INTRODUCTION

THE EDISON PROPHECY

If the world wages on for many thousand years more, there would seem to be no reason why men should not go on discovering and inventing. No reason to doubt that new tricks and arrangements will be made so that Nature may work to man's advantage. The scientific journals will go on publishing… It is [for] the unreasonable men today to be afraid that they cannot find out any more; that all has been found. Men are just beginning to propose questions and find answers, and we may be sure that no matter what question we ask, so long as it is not against the laws of nature, a solution can be found.1

CORPORATIONS ARE ALWAYS on the lookout for exciting, new, novel, and discontinuous innovations. The light bulb, telephone, automobile, and personal computer are all examples of legally protected technology innovations that have created corporate empires and changed the course of history. In fact, the light bulb and its inventor, Thomas Alva Edison, have become synonymous with innovation. When we think of a bright idea, it is symbolized by a drawing of a light bulb. When we think of prolific inventors, Edison is usually at the top of the list. In today's world, innovation drives corporate profits and competitive advantage. Yet innovation, though key to the real “business” of most companies, has generally been treated as a separate activity.

In many companies, the research and development or “R&D” function, has been literally a “black box.” Inventors—whether ...

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