In Innovators stand on the shoulders of giants I argued that innovation builds on the work of our predecessors.
Here I make the case that it is more important that innovation is smart, i.e., useful for customers, than hard, i.e., difficult to create or replicate. In fact, innovation that is hard could be a flop. Fortunes were spent on the Itanium chip, Ford's Edsel, Webvan and countless other innovations with disappointing results. Yet smart innovation, like the wheel, needn't be difficult. Of course simple innovations can be easy to copy (though patents protect them for a time). For example, at NetApp we created the Storage Guarantee back in 2008. It delivered true value for customers (i.e., was smart), and it wasn't that hard. That meant the concept was copied by all-comers.
Ideal innovation is primarily smart, while also being hard for others to imitate. This is why I'm so excited by Avi Networks. Our Avi Vantage platform, which has just won Tech Targets Network Innovation Award, is both smart (delivering application services flexibility, automation, scale, security and analytics for customers, enabling their clouds) and hard to copy (architected as a distributed, scale-out, software defined solution).
The lesson for innovators is clear. Before you spend millions (or billions, and believe me, they have been spent) on innovation, make sure it is smart.