The Notion of Innovation

If I were to ask you for your immediate thought of the word ‘innovation’, you would likely think of words that have a positive connotation:

“Growth”; “Progression”; “Futuristic”; “Beneficial”.

From solely a business point of view, the idea of innovation is what every single enterprise strives for when curating a product or service. If companies are able to innovate into the future and set a new standard, they gain control of a market and vastly grow as a result. Think of some of the world’s greatest innovations over the past fifty years: Philips with the Tape Cassette, Microsoft with the PC, and Apple with the iPhone.

Each brand created a product that greatly shifted (or even created) a market- and notice how the brands themselves were always the individual leaders for the market. Philips was the primary producer of tape cassettes. Windows is still the most widely used operating system in the world, accounting for over 70% of the market share thirty years after its release. And I expect that Apple will continue to lead the smartphone industry.

These companies produced arguably the most important technological innovations in recent human history, and seemingly benefited as a result. This stems a question in my mind: are there any large companies that innovated a market but then collapsed? Of course there are. Chances are, you’ve heard of (and probably vividly remember) a company named Blockbuster. Some of my greatest childhood memories include going to my local Blockbuster and renting out a movie for $4 on a Friday night.

Blockbuster was originally founded in 1985, and while it was not the first video renting store to ever exist, it perfected the industry like nobody else. Their store had a family-esque atmosphere and their logo was recognizable, due to their massive consumer base. In 2004, Blockbuster employed over 80,000 people worldwide and had over 9,000 stores.

Then, six years later, they went bankrupt. As if the entire world had changed around them and if they couldn’t keep up.

Well, it kind of did.

While Blockbuster was an innovator at the very beginning of its conception, it succumbed to bankruptcy due to a lack of innovation. The beauty of irony. Innovation is important for the beginning of a company, but it’s equally as important to maintain as time uncontrollably progresses forwards.

Another prominent case of this can be seen with the electronic company Motorola. Although they have not collapsed to the extent of Blockbuster, Motorola used to be as synonymous of a brand name as Microsoft and Apple. The history of the company dates all the way back to 1928, where it stemmed as a small car-radio manufacturing business. As time progressed, Motorola’s radios become more intricate and the business greatly grew, as the technology was becoming more prominent throughout the United States Government. Motorola created the very first mobile phone prototype in 1973, and eventually released the very first cellular phone 11 years later.

In other words, Motorola innovated. They created the very first product that allowed individuals to communicate with one another using a portable device- something that we now take for granted. Up until 1998, the company was the number one seller in cellular phones, but was eventually succumbed by Nokia. Then the iPhone released, and the rest is history.

Motorola is still making phones today, and actually pride themselves on their history of innovation and technological progressions. They even have a special section on their website dedicated to the term, stating: “We’ve spent nearly 100 years leading people through uncharted territory…and the next century is going to show that we’re just getting started”. With the release of the Motorola Razr 5G (a sequel to the very popular Motorola Razr), they seem to believe that the next huge innovation within the smartphone industry is a foldable phone. Their decision is a gamble; maybe it will pay off and progress them forwards, or maybe it will drastically collapse and will regress them backwards. Only time will tell.

The world is driven by the constant drive that companies have to innovate. Not only is the concept beneficial from a business standpoint, but it is symbiotically advantageous towards the entire world. The more that we are able to progress forwards, the more problems we are able to solve, and the better our reality becomes. There’s a great quote by Albert Einstein that speaks on this idea: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. And therefore, we must move forwards.

student // @danfalkovich