Recently Tesla unveiled its futuristic “Cybertruck”, the name coined by billionaire Elon Musk for their stainless steel, electric pick-up truck- “It is something that the truck market has never seen before". Shortly after the event, the Tesla stock share price plummeted by 6.1% causing a loss of millions. Tesla spent years creating a product unlike any truck known to man-kind. Knowingly, they have taken the risky route of innovation rather than the easy route of profits which they could have done by offering their customers something similar to what they are already expecting- such as a typical truck that resembles the designs of previous Tesla models. However, will the risk they have taken be worth it?
Why isn't innovation enough?
New innovative start-up ideas are often abundant. This can be seen by the immense number of new restaurants that open on a weekly basis, especially in Kuwait. For a passionate entrepreneur, these ideas will provide a rush of adrenaline that will push that person to work endless caffeine- fuelled days and nights, until that mere idea is transformed into a working product . Having a brilliant idea and working countless hours is no longer enough to be successful in a crowded market of start ups.
Despite the amount of love and passion a person might feel towards that idea. The initial rush will eventually fade. 30-40% of restaurants in Kuwait have filed for closure in the past year. All of them (except franchises) were ambitious entrepreneurs that came up with an innovative concept that they truly thought would be successful. Some did not earn enough to stay afloat. Others simply gave up because they could not survive in such a competitive market.
It’s a different kind of race
The “IBM Simon” was the first touch phone in the world. For a while it was the definition of pure innovation. IBM had a great innovative phone that came in 1992, 16 years before the iPhone. Yet no one remembers “IBM Simon” (unless you are my grandfather). Why is that so?
It is because IBM thought that they won the race, while in fact they were running backwards towards the start line instead of going forwards to reach the finish line. In business, where time is money and money is power. We often confuse what it is we are racing towards. Being the first in introducing a technology will only lead to temporary success and not a success that will influence generations to come. While IBM focused on bringing something new to the market, Apple took 16 more years to better execute the idea rather than rushing to market. Keep in mind that the iPhone may never have existed without the new technology that the IBM Simon introduced. After all, Henry Ford would not have been able to create the model T without relying on former innovations such as the car engine and the most primitive technology, the wheel.
Nothing is new anymore.
We cannot discuss the concept of innovation without exploring the aspect of “nothing being new anymore”. For start up entrepreneurs trying to find something truly new without it having any resemblance to current concepts is a deadly trap. Firstly, it takes a lot of time to innovate a product that stands on its own merit without relying on previous business models. Secondly, consumers whether consciously or unconsciously tend to be attracted to things that they are familiar with (this may also explains the outrage towards the flagrant Cybertruck)
Innovation is food for the creative soul. While we can recognize that doing what is profitable typically may not be to create new concepts, we can also understand that being innovative also means being the most effective in impacting the society we live in (that is if executed properly). Although innovation is essential. Big companies such as google are money machines without taking risks such as putting out new technologies every month. Instead they focused on the execution, which is why Google is brilliant in what they do. Google did not invent search engines. However they became the best at it. Google has learned from its mistakes in regards to introducing new technology, such as the infamous smart google glasses.
Speaking of stealing ideas, I will leave you with this quote by Thomas Edison that sums it all up very nicely:
Shehab AlQallaf is a generation 9 Protege who is currently studying medicine in Monash University, Australia. Over the years, he’s worked in many industries such as events and hospitality. He also loves to create fun, educational videos which you can find on his Instagram page.