Mail: October 2002
Our August cover story, " Built to Invent," set out to uncover the secret sauce of creative organizations. Readers' responses ranged from delight to dismay -- just the sort of diversity of opinion that innovation thrives on.
"Built to Invent" knocked my socks off! What great content and insights!
John C. Huber
Institute for Invention and Innovation
" The Innovation 50" ranked the most inventive small companies in America by the number of patents they hold. This reader questioned our methodology.
I really would like to understand your ranking process for "The Innovation 50." Any ranking that would list Angeion (#28), which filed for bankruptcy and on June 30 had a book value per share of -$0.17, a current ratio of 2.12, and $1.8 million in cash, over a company like Kopin (#43), which had a book value per share of $2.32, a current ratio of 7.49, and $112 million in cash, would seem to be in error. Please help me understand why I should invest any time reading a publication that seems to be in such gross error.
Bachelor of Business
Editor's response: "The Innovation 50" was intended to look at companies with prolific R&D organizations. To find a pool of such companies, we decided to seek out those that had created a substantial number of products and processes that were considered novel enough to be awarded patents. CHI Research, a company that specializes in intellectual-property tracking, assembled the list, which was based solely on the size of companies' patent portfolios. A company's inclusion on the list was not meant to be an indicator of its financial health.
Another reader weighed in with his own ideas about how to measure innovation.
The number of patents a company has doesn't necessarily reflect a truly innovative organization. How will you know when you're innovative? When everyone in the organization is involved in the process and open to ideas from anywhere. When people have the passion to improve and the ingenuity to find a better way, and faith that they can make a difference. Too many organizations overlook the basics, focus on the result (i.e., patents), and miss opportunities staring them in the face.
Lake Zurich, Ill.
It's the Sex, Stupid
In August's " Hook, Line, and Sinker," Rob Walker explored the fad called Fish and its goal of fomenting a happiness revolution in the workplace. But he didn't, as it were, take the bait. One reader speculated on the reasons for the fad's popularity.
I just read the piece on the Fish phenomenon and really liked it -- Rob Walker managed to be skeptical yet respectful, sarcastic yet factual. And he gave a gentle thrashing to that genre of media that I like to call "business porn." My own unscientific theory is that if we were having more fun -- and, um, more sex -- during our free time, we might not be craving the buzz so bad when we're on the job. Thanks for great work.
Martha Garvey Jr.
Norm Brodsky committed business apostasy in his July column, in which he argued that sometimes even a customer needs to be fired. Apparently, the business world is full of heretics, as entrepreneurs wrote in to agree.
You're right on the mark. We've fired only one client (and are close to firing another), but we have faced the same issues you described. Life is too short to deal with these deadbeats, and at the end of the day our company is better off without them.
President and CEO
House of Correction
In September's FYI column, we stated that Kinko's CEO Gary Kusin received start-up capital for his second company from his longtime mentor, Ross Perot. In fact, Perot gave Kusin capital for his first company -- Babbage's, a software chain.
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