By Kirsten Nelson On August 17, 2009
History is littered with inventions that were ignored for their apparent insignificance, only to be “discovered” later by someone else, or else rescued from obscurity by an enterprising soul who couldn’t let a good idea gather dust.
I recently heard a retelling of one such myth, this one about a certain innovator of the solid-body electric guitar. In this story, like so many others, our hero presents a manufacturer with the fruits of his labor, only to be ignored until the competition releases their own version of the product.
Other recent conversations have had a similar theme, with many keeping a close watch on how R&D is weathering the current economic storm. Using last month’s InfoComm show as an indicator, it would seem that many manufacturers are still following notably progressive trajectories set before the world changed. Some more jaded observers have remarked otherwise, but a less sensationalist viewpoint produces the truth—external strife produces inward innovation. Products released into a harsh climate need to be seriously effective in their purpose. They need to answer specific needs.
These efforts continue after the big show. A recent tour of a major manufacturing operation and its R&D center revealed a “full speed ahead” approach. Forward motion is not just occurring within the safe confines of conservative product development. The spark of random innovation that built this industry is alive and well. (For more thoughts on R&D, please visit the SCN website and check out my blog on investment in design.)
Beyond manufacturing, these ideals also apply to the leaps made within the design and integration sectors. Now is the time to invest in R&D, and that means more training and some product development of your own. If what you sell is design and integration expertise, you should be looking at your own unique innovations. Make note of what new talents and processes you can sell to your clients. Consider how you can create expandable system designs that fit current budgets and allow for improvements when economic confidence is regained.
Or better yet, maybe it’s time you dust off your own innovations. If hands-on experience has shown how something needs to be done differently, maybe you’re the person to make it happen. Just be sure to remember that great invention myths always feature a struggle to make an idea known. Don’t give up.