Elvin Guri

Empower Capital

The Building Blocks of Innovation

Technological progress and invention is not sufficient to achieve innovation. Successful innovation requires 'system-building' skills i.e. ability to put together a coalition of investors, suppliers, customers, regulators etc.

Full abstract

Invention is not the same as Innovation, just as a start-up or a small business are not by definition entrepreneurial activities. Indeed, entrepreneurial activities are not necessarily related to business. For a technological innovation to become more than a mere curiosity, it needs proper practical application i.e. it needs a well-defined market and/or demand, and it needs a set of organisational capabilities that would bring such technological innovation to the market.

It is the System Builders who play the key role in converting new technology into an innovation. These players, not necessarily cutting-edge-technology-proficient but certainly technology-aware, are the true innovators, as they are capable of bringing together the whole value chain (suppliers of technology, suppliers of complementary technology, potential users, sellers, financiers, and so on). To illustrate with Afuah's definition, the process of innovation is 'the use of new technological and market knowledge to offer a new product or service.' If an innovation can at all be called 'disruptive', it is in the ability of the System Builders to challenge the status quo: this makes the process of innovation an inherently political exercise, for which a specific set of skills is required.