(Hey, John, get your comments and trackback up now, easier to keep the discussion in one place :)
The Walkman - technological twists to known stuff, but a completely new way to listen to music. Procedural if you want.
The car - wheels, gears, whatnot, was all there for Mr. Daimler to put together, obviously with a few little technological solutions to make them work in unison.
But the real breakthrough, the real user value, came with new uses that were not available to the horse and carriage crowd; the trips to grandmother on Sunday, family outings, motels and fast food. That I would add to the procedural innovation category.
The lightbulb - technological of course. But nevertheless a hugely procedural change before it was useful. Dare I mention generating plants, grids, soccer games at night...
The aeroplane - wings were a technological breakthrough, but wide use required a shift in thinking and habits, more of the procedural stuff.
PC - technological innovation level as for the Walkman, adding known components in new ways, sorting out an few bottlenecks with new technology, but heaven knows, it was the procedural changes that made it roar.
The assembly line - almost all procedural this time, not much breakthrough technology. Even though Mr Ford lowered the number of hours spent on a car from 70 to 7 in six months. That's what I'd call important stuff.
For me, the procedural changes is the "innovation", the technological solutions merely enablers.
That's where I humbly disagree with John's conclusion - "look for a technological game-changer before you go for a procedural one".
I think it should be the other way around if you're ambitious - change-the-game is in the procedural, that is where the innovation truly lies, that should be the focus point. That is what one should "look" for.
Then you can attack the practical barriers and apply a dash of technological innovation :)
Spurred by the former two posts on "ambitions and lightbulbs" and the ensuing discussion a parallel cropped up in my mind:
How to handle a crisis.
A crisis is in effect a problem. So why not go about it the same way?
Forget the crisis (unless there's a fire and some water pouring is the right thing to do).
Focus on the important stuff, the underlying long term and right thing to do.
Handle the crisis (unless a fire of course...) as a mere reminder to do the important stuff. A kick in the butt to do what's right.
A couple of months ago I had a crisis on my hands, my head programmer hit the wall and was from one day to the next out of the loop.
After a day of climbing the walls I did the only right thing (I think), I restructured the development team and added more and other kind of programmers.
Suddenly I had "fresh eyes" looking at the code, new ideas cropping up, speed and quality increasing.
Stuff I should have done a long time ago...
A crisis is theoretically always avoidable, good planning and any true what-if thinking beforehand should be able to make such go away before it happens. (If only I had acted six months ago and done what I had to do now... sigh. In hindsight it was rather obvious.)
But why do companies have crises?
Lack of good planning? Sure.
Lack of willingness to think the unthinkable? Absolutely.
Let me suggest:
A boss get tons of points by being the "chap who can handle a crisis well", he becomes a hero as everybody else cringe and hope the crisis goes away by itself. Action and decisiveness, what we want.
Handling a crisis is macho.
Handling a crisis is hero stuff.
Doing lots of planning and thinking and planning for the unthinkable - and thus never having a crisis - really does not make for much visible "leadership".
Not much I-am-a-hero-creation in that. Not much macho. Not much career advancement built in.
The macho leadership model:
Decisiveness, lots of action (lacking thorough planning) spurring crises, more action, more awe, more unquestioned action, more crises... round and round...
Me, I'll try to get better at thinking the unthinkable...
If you ever wonder why I'm not living in London, Cambridge, Paris, Helsinki... here's my 8 o'clock in the morning view from my office (almost that is):
Yes, ski season has started... and yes, cycling is perfect... and yes the clementines are ripe... :)
(Port Vauban in Antibes, sothern Alps in back, lots of masts inbetween, palms behind that you cannot see.)
[Update: With the goal of fannning the envy of Ric and Doug I just had to leave the palms for a few hours, put on my alpine touring skis and climb to a nice view at 3000 meters for a selfportrait plastered in the right hand top corner - so guys, there you are, hard work it was, more to come :D ]
(He has a prob with his comments set up so we decided here's the place to discuss...)
John argues against my lightbulb and assembly line examples:
"They were issues. Kerosene and candles caused fires and people died. People could look at the concept of electric light and say 'this will make lighting my house less dangerous'.
Workshops had lousy quality. The lack of quality was costing the owners, and they also had to hire and train a lot of people in order to meet demand. Assembly lines were demonstrably more efficient and produced higher quality results. Interchangeable parts were a huge hit when they were first demonstrated."
No doubt about that, but the question is how would they have solved the "problems" of fire risk and quality when the new and yet unknown alternatives were... ehh... unknown?
I would venture that:
Fixing the "kerosene and candles causing fires" as such would probably have led to better lamps, less flammable kerosene (heh!), asbestos tablecloths and lampshades.
Workshop quality problems could possibly have led to an early version of Six Sigmas (the former popular Three Sigmas :)
The lightbulb and the assembly line were not "fixes to a specific problem at hand", they simply made many former problems moot by changing the underlying basics.
And they changed whole industries and the life of the user as well. That is innovation.
The task at hand, what you hear from your boss and what the venture experts suggests is mostly - "fix a problem!".
That is limiting.
"Fixing a problem" is not evolution innovation.
Shooting for evolution innovation is ambitious. Fixing problems is a daily task.
Edison and Ford and Daimler and the Wright brothers had ambitions.
(Do not think Edison was focusing much on the "fire problem", his laboratory caught fire quite a few times while tinkering with the lightbulb :)
Boss tells you to fix the leaking windows:
Get a carpenter? Get out that silicone tube? (Fixing the problem.)
Or start tinkering with everybody working from home, virtual offices using collaborative software and broadband? (Evolution Innovation)
Problems with Sarbanes-Oxley section 404?
Add more IT systems and accountants?
Or try replacing organisational hierarchies and "how stuff is done"...
Problems with competing with production in China?
Negotiate lower wages locally?
Or redefine your whole business model...
"Fixing a problem" is inherently not ambitious I say.
"Disregard the problem" and look into more sweeping changes that makes many problems moot, that is ambitious I say.
(And more fun too if you're so inclined :)
[Note: JohnO rightly righted me in my confusing use of the word "evoulution" (too small-steps-progress in that, meant bigger leaps), sorry, now stricken out while keeping "innovation".]
Wells Fargo, Bank of America, PayPal... "Please update your account information"... the wonderful world of phishing. I get them twice a week.
Nifty they are, and I cannot resist doing a bit of "whois" etc., usually finding some obscure server hidden somewhere.
Until two days ago - "Mr. Dark" hiding at "freepokerforum.com" without much cover (as it was included in the "Account Login" URL).
[Note: Hinted PayPal so now the mentioned links are down]
Promptly went over to his "home" at http://www.freepokerforum.com/~dark/ that believe it or not was fully open, including access to the obvious folder cgi-bin/www.paypal.com/ where all and everything to run the scam was fully readable and free to download!
Including obviously the scripts that forwarded the collected account information (if anybody fell into the trap) as an e-mail to himself.
A quick look at the script and voila; his personal e-mail address, readable in plain text for all!
Herewith nominated to "Most Stupid Phisher Of The Year"!
As "President Bartlet" in "Westwing" once said - "Nothing is as effective in crime prevention as a stupid criminal"...