It has been said that in order to break the rules you have to know the rules. One of the things that holds back innovation is not understanding the related laws that exist. Understanding the legal, economic and physical laws is often necessary to create a tangible advancement. Here are three examples where understanding the realities of the world makes the innovation process more effective.
A few years ago I was in a discussion with an inventor about a cool new approach to dealing with data. He had spent a lot of time and money developing the related software. There was one problem; there were several related copyright issues. The issues essentially made the product useless. Not spending time to understand the legalities destroyed this opportunity for innovation.
Successful innovators also understand basic laws of economics. One law is almost universally understood. A business, or innovation has to eventually make money or it will not survive. Edison showed that he understood this principle when he stated, “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.” A creative idea that you can’t sell is not an innovation, it is just a creative idea.
Possibly the most famous innovation that does not yet exist is the hover board from the movie “Back to the Future II”. By 2015 skateboards were to be replaced with hover boards and we would be floating across the ground. People have been working on this innovation for a long time. While progress has been made, we still cannot float across the parking lot. Who will be able to develop this innovation: It will be he person who clearly understands the law that his product is working against–the Law of Gravity. You are not going to be able to break this law, but the solution may come in working around it, or maybe bending it. Success may even come from using the law that appears to be stacked against you to your advantage.
Spend some time learning the principles and laws that govern your area of innovation. Understand the laws or parameters that you have to work in, but look out for rules that are just conventional wisdom. These are the rules that are broken by innovators. Understanding the difference between the two may be a key to your successful innovation.
This blog was originally posted July 16, 2015