The Road to Innovation Is Paved with Failures, Says MD&M West Keynote Speaker

February 15, 2013 – 6:34 pm

Forget everything you think you know about the creative process. Innovations are not created by geniuses, but by ordinary people doing ordinary things, one step at a time. There is rarely an aha moment, just trial and error. Those were some of the key points during the keynote presentation by entrepreneur Kevin Ashton at the MD&M West trade show, which took place this week in Anaheim, CA, USA.

Ashton, Inventor of the Internet of Things; Creator of the WeMo home automation platform; Co-Founder and CEO of  clean tech start-up Zensi and Former Executive Director at the MIT, spoke in the Presentation Theater at the Anaheim Convention Center on 13 February 2013. Ashton dispelled the myth that true inventions are created by geniuses that are suddenly inspired. “There are all these myths about the “aha” moment. When you dig into them you find out that they are seldom if ever true,” Ashton said.

Anyone can create something inventive, but it takes patience, dedication and often several attempts—or failures, Ashton said. A true inventor is able to accept failures in the pursuit of the perfect product. For example, it took 5127 prototypes before James Dyson created a consumer vacuum that now sells for about US$2000. “Prototyping is just a fancy word used for a thing that does not work,” said Ashton, a comment that drew laughs from the audience. However, for this step-by-step process to eventually result in success on the marketplace, the product needs to fill an actual need. “If you build it, they will come” is another myth, Ashton said. “In a saturated market, the way to start that step by step process… is to find a real problem.”


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