Innovators Stand Firm:A Modern Day David Vs Goliath
Looking around the internet yesterday, as researchers, things were a little different. Wikipedia was blacked out, Google had its logo blacked out and Twitter was alive with SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) talk. SOPA was created to promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation by combating the theft of US property. However, opponents to SOPA argue that it will do exactly the opposite in that it violates freedom of speech, internet censorship and will therefore cripple the internet as we know it.
SOPA is a prime example of how big companies (especially within the music and film industry) are trying to do everything they can to stop innovation (so say the technology companies). Is this a modern day example of David Vs Goliath where the larger ‘Goliath’ companies are unwilling to accept change whilst the innovative companies and start-ups are encompassing change?
Larger companies typically innovate around business processes to take cost out of the system. However, innovation aligned with technological change that could involve turning the way a company carries out its business on its head is often rebuffed by large companies due to upheaval and uneasiness (with shareholder apprehension another reason)
Conversely think of the most successful modern day companies and most of these are technology companies eg Microsoft, Apple, Facebook & Google. These companies have rewritten industry rules in which they play, doing things differently to deliver value to the end customer. It is therefore no surprise that technology companies oppose SOPA as their roots are in start-ups where innovation is the main driving force behind their business success.
Innovation comes from experimentation and needs creativity and destruction in equal measure – in order to create you need to destroy what has gone before. So what if the Internet was censored – would this limit innovation? I think the answer is a resounding Yes! Technology has created a third state that allows us as individuals to work alone as well as together. The company of the future will be narrow (focused on one particular specialism), hollow (use partners instead of reliant on in-house skills), flatter (not as many levels of management), creative driven and international (borders don’t get in the way of business any more). Therefore, if the internet and social media are suppressed then so is the power of smaller businesses.
Thinking about what impact this might have on our economy, if we take the UK as an example and think back to The Big Society,which was the flagship policy idea of the 2010 Conservative Party’s general election manifesto, SMEs were identified as playing a fundamental role in getting the UK economy back on track. If SME growth is hampered in any way, this will impact greatly on the growth engine of the UK and result in slow progress in climbing out of the current downturn. Also, taking the land of the free (USA) as another example, innovation is at the heart of how they came to dominate the world. However, times are a-changing and China, with all their cost advantages, will quickly supersede them as the global superpower (if they haven’t already done so). Therefore, you could argue that the only advantage the US has over China is innovation and if legislation starts to hamper SMEs then growth will slowly grind to a halt.
Taking all this into account, what does it mean for the future? In one sentence, if we stop innovation and continue to do what we have always done then we will always get what we have always got….if we are lucky!
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