Compete_grand challenges

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Compete_grand challenges

Two recent NyTimes articles feature innovation as their key, but tackle these in different ways. As failure remains a big motivator in business (because some tech firms are presumably “too big to fail”) the looming concept, the elephant in the room is the big buzzword of the year: innovation. As Ms Miller says in the article:

“To fight that looming fear, Silicon Valley seeks refuge in its shibboleth, innovation. The term has become such a buzzword that it has nearly lost its meaning, but let’s use the one provided by Merriam-Webster: “a new idea, device or method.”

It has nearly lost its meaning, and as a word that is now thrown around haphazardly, just like the word “social”, it has potential to create more stress than it’s worth. The challenge for all companies, not just technology firms, is constantly chasing something that isn’t known. Following the trends of business and industry to move towards a never ending finish. In this article on Inc., the author talks about several reasons to keep your business small. Included in those are piece of advice like “you can do what you love” or “you need to only find 10 wonderful people to work with you” as well as “you can keep all the equity yourself”. Granted, these are still focused on providing the owner with a certain amount of money, companies like Microsoft that are struggling to keep up with smaller, more nimble businesses in Silicon Valley and elsewhere might have outgrown their usefulness.

On the opposite side of this is the idea at Lehigh University, to give students the opportunity to develop a new idea with no intended outcome, grade or judgement. It is an opportunity to fail without any consequence, which if you think about it, we don’t get many chances to do. Try your hand at creating something, getting some friends together and see what happens. With advice from some professors and a bit of money, you can have a whole summer to work and develop your project. It is a unique useful way to promote innovation (again, that word) and see what happens when you leave people to their own devices. This is small compared to the challenge that Microsoft has. I’m sure that if Microsoft decided to just close up shop, that many of their employees would do the same as the students, that is, band together to create new models of business that bring around change, improvement and new ideas on a small scale, and who knows, perhaps one of those might be the new Microsoft of the world.

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