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

There’s a new, massively detailed, study coming out on the secrets to being a great innovator, and the key finding really stands out:

“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.

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Comments on “The Key To Innovation: Putting Ideas And Information Together In New Ways”

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Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Hell, look at Google. They did absolutely nothing new from the user’s point of view – there were already dozens (hundreds?) of search engines vying for attention with aggressive marketing and colourful designs. Then Google came along, quietly rearranged the core product to work way better, and waited for everyone to realize that it was the only search engine they needed.

They are now one of the most successful and powerful companies in the world and 90% of what they do is still exactly what you say in the title of this post: putting ideas and information together in new ways.

Mr RC (profile) says:

Patents + 'Burden of .... '

Patents should only be applied when there is an actual product, otherwise it isn’t an invention, merely an idea. An idea that locks the market out..

Wireless email, I’m sure many many many people thought about that (myself included) but it’s the first to the patent office to get control of it, not the first to actually CREATE the invention. How is it meant to promote progress, when it brings things to a screeching halt and STOPS things coming to market when many of these so called ‘inventors’ have absolutely no intention of creating the product in the first place.

What someone should do, and it would probably cost a fortune, is to patent every idea that people can come up with and bring the market to a complete standstill where nobody is going to do anything for fear of being sued into oblivion.

It would require a lot of money to make a company that accepts ideas, registers the patents under the company, and takes maybe 20-30% of the income that the idea generates via lawsuits/licensing, passing the rest off to the ‘idea man’.

I think that would show everyone that patenting concepts and ideas is just stupid, it’s not a bloody invention, it’s a thought until there is a product. Though I doubt there’s a billionaire out there who’d be willing to make this happen.. so it’s just a pipedream…

There is ‘burden of proof’ in law, patents should have ‘burden of creation’ if they are going to let ideas be patented. If you’re not actively trying to create what you’ve patented, then you lose it, freeing it up for those who also had the idea and actually plan to do something with it rather than sit back and sue people left right and centre.

Hell, throw in a ‘Burden of Innovation’, having to build upon the initial patent within 5 years or lose it. 5 years should be enough time to advance the product in some way/shape/form ensuring constant evolution. Those who can’t innovate, lose the patent and give other people/companies the opportunity to do so. You keep innovating, you keep control, you snooze, you lose…

Then we’d see real invention and innovation… but we all know that will never happen.. not while lobbyists are allowed to exist… and the politicians are in corporate pockets…

moore850 (profile) says:

Innovation requires the idea

Innovation may not be in the idea itself, but it certainly requires the idea. Hard work alone does not “generate” innovation from nothing. I read through the 5 innovative qualities, and they are correct in the same way that one can say “all it takes to be the greatest baseball player ever is to hit the ball every time”. Easier said than done… one thing that they failed to mention is that true innovation comes from knowing when to abandon/revise a crappy idea in order to get a great idea. A great innovator can do this process incredibly fast. By rapidly cranking out good ideas and hooking them together intelligently, the best innovators are like “magic profit engines” to companies that actively support and fund their efforts. That’s another thing about innovation, it is very easy to stifle and very hard to support for companies that lack a crystal clear vision and appreciation for the value of innovation. Most companies do not understand its value at all, nor do they care to. It’s cheaper for them up front to just slog along; even large companies often choose to buy innovations rather than generate them.

Rusty Mase (user link) says:

Distinguishing Invention and Innovation

The cited study and subsequent discussion here are combining two items that need to be distinguished; Invention and Innovation. One of the better discussions of this is provided by Hosein Fallah in Innovation and Dynamics of Knowledge Creation.

Mike’s commentary on this includes the following statement:

real innovators need to be free to combine different ideas and experiment to see what actually works.

Innovators are essentially marketers. You can innovate and market a new brand of soup but competition from Campbell’s and all the other major marketers of this product (as well as limited store shelf space) is going to seriously affect the success of that activity. The best product to innovate is a new product where you can brand it yourself. If you choose to innovate a new brand of soup and make it financially successful you will need to do a lot more simply “see what works”.

Invention is a separate step from innovation, a precursor. I would suggest strongly here that that innovation cannot be patented – only an invention can be patented – and then only by the inventor. Once an invention exists it may then be innovated by any number of people and may be best innovator win. One would hope though that the inventor gets some credit, maybe a reward the effort. That was the problem with the RIM/NTP fiasco. NTP was owned owned by the inventor, Thomas Campana and his lawyer and held numerous patents developed by the inventor. RIM, in the federal court decision, was simply called to task for innovating an invention they had not secured the right to use.

Thus, invention and innovation are totally separate stages in the process of successfully creating new products. A good invention may be a waste of time unless it is successfully innovated. On the other hand, successful innovation without a good invention is likely to just take up more space on the soup isle of the grocery store.

It is best to have both, great inventions and great innovations. Distinguishing between the two steps may therefore be extremely useful. It takes more than an inventor and it takes more than an innovator. Sounds like the best solution is simple cooperation.

staff (profile) says:

stop whining

“The idea of wireless email was hardly new.”

For god’s sake, would you please stop whining for RIM! They had their day in court. It was determined NTP’s patents were valid and covered important aspects of RIM’s business. But then, I’m sure whining is very profitable for you. So does your tongue get sore from licking all those corporate boots?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: stop whining


I have addressed this to you in the past, and I do not quite understand why you choose to repeat the same falsehoods over and over again, rather than actually engaging in any sort of discussion.

We have been just as critical of big businesses — including RIM — when they have misused the patent system. We have no business relationship with RIM and have never had a business relationship with RIM. If there have ever been RIM ads on the website, it has been through a partner such as Google or FM, but we have never directly done any work with RIM whatsoever. In fact, we have noted, multiple times, that RIM’s behavior when it came to patents was deplorable.

That does not change, however, the facts of the NTP case. And there again, the points you make do not line up with the facts. The RIM/NTP case was settled before a final ruling was made — and before that happened the USPTO went out of its way to make it clear that it did not believe the NTP patents were valid, and that it planned to reject them.

I recognize that you are a patent holder, and that you believe that it is in your best interest to sue companies that you believe have violated your patents. The system allows you to do this, and while I, personally, find those actions to be a drag on actual innovation, I recognize your right to do so under the law.

However, I would appreciate it if you stopped posting on every discussion about the patent system and falsely accusing us of things we have no done and misrepresenting other facts. It would be great if the independent inventor community wanted to actually engage in a discussion. I find it unfortunate that you have chosen not to do so, but to instead focus on misguided, misleading and incorrect personal attacks on me.

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