Innovation Isn't Dying In Silicon Valley; It's Just Changing
from the change-is-good dept
Apparently Judy Estrin, a well-known Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur and exec, is coming out with a new book warning that the infrastructure needed for innovation in Silicon Valley is going away. The complaint basically appears to be that there’s too much emphasis on the short-term, with companies focusing on the quick flip rather than the long haul trends that need to be satisfied to drive real innovation.
I can absolutely understand where this is coming from — but I think it’s wrong. There absolutely are a bunch of folks in Silicon Valley who are focused on the quick flip and the easy cash out. Those folks have been around for a while. They get a lot more attention in the boom years, and during the down cycles you see them fleeing for somewhere else. But that doesn’t mean that the overall culture of innovation is in trouble.
In some sense, the argument sounds similar to the complaints we hear from long-time journalists bemoaning bloggers, or professional television producers whining about YouTube. The tools of innovation have changed the marketplace, allowing many more entrants — and not all of those entrants are all that serious about it, or even that good at it. So, there’s a ton of crappy blog content, and millions upon millions of videos that would never, ever show up on a television. Yet, there are also plenty of gems exposed by these systems that would never have come out otherwise.
And the same is true for innovation culture in Silicon Valley.
The “tools” for creating a startup make it easier and cheaper than ever before to simply throw something up and see if it sticks. And, yes, much of it is terrible — just like plenty of online content is terrible — but out of that some great stuff evolves. The fact that there are plenty of short term thinkers just throwing stuff quickly at the wall isn’t necessarily bad for innovation — it just means that innovation is taking a slightly different path. There are plenty of folks in Silicon Valley still thinking about the long haul, and looking at the trends and understanding them. But the ability to throw something up and see if it sticks is valuable as well, as it allows a lot more testing of ideas in the real world, without having to make huge initial investments. That isn’t to say that short-term thinking is a good thing. It’s not. But some folks doing short-term thinking doesn’t preclude others from using those lessons to build real long-term innovation.