seem to only help others find work-around faster.
These 2 events just prove once again that sleeping on your past innovations can be dangerous and that leadership can be ephemeral.
“If apes can learn the value of imitation, surely executives can?” – Oded Shenkar