A smartphone, a subway, a grocery list
Steven Johnson, author of my favorite book of the moment, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, holds that there are very few ‘Eureka!’ innovations. Instead, most innovations happen slowly over time. Social networks, open information are key. He also says invention happens atop existing platforms. Johnson claimed Youtube couldn’t happen until WWW and digital media standards emerged. The WWW couldn’t happen until HTML existed and so on. Innovation happens when observant, intuitive people dabble in many areas. The seize upon something that is suddenly obvious and assemble the parts.
Tesco is a shopping store that used innovation to assail a much larger competitor in the Korean groceries market. By paying attention to the lives of working Korean people and looking at the available technologies, Tesco assembled something amazing out of existing parts. Tesco quickly gained market share and admiration from its new customers. And, I think, they developed a new platform for future innovation.