Successful innovators make mistakes. Even though they’ve learned and built routines and capabilities they can still get it wrong. Sometimes spectacularly so.
Take the case of Toshiba – certainly not a new kid on the block but a respected innovator over nearly 150 years. Not just a one hit wonder either – its success pedigree includes lightbulbs, memory chips, video recorders, TV sets and DVD equipment. They also understand the challenges of bringing innovations to scale – for example, they’re credited with bringing the notebook computer to a mass market with their 1100 series. Yet they lost out big time with their attempt to put HD DVD into play, losing the standards battle to Sony and its Blu-Ray system (and around $1bn in the process).
Or Clive Sinclair, one of the creators of the personal computer revolution whose ZX family of machines spawned a generation of programmers and helped move the technology to the mainstream. Despite his success with computers (millions of units sold world-wide) he managed to fail very publicly with his later venture, the C5 electric vehicle.