Why do some businesses just seem to stop innovating? Or at least open themselves up to being out-innovated by smart, agile competitors who are still hungry and foolish (in a good way) enough to prioritise new ideas highly?

I'm not one for Lazy End-ism, but this proclamation of the demise of Flickr makes some good points about an ongoing lack of product innovation and external focus at the site. Launched in 2004 and bought by Yahoo in 2005, the site now has over 5 billion photos on it but thinking about it, I find hard to remember the last big Flickr innovation I heard about. In fact I'm finding it hard to remember any big Flickr innovation.

Meanwhile, Facebook has overtaken it to become the world's biggest photo site, photo-sharing apps like Instagram are bringing new dimensions (and a lot of people in a short space of time) to photo-sharing, Google+ is rapidly becoming a serious potential competitor (the author draws a startling comparison between the look and feel of one his albums on Flickr (ostensibly unchanged since 2004), and a similar one on G+ which is already implementing new tools), and more questions seem to be focused around how to migrate photos to Picasa than the latest new Flickr feature.

The author points at an interesting scientific study (ironically tweeted out by Blake Irving who is in charge of Flickr at Yahoo) which concluded that when just 10% of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. If the most resolved 10% have already moved on, he says, then Flickr is already dead.

It's a little early to be calling the undertakers IMO, but we've all been witness to the rapid declines of once pioneering services acquired by larger corporates (MySpace, FriendsReunited, Bebo, Dopplr). It's easy for them to get caught up the system. A system that can stifle the kind of inventive culture they need to keep innovating and stay ahead. A system that, with a short-term focus on hitting the right quarterly number, can often lead to reactive rather than smart planning. Perhaps it's right that more businesses should be run by product-driven executives.

I like Flickr. I really hope they sort it out. But there is a lesson here about innovation inertia, and the need to stay hungry, and to stay foolish.

Thanks to Paloma for the original link.

Original Post: http://neilperkin.typepad.com/only_dead_fish/2011/08/innovation-inertia.html