What Is Innovation?

Often, the comments on TechCrunch and other blogs are more enlightening than the original posts. The a-ha’s come not necessarily for the comments themselves but from the biases and perspectives they reveal. Such is the case today with Mike Arrington’s post critiquing – no, slamming – Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop.

The criticism of the site seemingly comes from the simple implementation of Alltop’s list of top blogs and their RSS-fed headlines. The sight is short on graphic design. It required little developer skill to create. It likely cost little in either cash or time to build. And therefore, the comments seem to say, Alltop is not innovative.

Wow. What a pretentious and even arrogant definition of “innovation.”

Coincidently, I found myself discussing the definition of innovation over lunch yesterday with a senior director at the National Science Foundation. We agreed that innovation was best described on two vectors: novelty and market impact, and not necessarily on the technical achievement of an invention.

By that definition, it is not for a pundit to declare a product innovative. That’s up to the market. The challenge in attempting to be innovative is to put ideas into the market, iterate quickly, and be responsive enough to drive adoption. Only when an invention, a product, a service, a business model, or an idea is adopted by the larger market can it be truly innovative. Until then, it is just what it is: a concept waiting for someone to notice.



  1. I had a quick look at Alltop and I just re-realized that the box-model of displaying news simply doesn’t work. Look at it, its got 3 columns of headlines in little boxes. It is not convenient to scan through the headlines from left to right. Netvibes, Pageflakes make this same mistake.

    I love Guy Kawasaki and swear by his book (Art of the Start), but this doesn’t cut it. When the page loads, where is the user supposed to look ?

    I’m one of the geeks behind Alertle and frankly it is the only feed reader out there with a remarkably different, fresh and simple interface (http://www.alertle.com). Apart from that the choice is between a boxes model and a email-like model. Check out its 2 mt demo on YouTube and you might agree with me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztQJ4ec1aWs

  2. PXLated said

    Sorry Varnu, I like Alltop better, no clicking on a bunch of little icons that don’t mean beans to my mom. She can actually start scanning headlines immediately on Alltop.

  3. […] site.    While journalists, analysts, and bloggers argued about the value, audience, and innovation in this site, few if any of us talked about how Alltop makes […]

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