A Third Way
Research by business scholars has shown that, when it comes to major innovations, the first movers rarely find the greatest success. They’re usually outmaneuvered by the copycats — the companies that follow in the innovators’ footsteps but end up dominating the market because of their stronger managerial and marketing skills.
Conservative innovation follows a different path, a third way. Conservative innovators neither pioneer a new technology nor copy it. Rather, they combine it with an older technology to create a different sort of product altogether. And, often, it’s exactly the product that today’s customers actually need, want, and are willing to pay for.
Reprint No. 04402
Nicholas G. Carr (firstname.lastname@example.org), a contributing editor to strategy+business, is the author of Does IT Matter? Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage (Harvard Business School Press, 2004).