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The Innovation Cycle: Where Are We?

(December 2009) posted on Tue Nov 24, 2009

Invention extension? Functional substitution? Find out what these concepts mean and how they apply to the screen-printing industry.

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By Mark A. Coudray

Eventually, everything ends in the devention phase. This is where the original in-
vention and all of its extensions are no longer relevant. There’s no longer any economic or intellectual value and there are far superior alternatives that render the demise of the idea, products, politics, religion, etc. They become historical footnotes.

Where does this leave us?
Using this model, most would argue that screen printing is firmly rooted in the functional-substitution phase. It’s easy to see all of these emerging alternative technologies growing like crazy. The entire traditional analog printing industry is facing the same situation. The economics of the processes have changed and the new digital technologies are seemingly running roughshod over the old guard.

Can we do anything about this situation? Is this an inevitable situation to which we must resign ourselves? I don’t think so—yet. I say this with cautious reservation because ongoing future profits will come only when the shop owners, investors, or marketing groups really begin to understand what is going on in their own businesses.
We can delay the process, but we cannot stop it. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there’s no time limit on how long it will take before our traditional analog processes and services become economically and ideologically obsolete. Our first and foremost job is to look at how we can apply the methods and techniques of invention extension to the current invention-devention phase.

We have to find ways to extend the life of what we do and for whom who we do it. We must act now; otherwise, the marketshare expansion of competing technologies and delivery channels will quickly overtake what little we have left. This is akin to kicking ’em when they’re down.

Passive, unresponsive companies will be down for the count and kicked to death. The more responsive firms will find their way back to their corner and regroup. They’ll have to dig down deep inside and somehow find the strength to pull themselves together. What they’ve got going for them is experience and relationships in the marketplace. They’ll have to rely on those relationships to keep them alive.


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