Innovation is key to most companies’ success, especially in technology where it is heralded as a indicator of success. But as an article in The Economist on intellectual property noted “What matters most about a technology is that it should be both useful and used” (Laser Brain 1-4-20). Creating a novel idea may be transformative, or it may simply be a curiosity. Whether in technology or other fields, innovation must always consider how it could be adopted or leveraged by customers.
It’s often the combination of disparate, discrete old and new ideas that leads to the usable breakthrough innovation. Amazon’s hugely successful Amazon Web Services (AWS) leverages a really old idea (essentially shared centralized mainframes with online access points, labeled the cloud) with a more recent trend in software as a service (SaaS) for their applications and data warehouses to create a new service that supports the business needs of many companies, even beyond those who sell products on Amazon.com. Is AWS a breakthrough technology? No, but it is a useful and used technological combination that’s driving Amazon’s and many small business’ growth.