05 March 2008

Innovation and the New Gauge of a Good Job

Sam Davidson has a great post over on the new-ish Brazen Careerist blog/site, "New Gauge of a Good Job: Freedom." I couldn't agree more. This pretty much sums up why I left Adobe.

There are parts of Adobe, in my opinion, doing interesting things (Air and Lightroom for example), but for the most part it's so corporate, slow, and risk averse, that they are still not in the web app game - they're not just late, they're non-existant (and note that I say that as someone who has shipped network and web apps for Adobe). And to think that Microsoft said they were late to the game 10 years ago! (I don't have the quote from Gates on that, so 10 years give or take :)

I have worked on web apps there, and there are actually a couple out there, but none anybody talks about. It is sad to me, because there are awesome people there! I've worked in the web services & apps groups, Photoshop group, on consumer software, and so on, and there are so many super smart people, and lots of great ideas. I've worked for Adobe twice in my career, so it's not as if it's a bad or evil company. Moving on...

In Mr. Davidson's article, it's mentioned that Fast Company's latest issue says Google is the world's most innovative company. I've been discussing innovation with friends lately, and our (if I may) take is that that's not actually true. It is potentially the most visible and obvious candidate for that, but look at many of Google's "innovations" lately: they're actually acquisitions. The percentage of in-house developed apps and innovation has gone down as they've grown (not surprisingly).

At the core of our discussions is that big companies just aren't the ones doing the bulk of innovation these days, or even that noticeable of a percentage of it. Most innovation is coming from the tiny startups, the "garage" built companies, or much smaller companies. To many people this may not be obvious, because what seems to then often happen is that Google, Yahoo, etc. snatch up those companies. I would argue that Apple is more innovate from within than any other big company right now (iPhone, iPod, MacBook Air). Amazon might be my next candidate (Amazon Prime, their web services). It's of course all debatable and that in and of itself is fun.

The best part of it all to me, is simply that there is a lot of great stuff being done! Lots of cool web apps, interesting hardware bits, intriguing business models, and so on. So, here's to all the innovation going on out there, regardless of where it's being done! And, for folks sitting there in a non-creative, or constrained environment, take a serious look outside. It can be a bit scary to leave that cushy, well paying, great benefits job, but there's a lot more to life, and having made the jump myself, I find I'm constantly saying I wish I'd done it sooner!


Sam Davidson said...

Thanks for the link. I agree with you a bit on Google: they have acquired a good bit of aps and processes. But, they've also come up with a few nice ideas themselves. And, the more they improve search or ad words, the more they innovate, even if this innovation is not visible to the average Joe who just needs to search a few times a day.

Nice post.