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Enterprise in Action: A Guide To Entrepreneurship by Peter Lawrence

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Chapter 3

A Natural History of Innovation

The first two chapters explored the positive impact of external change on the creation of new business and on the competitive renewal of existing businesses via their response to change.

Now we look at originality as a positive feature of new businesses, and again as a means for existing businesses to maintain their competitive position via adaptation embracing some original feature. The purpose is not so much to argue the case for originality. This can, and will, be simply stated in the next chapter with the appropriate qualifications.

The emphasis is rather on how originality is to be achieved and what forms it may take, and we will approach this in two stages. In this chapter we will examine how the forms in which originality is expressed have varied, and multiplied, over time. This is a scene-setting exercise; we will move to working out its implications for business creation and survival in the following chapter.

But first the tour d’horizon.

As little as 10 years ago one would not have talked about originality or newness but about innovation. Throughout the 20th century innovation meant primarily the conception and eventual construction of new products. Innovation was about giving us something that did not exist before, whether it was a hovercraft or a contraceptive pill. And this formula has dominated the corporate history of the West.

There are, however, some variations on this theme. Major changes in production process have always ...

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