Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 License.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Toasters on Innovation

From the Sunday edition of the Boston Globe Business section comes a good article on innovation as a process and not an end result.

In a recent issue of The MIT Sloan Management Review, Michael Schrage, a business writer and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher, challenged the thinking of a prominent Columbia Business School professor. More specifically, he challenged what Bruce Greenwald, whose work focuses on finance and investing, has said about the fate of all innovative technologies: "In the long run, everything is a toaster."

That is to say, even the most impressive breakthrough eventually becomes mundane, with all producers offering more or less identical versions of the same item and competing largely on the basis of price: Innovation runs its course, and the thing becomes a commodity.

Schrage's article, "The Myth of Commoditization," argued that not only is this not true of technological breakthroughs, it's not even true of toasters. "Heated bread lacks the high-tech cachet of multicore processors or polymerase chain reactions," he wrote, but the "technical evolution" of toasters offers a "case study in profitable innovation."

Read the full article here.

I had not heard of

The Back to Basics Egg & Muffin Toaster seems to offer good evidence . With a retail price of around $40 (double the typical price of a plain toaster), it was a top-selling toaster in 2006, and that seems to be largely because of what makes it distinct . As the name implies, it's a toaster with a built-in egg poacher.


Melissa Clyne, a spokeswoman for the company, says the Egg & Muffin Toaster was a result of one of the company's regular brainstorming sessions in 2005. In this case, someone brought in an egg poacher, and after some discussion the idea was has hatched to mush it onto a toaster. "It gives the toaster some added functionality," she explains. "We have a lot of folks out there who are multitasking."

Labels: , ,

Comments on "Toasters on Innovation"


post a comment