Steve Jobs on where innovation comes from


“It’s kind of extraordinary that it wasn’t a music company that cracked the problem of piracy,” [Jobs] said, referring to Apple.

[Jobs] noted that music industry executives still refer to themselves as record industry executives when “[they] don’t even make records anymore.”

Does this mean that those with a particularly vested interest cannot solve the problem of discontinuous innovation? We just can’t bring yourself to dismantle our position of advantage even when it is no longer a position of advantage. We still have more to risk from departure than gain from innovation.

But the problem of “vested interest” is also a cultural, conceptual problem. Once we occupy a position of advantage, it is very hard to think new thoughts. This is why IBM had to use a skunk works to invent the PC. This is why intellectual advantage belongs often to the outlyers.

The inlyers “can’t hardly think” new thoughts. They are fully formed by their position of advantage. As Jobs points out, they still call themselves record executives! This preposterous language is so utterly “built right in” it is removed from sight. This is the problem of empire.

Risk adverse comes from both directions: the economic and the imaginative.


Markoff, John. 2004. Newest iPod From Apple Holds Photos and Music. New York Times. October 27, 2004.

2 thoughts on “Steve Jobs on where innovation comes from

  1. Kevin L

    I would have to agree that under most circumstances corporations are adverse to risk due to the contstraint of accountability of investment dollars to the shareholders. our “vested intrest” most of the time is not ours to play out even in a culture where innovation is the key to survival. orginal innovation must surge through a series of boundaries where ownership is changed and innovation becomes transmuted into incrementalism. I would contend though from this economic/corporate filter that although change happens albiet contentiously slow, that bubbles with the appropriate momentum find their way to the top and burst upon the scene. otherwise wouldn’t rampant innovation and change overwhelm and outpace our ability to assimilate anything.

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