Breakthroughs to nowhere

For companies today, “breakthrough innovation” has become something of a holy grail. But achieving a breakthrough – even a truly momentous one – doesn’t guarantee commercial success. Some products that represent great technological advances never gain a profitable place in the market – they’re too good for this world. I look at one example – the Concorde SST – in Flying Blind, my latest column on innovation for Strategy & Business. The Concorde’s unhappy fate, I argue, tells us something important about how easy it is to misread the dynamics of both technological progress and marketplace change.

4 thoughts on “Breakthroughs to nowhere

  1. bpr


    Given the recent exchange between you and Farber on the new disintermediated (word?) media, I’m curious as to how you see your own blog. I notice that you have increased the frequency of postings, but rarely participate in the comment threads. Was that a decision? Just curious.

  2. vinnie mirchandani

    I am not so sure…I am more in Tom Peter’s camp – Innovate or Die…The Chinese and Indians and others have shown they can produce what we can do today cheaper, better. So we have to become more of a moving target. …some of this will result in breakthrough innovation – some of the effort will just honestly tell us to get the hell out of some products we cannot be competitive in. Instead of continuing to ask “who moved my cheese?” we need to find new cheese… but there will be dead ends, no question…

  3. Bill Higgins

    Yes, I think there are two distinct skill sets in making a technological innovation ubiquitous: inventing the new technology and enticing a mass market to buy it. A couple of examples:

    Personal computer graphical user interface:

    Invented by… Xerox PARC

    Popularized by … Apple

    The gasoline-powered car:

    Invented by… George Baldwin Selden (according to your beloved Wikipedia)

    Popularized by… Henry Ford

    One of the many things that Microsoft is good at is taking well-engineered but hard-to-use technologies and simplifying the user interface and the nomenclature to make them usable by average humans.

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