Imagining and achieving innovation are worlds apart
INNOVATION TALK:Given how disruptive and transformative the iPhone has proven to be, this peek at its genesis is of significant historical importance
THERE’S A famous line in The Social Network, where the heavily fictionalised Mark Zuckerberg, exasperated at the effrontery of the privileged, preppie twins who were suing him for stealing their idea for an online social network, lets rip.
“If you were the guys who invented Facebook, you would have invented Facebook,” he snaps, his disdain at their sense of entitlement all too clear.
Wherever the idea of a social network came from, Zuckerberg went and invented the all-conquering Facebook, while the Winklevoss twins most certainly didn’t.
I have no clue if Zuckerberg actually ever said that line or if it was invented for him by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin – it sure has the neatly concise, jousting precision of a Sorkinism about it – but it says a lot about the importance of achieving rather than just imagining innovation.
We all know that tedious bromide about the relative importance of inspiration and perspiration, but the cutting logic of this line hints at more than just the effort and ability required to execute good ideas – Zuckerberg had both, the Winklevii neither – in that it also dismisses the arrogance of those who would take credit for things they didn’t, in fact, achieve.
I was reminded of it a few times over the past two weeks as another lawsuit about innovation captures the tech world’s attention.
Apple and Samsung are going toe-to-toe in a Californian courtroom after the Cupertino tech giant sued its Korean rival for “slavishly copying” its iPhone and iPad.
There’s been juicy details about the internal design processes at both companies leaking out every day, with members of Apple’s design team showing off an array of phone and tablet prototypes and testifying to the obsessive attention to detail that marks out the 20-strong team that works under design chief Jony Ive.
In the process, we are being treated to the best insight we’ll probably ever get into the years of painstaking work that went into the development of the iPhone, the gradual iteration of ideas, the breakthroughs and compromises and ingenuity.
Given how disruptive and transformative the iPhone has proven to be, this peek at its genesis is of significant historical importance.
There has always been a hint of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory about Apple under Steve Jobs, and the cloak of mystery that surrounds the company has been virtually impregnable for years.
That the company is voluntarily lifting that cloak shows how determined it is to protect its intellectual property.