The Key To Innovation: Putting Ideas And Information Together In New Ways
from the but-you-can't-do-that-if-the-ideas-are-locked-up dept
"What the innovators have in common is that they can put together ideas and information in unique combinations that nobody else has quite put together before."Notice that one of the key components of all of this is seeing ideas and information that are already out there, and then doing the useful part of putting them together in a different way. This is something we've noted time and time again when it comes to innovation. Often, the actual "idea" isn't new -- but it's that it is put together in a better or different way than before, and that new way works better for people. Yet, when you have something like patents on the basic ideas (and, before some patent lawyer shows up to say patents aren't on ideas but inventions, let's all just agree how ridiculous that claim is), it makes this much more difficult and expensive. The classic example of this is RIM. The idea of wireless email was hardly new. Lots of folks had been trying to do it right. The technical issues behind providing email wirelessly were not difficult either. What RIM did was put it all together in a compelling way -- by recognizing how to package it all in a manner that was significantly more usable than previous attempts. And yet, another firm, NTP, who had failed to innovate and had failed to actually figure out a way to make wireless email useful, came along and sued, because it held patents on the very concept of wireless email. After a long legal battle, RIM was eventually forced to pay over $600 million to NTP.
Those sorts of situations should really bother anyone who believes in the importance of innovation. As this study has shown (yet again), real innovators need to be free to combine different ideas and experiment to see what actually works. The problem, as it appears to be so often, is the faulty belief that the "innovation" is in the idea itself. That's almost never the case. The innovation is in figuring out the right combination of factors that packages it up the way the market wants things. And now we've got another study showing this, though it seems unlikely to actually impact policy decisions, and that's a huge shame if you're a supporter of innovation.