The article “When Innovations Meet Institutions: Edison and the Design of Electric Light” by Hargadon and Douglas analyses how Edison successfully introduced and commercialized the electric lighting system within the resistant social context. One method he used is to apply robust design, which the authors believe as a useful tool of helping Edison’s innovation to acquire social acceptance and break lock-in of gas lighting institutes. The notion of robust design requires the innovators and entrepreneurs to make sophisticated decisions including what to present as new (novelty), what to present as old (similarity), and what to hide (Hargadon and Douglas 2001, 476--501).
Both recent researches and the above article emphasize the necessity of shaping the innovation itself with a purpose of meeting the public’s preceding understanding, and therefore the innovation can better get accepted in the society. Many studies suggest that the customer should be the first priority, and technology itself is necessary but not sufficient (Herbig and Day 1992, 4--15). In reality, many entrepreneurs and firms follow this principle due to the simple logic: better understanding equals better spreading, and therefore, more successful. On the other hand, are there any negative effects of hiding novelty? What aspects need to be taken into consideration except evoking acceptance from public through presenting similarities? These questions will be discussed in this essay.
Innovation with few precedent values
One observable disadvantage of seeking similarities from antecedents is that, sometimes this process can be heavily twisted and biased if there are few precedent examples to follow. There are two side effects of this process: firstly, the relative advantages of innovation may be burned during this process; and secondly, it may raise additional complexity for customers to accept.
When innovation initially appears, it presents itself as novelty not only to the external market, but also to the innovators and entrepreneurs. That is why in history many innovations are accidently discovered by mistakes, and the superiorities of these innovations are gradually discovered throughout its adoption process. Some examples include Caco-Cola and Viagra. If innovators intentionally explained the innovation with existing understanding of society, they may never realize the essence of the novel ideas, and the potential advantages may be ignored.
In Edison’s electric lighting system example, this argument can be widely examined: In order to meet the similarity of gas industry, he insisted using the centralized electricity distribution system (transporting electricity from a centralized generator to customers), which had disadvantage of large portion electricity loss and limited range of coverage. Later, this system was proven to be wrong (Edison.rutgers.edu 2013). Secondly, he deliberately adjusted the luminance of electric light to make it similar to the gas light, and this directly...