Summary of Breakthrough

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  • Innovative
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Mark and Barbara Stefik's guide to innovation is based on their belief that the new century demands that business foster inventive strategies. The authors tell inventors, entrepreneurs and managers what they can and must do to achieve breakthrough innovations. They explain the basis for innovation, the context of invention and what breakthroughs mean in terms of business strategy for the twenty-first century. The authors based their research on interviews with inventors and managers, including many from the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Their book is thorough, clearly written and packed with anecdotes, although at times it suffers from erratic organization. finds that the authors do a very good job of introducing the elements of innovation to a general business readership.

About the Authors

Mark Stefik is an inventor and research fellow at the Palo Alto Research Center where he directs the Information Sciences and Technologies Laboratory. Barbara Stefik has a doctorate in transpersonal psychology.



The Dilemmas of Breakthrough Innovation

Breakthroughs surprise everyone. That's what makes them breakthroughs. They can destroy or create whole industries. Successful breakthroughs follow the "technology adoption S-curve." The curve begins in an inventor's laboratory. The next bend of the curve introduces the invention to a small market of early adopters. When the new technology reaches the mainstream, businesses grow rapidly. Competitors enter the market. The market peaks, consolidates, saturates and stops delivering returns. Today, many information and communications products and technologies have peaked. Future breakthroughs depend on an ecology of innovation that includes schools, think tanks, government funding, technology firms, consumers and investors. However, several dilemmas confront future innovators.

Innovation depends on basic research, mostly from universities, although universities do not commercialize their discoveries. Some companies establish their own laboratories, while others adopt discoveries from universities and commercialize them. However, most companies focus on short-term applied research rather than basic research. Boundaries between academic...

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