Cable-Tec Expo: Bright Ideas Don’t Guarantee Success

Author Adner Cites Edison, Amazon, Sony Examples
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New Orleans -- The difference between great innovations that succeed, and great innovations that fail, can be vast, noted Ron Adner, Professor of Strategy & Entrepreneurship at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, and author of the book Wide Lens, during Wednesday’s Annual Awards Luncheon keynote here at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo.

Consider: Thomas Edison is credited for the lightbulb, but it was actually invented 60 years prior. Sony invented the Walkman in ‘79, but Apple cleaned up on the digital version. Sony also invented the first e-reader, in 1990, but Amazon seized the marketplace with a technologically inferior and higher-priced version.

“Edison, Apple, Amazon -- they thought about what else needs to happen, beyond the technological innovation,” Adner (pictured) told attendees. “Edison looked at the lightbulb and saw the systems that needed to be built, and he went out and built them” -- including means to generate and transmit power, and the power meter, to bill for it.

Just delivering on great execution doesn’t necessarily deliver success. Rather, success requires co-innovation and adoption chains -- finding who else needs to buy in, in order to create value. Sony’s e-reader failed in part, he said, because the company didn’t what the kind of buy-in publishers needed.

“As a professor, it used to be that you had to talk about Sony -- that is no longer true,” Adner said. “Sony remains a great company, but they’re not important in the old ways anymore.”

Adner closed by encouraging audience members to ask questions that are normally taken for granted: Where to stand, when to move, who should lead, what’s the risk, and how to win.

“That’s what it really means to ask this question of what else,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that what we know goes out the window, but it does mean there’s an additional layer, and sometimes the layer changes things dramatically.” 

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