Why Google won’t create the next twitter (a critique)

Sloppy logic is fun to throw around and there are certain popular patterns of slop thrown around when talking about innovation.

7 Responses to “Why Google won’t create the next twitter (a critique)”

  1. Drew Kime

    I understand your points, but I think you’re overstating the case a little bit.

    On the first point, you say that little is “usual” when it comes to innovation. That means that any one condition you could name is “not usually” true. Granted, there’s a difference between “not usually” and “usually not”. But what can one do differently based on that fine distinction?

    For the other point where you disagreed, you explained *why* the small ideas that exist in large companies fail to attract support. Is that functionally different from simply stating the outcome, as Scoble did?

    If you’re working inside a large company and trying to push a small idea, this distinction probably matters. To an outside observer, it’s a distinction without a difference.

    In either case, I think your conclusion makes both points moot. If, in fact, there’s no particular reason to expect a company to repeat a previous success, don’t any fine distinctions become statistical noise?

    And on a bit of a tangent, are these points also true of people, or just of companies? I suspect periods of repeated success at companies overlap with the tenures of specific people. Process mavens will hate me for saying this, but the more I see of success and failure, the more I believe it’s all about the people involved, not the process they follow.

  2. Scott Berkun


    I know it seems like hair splitting and that’s fine.

    My overall point is one of humility. Sweeping generalizations about why X took off and Y didn’t are disrespectful to what actually happened and why.

    There are big companies that still place big bets on small or unproven ideas. That was my point. To lump all big companies together is sloppy. There are elements more important than size in all this, namely the willingness to take risks.

    If you have an idea in a big company you need to work your way to people willing to take risks. That matters more than almost anything else.

    > If, in fact, there

  3. Scott Berkun

    It also should be said that both Microsoft and Google should be lauded for continually making big bets.

    They don’t always pan out, but the willingness to make big bets and even try is uncommon.

  4. Gordon

    This is an interesting discussion. My question, though, is this: Do you think that there is a loose process of innovation that companies can follow? Clayton Christensen seems to think there is, and that companies that know the theory of innovation are the ones that are risk averse. That is, they have a pretty good clue, based on theory, as to what will work. At the same time, however, they are willing to engage the market and learn as they go (humility).

  5. Scott Berkun

    I think Christensens most, perhaps only, coherent book is Innovators dilemma which is exceptional. I struggled to get through the others of his I tried.

    When he tries to offer a predictive model (Seeing what’s next) he, for me, gets lost in academic and consultant frameworks and models that are too complex and fragile to be of use.

    An essential element to all this is courage and being willing to trust your intuition to compensate for all sorts of unknowns and that will always be true.

    The closest thing to a loose process is what I described in Chapter 7 of the Myths of Innovation which is largely to find smart, motivated people who trust each other, define some rough boundaries, give them what they need and get the hell out of the way. This is very hard for most managers or VPs to do.

  6. Robert Scoble

    Scott: I retweeted this post because I thought it was so good. Thanks, and I think you’re right on here.



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