Sunday, September 28, 2008

Is Apple Innovative or Just Adaptive?
posted by: Bruce Nussbaum

There is an interesting thread of a conversation about Apple’s innovation going on among those commenting on The Most Innovative Companies lead story for this issue of IN-Inside Innovation.

Andre started it off by saying that Apple was not innovative—it didn’t invent anything. It only adapted things others invented. That generated a storm of discussion about just what innovation really means. My take on “innovation” is that it is not invention. That’s a classic mistake people make. Innovation is creating something new of value. In the business world, that means creating something new of value that generates revenue and profits. Disruptive innovations that change the game are often business model innovations that integrate five or six or eight different types of innovation.

That's what Apple is so good at these days. In its earliest incarnation, Apple was great as user-friendly innovation. Apple is now in a second, more sophisticated and impactful stage of generating platform innovation. Both the iPod and iPhone are platform innovations that incorporate many kinds of innovation. There were lots of MP3 players around before the iPod, a few of them quite beautiful. But Steve Jobs brought together a legal/business innovation (getting the heads of music studios to agree on 99 cent downloads), a software innovation (the iTunes store) and a great industrial design--the iPod. That's what makes for powerful disruptive innovation.

The iPhone is similar--it's a platform that thousands of developers are building new products for.

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