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Few "Innovative" Companies Innovate

~Andy Gibbs, first published in

Most of us who have been in the business world for a while (and some freshly-minted MBAs) are well familiar with Theory of Hierarchies of Technology Adoption.

This theory, as it goes, suggests that there are 4 of 5 primary classifications of technology adopters:

a) the early adopters who can identify opportunities that justify the investment in new technologies – and who may even profit handsomely from beating their competition to adopt the technology,
b) the early majority, who follow the early adopter's lead, but are more risk adverse,
c) the late majority who are not only risk adverse, but are skeptical of new technologies (think of axe men woodcutters who distrusted chain saws),
d) and the laggards, the most cautious and price sensitive – but who in the end will extol the benefits of the new technology.

Now, think "Google". Google uses latent semantic indexing for example in indexing web pages – and we ALL take Google for granted – to find the best products, websites, travel deals, and so forth.

Now, think "multi-national technology leaders" – and many well known companies will instantly come to mind.

Yet even when these companies' most important assets are ultimately responsible for generating the revenue that pays employees' salaries (their intellectual property), the LAST place they look to advance their technology, high tech knowledge, competitive intelligence, or patent


strategy is toward Latent Semantic Indexing for their patent search engine.

Two years ago, BusinessWeek got it right when it said our Latent Semantic Analysis technology (the next generation advanced linguistics search engine) was "Beyond Google".

Since then, the early adopters have already replaced their legacy patent search engines with PatentCafe's Intellectual Capital Office (ICO™) Suite -

To what benefit? The early adopters are paying slightly more for advanced ICO patent search technology, but find if "overwhelmingly easy to use", and relevancy-ranked results "were obtained and sorted in half the time". Bottom line – more intelligence, faster results, more cost savings.

Perhaps the Theory of Hierarchies of Technology Adoption is indeed correct – and as early adoption of advanced patent search engines goes, some will innovate to exploit and protect their innovations, the rest remain – at least for now – in the dark.

There's another axiom used in the business world – sometimes, "people just don't know what they don't know".

When they make their own "discovery" on the same timeline as their friends and colleagues, they start to fall into line with other early majority... and the march to technology adoption continues along its predictable path.

The surprise is that even technology innovators are not really innovators – but followers. I wonder if it's time to outsource innovation, too.