The world's greatest innovations is always made against all odds. The often touted Ford model T was born despite opposition from all auto-makers. It thrived after all the initial criticism and not a single management book forgets to omit its importance. The Tesla Model S was conceptualized in an environment that was hell bent against electric cars. It simply wasn't feasible and made no sense, commentators noted. Some complained that it won't match the speeds of a fossil fuel car and cannot be scaled. While the latter is partly true, the Model S is sold in more than 20 countries and manufacturing is steadily expanding.
Think Apple i-phone. Nobody thought the touch screen phone would ever be marketable. Some techies dismissed it as a fancy toy with little application. Steve Ballmer laughed at the iphone. He famously noted how it doesn't have a basic keyboard, it's not an e-mail machine and will ultimately fail. Most innovation is always derided and to paraphrase Steve Jobs, any new product that aims to change the status quo is always met with derision.
Which conveniently brings me to my question - Can any radical innovation be possible when one is constantly monitoring market trends? Sure, there's a lot to learn from the trove of big data that maps out patterns and charts. If you're constantly reading the technological environment and understanding trends, you're most likely to make a product that's not all too entirely different from what already exists. Think the Galaxy line of Samsung phones. Their utility is indisputable, but each new phone from the Galaxy 1 to the Galaxy 5 are mere hardware upgrades with minor software improvements. Nothing radical in design or application.The big guys go to the same conferences, attend the same social gatherings, mingle with the same industry 'experts.'
One way to look at the mushrooming startups is that they've always managed to work outside the norm. (As I write this, Samsung's second quarter profits have dropped by about 25 percent! That's the third consecutive quarter the company's profits have fallen. While the topic is digressing from my point, it's interesting to see what companies are destabilizing the South Korean giant. Any predictions on when this will hurt big? Be my guest, comments are free)
In other words, for real innovation, one has to work outside the framework of what works now. For what makes perfect sense now, is almost unthinkable a decade later in the technologically agnostic world. A decade back the disc-man was the best thing that ever happened to anyone. And that phase was eradicated as quickly as it came. Real disruption happens when you take a chunk of a company's profits, and use it for something completely different, working against the trend, with no real purpose, except to arrive at something radical. Disruption cannot work with current trends. It's an isolated space that aims to negate rationality. It's a pessimists' game really - by believing that nothing is right as it stands.
Marc Andreesseen calls the phenomenon the cognitive dissonance of legacy founders, where none are pursuing big ideas and most are egomaniacs. Most of them are caught up in the web of their own contraption. And Wall Streets'. Where only the booming share prices talk. Which is why the Microsofts and Apples of today are constantly being questioned by smaller players. A dozen have shielded from being bought over and are making their own mark. Case in point - Facebook and Twitter.
With 3D printers, and now 4D printers around the corner, how valuable are the Googles and Microsofts going to be in the coming future? Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson, one of the top technology investors and co-founder of Union Square Ventures believes that Apple will not be among the top 3 tech companies by 2020. While I shall reserve my judgement on Google, the tech world is waiting to see who the next disruptor is.