once-reliable tools for innovating new products and services don’t work as well as they used to. The efficacy of advertising, promotions, and the sales force has slumped. It is very tough for innovators to rise above the din of information from competing sources, and only hard-to-manage relationship skills seem to make a difference. Executives should rethink the way they bring innovations to market. By using game theory, they should find new strategies for playing in today’s networked world. They can develop new tactics by understanding the behaviors of social, commercial, and physical networks. And by working back from an end-game, they can change markets from foes to allies.
Markets, by their very nature, resist new ideas and products. Despite the risks involved with developing and launching new innovations, companies love them because they drive profits, growth, and shareholder value. Innovations reap such handsome rewards because they are risky. For instance, The tele media takes more than three decades to become a mass medium in the United States – from the first experimental broadcasts in the late 1920s to widespread acceptance in the 1960s. Likewise, the number of transistors on a semiconductor chip has doubled every 18 to 24 months, as Intel co-founder Gordon Moore predicted, but the productivity gains from the improvements in information technology have come at only half that speed – a rule one might call demi-Moore’s law.
Markets are inimical to innovation because they crave equilibrium. Equilibrium, as defined by the beautiful mind of Nobel Prize winner John Nash, is a situation where every player in a market believes that he or she is making the best possible choices and that every other player is doing the same. Equilibrium in a market lends stability to the player’s expectations, validates their choices, and reinforces their behaviors.
When an innovation enters the market, it upsets the players’ expectations and choices and introduces uncertainty in decision making. A market’s hostility to innovations will become more stronger when players are interconnected. In a networked environment, each participant will switch to a new product only when it believes others will do so, too. The players’ codependent behavior makes it tougher for companies to dislodge the status quo than if each participant were to act autonomously.
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