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Everything is a Remix

With emergent technology and new consumer behaviors driving the marketplace, CIOs and other business leaders are recognizing the increasing need for innovation to support growth. Disruption has become a resonant buzz word, but is it possible to truly invent or innovate at all?

A popular Ted Talk given by filmmaker and author Kirby Ferguson offers a new perspective on the creativity that turns the wheels of business and society; Everything is a ‘remix.’ The argument is hard to refute; the creators in our society often achieve great success taking any number of ideas that already exist, and copying, transforming, and combining them to create something new. Especially today, with the internet playing a prominent role in everyday life, people are far more connected and collaborative, sharing ideas and concepts, leading to more rapid and volatile changes in trends and consumer responses as ‘new’ ideas arrive. As a side effect, this collaborate culture has all but eliminated the ability to invent anything that is, in itself, truly new.

Many products publically marketed as true innovations are, in reality, far from it. Take the hugely popular Apple iPad as an example; the concept of a tablet computer, in which the user interfaces directly with the display, had existed for decades prior to the iPad’s launch. Manufacturers like IBM and Hewlett-Packard had models available for nearly 10 years before the public fell in love with the sleek Apple device. The touch screen technology that wowed consumers on the tablet and its ‘disruptive’ precursor, the iPhone, was nothing new, but hadn’t ever been applied to consumer electronics before.

Objectively, the new products could have been dismissed as a rehash of a handful of old ideas that never caught on, but the push by Apple to believe in their product as a true innovation drove a very abrupt shift in the marketplace. The device was a hit, and suddenly, the market for not just the iPad, but other similar mobile devices exploded thanks largely to a perceived milestone of innovation.

Businesses taking a step back and looking at the big picture are sure to notice that product life cycles are shrinking and competition is growing as barriers to entry are mitigated by the opportunities available in our modern, connected, and technologically advanced world. Where do we go from here? The real requirement is to, like Apple, take an innovative approach to the process of innovation itself. It is essential to believe that, even if everything is a remix, true innovation is still possible and is still the lifeblood of the business world.

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