Innovation, Technology, and Risk

BUS 363

While technology and innovation are not required to be a successful entrepreneur, as evidenced by the small business owners that maintain a loyal following, the actual movers and shakers are the ones that took innovation into a realm that most people could not even imagine. The masters of technology innovation and entrepreneurship are names that practically everyone has heard of, even if you do not prefer their particular product. Think Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos to name a few of the true innovators. Their insight and ability to create products that most people never dreamed of, they filled needs that the majority of people did not even know they possessed. Technology presents many benefits and risks to society, as the technology advances it will have to be carefully monitored to determine the social changes and assess the benefits and risks.

The Interrelationship Between Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Innovation is the process of translating ideas into useful new products, processes or services and Entrepreneurship is the powerful mixture of energy, vision, passion, commitment, judgement and risk taking with provide the motive power behind the innovation process (Bessant, 2015). Innovation is born from creativity and innovation is the spark that can breathe life into an entrepreneur’s business model. Innovation and entrepreneurship feed each other and help to grow new processes or products to keep a business competitive and providing goods and services that customers demand. There are four different type of innovation: Invention which is the creation of a new service or product, extension brings a new method or use to an existing product, duplication which copies an existing product or service while adding a new spin, and synthesis is the combining of existing products into a new and improved model (Price, 2017). Steve Jobs was able to successfully execute all of these types of innovation at different times in the evolution of Apple and their various game-changing products. Innovation is necessary to stay ahead of the competition, and while creativity is the spark of innovation, it does not guarantee that the idea will be useful to consumers, which is necessary to become a successful entrepreneur. Innovation does not have to be a big, new idea, but it must have a useful component that the public or target market will find irresistible (Price, 2017). Change and growth are necessary for any business to stay in business and continue making profits and innovation is the key to unlocking change that will lead to growth. Every business experiences the life cycle curve, after maturity is the dreaded decline, the only way to survive once your product or service has shifted to decline is through innovation that will bring about new products or services or significant improvements to the existing products or services.

Risks and Benefits of a Social-organization and How It Relates to Innovation

Innovation is the driving force of progress and perhaps the most significant indicator of success and future progress of a company. Innovation has its own share of risks and benefits and how it can impact society. As Christensen (2006) indicated the greatest risks from innovation are: competition – a business can glean a marginal amount of protection from outside competition through patents, but it is usually rather easy to mimic technological innovations, uncertain commercial returns – research can only speculate the returns, but offer no guarantee and finally the availability of research and development finances – profits must be strong to fund further designs on the increasing technologies and there usually are not any guarantees of success.

Christensen (2006) was able to determine that while the risks are substantial, the benefits, in the right applications can far outweigh the risks. The most substantial benefits are better quality, added value and improved staff retention and easier requirement. Better quality products will meet current customers’ demands and likely win new customers, so it is beneficial to invest in the technology to deliver a higher quality product. With effective innovation, it is possible to elevate a product to make it a high demand item which would better differentiate this improved product from competitors. Quality recruits are drawn to companies with a solid reputation in the innovation sector because those companies are known for providing inspiring places to work.

AI and Robotics in the next Ten Years

Technology is continuously evolving to do more for humans, taking menial tasks off their plates and keeping the house vacuumed, the temperature set, and having refrigerators alert the grocery shopper what is needed. The people in the workforce that are demanding $15.00 per hour for minimum wage, minimal skill jobs are finding themselves replaced by a kiosk. As Mauldin (2014) suggested, there seems to be a split in the general opinion of robots and AI influences in the workforce. Some feel that this technology will destroy many jobs leaving large segments of the population unemployed while others feel that the technology will leave areas to create new jobs for humans. Smith (2014) feels there are reasons to be hopeful in the future as AI and robotics become a bigger part of the workforce because historically when technology displaced workers it also created new job opportunities and that machines cannot duplicate the human quality needed. Smith (2014) also suggested that there are some areas of concern with technology and the workforce, largely that in the past the blue-collar workers were the highest group impacted, but advances in technology seem to indicate that white-collar workers can be affected as well and the current model of our education does not prepare future generations to compete with artificial intelligence. The best example to show the progress from human run jobs to robotics would be the Ford Assembly Line. As Stanford (n.d.) illustrated at the peak of the assembly line the Ford company employed over 48,000 workers. The invention of the assembly line meant that the workers did not require intense skill, only the ability to learn a few steps. As robotics was introduced to replace the workers only 500 people work on the actual assembly line today. With the robots doing most of the heavy lifting and more dangerous tasks, people are not in as much danger from injury.

Risks from New Technologies to Existing Industry Models

Even with all of the advancements of the robotic assembly line, nothing has been able to completely replace the human element. Two risks that increasing technologies may present to existing industries are the displacement of human workers by robots and create an economic inequality between those that can co-exist with the machines, the ones that program and service them, and the humans left unemployed by the machines. While there are many tasks perfectly suited to robotics the initial feeling is that there are jobs that will be safe from robots because of the lack of human characteristics like empathy and love. However, a more in-depth look into current parenting trends shows that parents are happy to leave children with a tablet or a smartphone or any other device that occupies the child while leaving the parents free to stare at their own phones or tablets. Perhaps the biggest risk to society from technology is the humans’ addiction to constant stimulation has left the majority of the younger generations with little to no adequate social skills. So it is possible to envision a not too distant future where humans have allowed themselves to become obsolete by allowing themselves to lose the very thing that set them apart from the robots. It seems that humans should direct their focus on how to reclaim the traits that make us stand out from technology instead of worrying that technology will replace humans.