Defining Innovation too Narrowly

Here's a decent article on innovation in the New York Times. The distributor vs the innovator -- Dell vs HP. But I see no need to juxtapose the two terms "distributor" vs "innovator." Dell innovates just as much in the "marketing" and "distribution" of technology as HP innovates in the "development" of the technology itself. Why do we in high tech see innovation as something that applies only to engineering? Can't an entire business or development model be innovative? It seems to me that innovation is a process that can be applied quite naturally to multiple functions within an enterprise.

Comments:

What is innovative about the Dell business model? It seems to me that they are very focused on terrific execution of the oldest strategy in the book. Sell commodities at the lowest price. I don't mean to understate their accomplishments, but it's execution ... not innovation. Not in technology, not in strategy.

Posted by Keith Bierman on May 29, 2004 at 03:08 AM JST #

Well, I suppose it depends on how you define "innovation" and "technology." People in high tech toss around these words so frequently that they hardly have any precise meaning anymore. Clayton Christensen (The Innovator's Dilemma & The Innovator's Solution) characterizes "technology" as extending "beyond engineering and manufacturing to encompass a range of marketing, investment, and managerial processes. Innovation refers to a change in one of those technologies." Then he goes on to talk about sustaining and disruptive innovations and technologies. So, by that definition, I'd say Dell is innovative in both strategy and technology. I don't think the company is succeeding simply because of its focus on execution, and I don't think their strategy is the oldest in the book, either. I think it's far more complex and subtle than that, or else it would be too easily duplicated. It's not. So, I'm betting there's some significant intellectual property that pervades their business processes. I'd agree, however, that Dell is not an innovative company when it comes to the creation, engineering, and building of new products. But that doesn't matter to Dell. It's not where they innovate.

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on May 30, 2004 at 06:22 PM JST #

Unfortunately the site you ref. is one of those that you have to pay to read - and that is AFTER registering with their so called FREE website! This always usually irritates the blue jeebies out of me. Nice blog.

Posted by lou on June 08, 2004 at 02:36 PM JST #

Well, the thing is, dell equipment is just now beginning to resemble HP, Compaq, Tandy, in making cheap ( I don't mean economical, I mean cheap), proprietary, non-standard (hooked) equipment for the consumer. They are years behind with such 'innovations', but they caught up nicely.

I just bought (well, our secretary fell for the direct marketing flier) a dell laptop, and it was broken out of the box. It wasn't boxed well in it's original packaging (The thing rattles around inside the carton).

I will never buy another Dell laptop. Or server. Or anything.

Posted by markb on December 31, 2007 at 04:28 PM JST #

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