The bicycle, a seemingly simple machine, is a culmination of innovation that many rarely appreciate fully. Compare that to the intellectual effort that goes into making airplanes and spaceships. Leveraging knowledge is the key!
The late English cycling historian, John Pinkerton, once remarked, “Think of a new idea in bicycle design and someone will have already invented it, probably in the nineteenth century.” But as we know, we are still not done perfecting the bicycle. Every so often bicycle manufacturers innovate several aspects of the humble bicycle, be it materials, engineering, ergonomics, aesthetics, pneumatics, and so on. What makes it possible? The constantly moving pedals of knowledge. And bicycle manufacturers are not the only people busy innovating: all business activities are constantly being innovated and improved upon.
A case can be made that only cutting edge innovation provides any competitive advantage anymore, rest can be sourced. And a natural basis for constant and structured innovation, in contrast to random “aha” moments of insights and great ideas, is knowledge. The process of innovation may vary, but it leverages intellectual property created in R&D labs, insights gleaned by marketing, new production techniques discovered on the shop floor, as well as the collective experience of everyone in the organization. These vast stores of knowledge are critical to facilitate creation of innovative, products and services.