From the archives: The innovator’s dilemma through the ages

April 1987 

From “How to Keep Mature Industries Innovative”: Basic American means of thinking must change. We are used to the notion that the only way to encourage innovation is always to remove obstacles to competition, including private agreements by firms to limit their freedom of action. Recently, economists, public officials, and business managers have begun to concede that the idea of competition as unlimited freedom could be a barrier to innovation. Through joint ventures and participation in collective research efforts, firms are learning that cooperation may be crucial in developing profitable ideas. States such as Michigan and Massachusetts have instituted programs targeted at revitalizing the automobile-parts, cutting-tool, and apparel industries. These programs are helping the state governments understand how to foster the necessary cooperation among firms, and between management and labor.

September/October 1998 

From “Bell Labs Is Dead, Long Live Bell Labs”: Basic research has not disappeared, as the critics claim. Scores of scientists continue steadily to pursue dreams that may perhaps not pay off for many years … [Astrophysicist Tony] Tyson says the dynamic for discovery may actually be better now than whenever you want since the 1950s. An increased give attention to relevance has put short-term pressures on researchers and made it harder to pursue “pure” science. However, that he states, “I think it’s healthy to have this tension. Otherwise you’re just sitting in the Ivory Tower doing nothing for anybody. It really does help to be immersed in the needs of the corporation at the same time you’re trying to make some new discovery. If you’re immersed in other cross streams of technology, of ideas, of demands … that’s a very rich environment for completely new ideas to spring forward.”

May 2004 

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