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Tunnel-Vision Innovation

Often a prescription drug designed for a specific ailment sometimes ends up being used for some other quite different ailment.

When a new venture does succeed, more often than not it is in a market other than the one it was originally intended to serve, with products or services not quite those with which it had set out, bought in large part by customers it did not even think of when it started, and used for a host of purposes besides the ones for which the products were first designed. If a new venture does not anticipate this, organizing itself to take advantage of the unexpected and unseen markets; if it is not totally market-focused, if not market-driven, then it will succeed only in creating an opportunity for a competitor.
The new venture therefore needs to start out with the assumption that its product or service may find customers in markets no one thought of, for uses no one envisaged when the product or service was designed, and that it will be bought by customers out side its field of vision and even un-known to the new venture. If the new venture does not have such a market focus from the very beginning, all it is likely to create is the market for a competitor.

ACTION POINT: When innovating, go with the market response, not with your preconceived ideas. Don’t mart your pet ideas about a new venture.

Social Innovation: The Research Lab

Management is increasingly becoming the agent of social innovation.

The research lab dates back to 1905. It was conceived and built for the General Electric Company in Schenectady, New York, by one of the earliest “research managers,” the German-American physicist Charles Proteus Steinmetz. Steinmetz had two clear objectives from the start: to organize science and scientific work for purposeful technological invention and to build continuous self-renewal through innovation into that new social phenomenon – the big corporation.

Steinmetz’s lab radically redefined the relationship between science and technology in research. In setting the goals of his project, Steinmetz identified the new theoretical science needed to appropriate “pure” research to obtain the needed new knowledge. Steinmetz himself was originally a theoretical physicist. But every one of his “contributions” was the result of research he had planned and specified as part of a project to design and to develop a new product line, for example, fractional horsepower motors. Technology, traditional wisdom held and still widely holds, is “applied science.” In Steinmetz’s lab, science – including the purest of “pure research” – is technology-driven, that is, a means to a technological end.

ACTION POINT: Follow the example of Steinmetz and do market-driven research and development.

“It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose your own.”

Harry Truman

“Our economy is based on spending billions to persuade people that happiness is buying things, and then insisting that the only way to have a viable economy is to make things for people to buy so they’ll have jobs and get enough money to buy things.”

Philip Slater


“I believe in a relatively equal society, supported by institutions that limit extremes of wealth and poverty. I believe in democracy, civil liberties, and the rule of law. That makes me a liberal, and I’m proud of it.”

Paul Krugman

“The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become. ”

Adam Smith

“Once you realize that trickle-down economics does not work, you will see the excessive tax cuts for the rich as what they are — a simple upward redistribution of income, rather than a way to make all of us richer, as we were told.”

Ha-Joon Chang

“No nation has ever taxed itself into prosperity.”

Rush Limbaugh

“When we replace a sense of service and gratitude with a sense of entitlement and expectation, we quickly see the demise of our relationships, society, and economy.”

Steve Maraboli

“Bailing out people who made ill-advised mortgages makes no more sense that bailing out people who lost their life savings in Las Vegas casinos.”

Thomas Sowell

“You know what’s truly weird about any financial crisis? We made it up. Currency, money, finance, they’re all social inventions. When the sun comes up in the morning it’s shining on the same physical landscape, all the atoms are in place.”

Bruce Sterling

“You can’t tax business. Business doesn’t pay taxes. It collects taxes.”

Ronald Reagan

“The best way to boost the economy is to redistribute wealth downward, as poorer people tend to spend a higher proportion of their income.”

Ha-Joon Chang

“In the fashion industry, everything goes retro except the prices.”

Criss Jami

“A part-time worker is fully employed, half the time. In other words, they are part-time unemployees.”

Jarod Kintz

“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”

Joe Biden

“The power to tax is the power to destroy.”

John Marshall

“Crying about the economy is a strategy. It won’t get you a job, but it will keep Kleenex in business.”

Jarod Kintz

“Cheap booze is a false economy.”

Christopher Hitchens

“Thrift is poetic because it is creative; waste is unpoetic because it is waste.”

G.K. Chesterton

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