IBM has developed a new antimicrobial gel designed to fight drug-resistant, hospital-acquired infections by replicating the science it uses to produce semiconductors. The main goal of the gel, developed with the institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, is to replace antibiotics.
Last week, Google’s CEO, Larry Page said “How exciting is it to come to work if the best you can do is trounce some other company that does roughly the same thing? That’s why most companies decay slowly over time. They tend to do approximately what they did before, with a few minor changes.” Page believes that great companies die when they become too caught up in the rat race of market competition. When firms focus their attention on small incremental, underwhelming changes to their products, to simply capture more market share from their rivals, they have lost sight of the horizon. And I fully agree with this. Such companies have forgotten their purpose. They lack the cause that perhaps they once nobly stood for.
There is definitely a great deal of truth to Page’s view, and I feel that his larger point is spot on: Real innovation doesn’t happen via narrowly outperforming the competition. It happens through sailing into the unchartered waters that others have either, missed or are too scared to explore. And this is the philosophy that I both celebrate and champion today:
To many, IBM is just a computer company. But as demonstrated through their disruption of the healthcare space (as well as many others), IBM is not just ‘a computer company’. It is a group that is very much in the search for newer and bluer oceans. The same applies to Google: Project Glass- a R&D program by Google to develop an augmented reality head-mounded display (HMD), i.e. very cool glasses- and the Google driverless car- a project that involves developing technology for driverless cars- both serve as testament to the creativity and radical vision of the technology giant.
When I read about such ideas and attitudes, I smile. As a final year undergraduate, soon to venture out into the jungle, it gives me hope to see that there is definitely room for dreamers in this world.
Finally, in the words of an anonymous sage, “You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”