Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

Irving Wladawsky-Berger described colloborative innovation as “innovation coming from people working together in open communities”.  His interest was in open source software development, in particular.  In two talks that I heard today at the IBM Technical Leadership Exchange, in Orlando, Bernie Meyerson (IBM Vice President for Strategic Alliances, and Chief Technologist, Systems and Technology Group) and Tony Scott (Disney Senior Vice-President and CIO) provided reflections on collaborative innovation in two different contexts.

Bernie Meyerson described the development of the Cell microprocessor, with IBM in joint development with Sony and Toshiba.  The large investment required to develop basic technologies underlying the new processor was prohibitively high, but made collaboration made it practical.  The basic technologies were shared, with alternative manufacturers and suppliers brought on board at a later date.  Meyerson said that this story was described in Radical Innovation.

Tony Scott showed a 3.25″ floppy diskette — a reduced-size version of the 5.25″ diskette that Dysan didn’t quite get to production.  He was on the management team for this product that never saw the light of day, after Apple installed the Sony 3.5″ floppy diskette in a hard case.  (There’s some talk about this on Wikipedia).  Dysan didn’t listen to customers who were looking for media in a more durable carrier, and had started investing in producing the 3.25″ floppy diskette drives itself.  Scott made it sound as if this management decision was a leading cause of the failure of the company, a few years later.

Innovation is no longer a go-it-alone proposition.  All of the easy innovations have already been done, and collaborative innovation makes the development of new technologies affordable.

March 6th, 2006

Posted In: by David Ing