Innovation plan is key to economic success
ALMOST a decade ago, Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen wrote a book called "The Innovator's Dilemma." It illustrated how a start-up company -- by employing innovation that disrupts existing business models -- will always beat the established big companies. He cited examples like Intel's success with the microprocessor, and steel mill Nucor Corp.'s hit with its revolutionary way to reuse scrap.
The book was loathed by the old-line folks and lauded by the new guys like me. It gave us validation for what we knew was right: The future wasn't about simply improving upon what was already done, it was about being bold enough to make big, sweeping, dramatic changes.
In my industry -- technology -- the Internet has given us the inspiration and power to do things differently. The founders of companies like amazon.com, AOL and Yahoo saw potential in a new platform -- and by embracing it, they created successful companies and changed the way we buy, communicate and live.
Gov. Linda Lingle's new Innovation and Sustainability Initiative for Hawaii recognizes that just like companies, the state must innovate and change to survive and thrive. Relying simply on our beautiful land as the chief driver of economic development -- as we have been for decades -- is not sustainable for our future success. We must alter that model and reduce our dependence on the land. We must recognize that we have other valuable natural resources -- the people of Hawaii -- and invest more in cultivating their skills and talents.
The governor's plan, with proposed programs, including a technology incubator in Kakaako, a digital media center and $100 million Hawaii Innovation Fund to provide capital to emerging companies, will help to create the solid economic foundation that we need to participate in the new global economy and achieve long-term economic growth.
The initiative also guarantees the success of future generations by investing in programs that will improve science, technology, engineering and math skills, beginning in middle school and continuing through college. The proposals include providing incentives like scholarships and tax breaks for students and families who make the commitment to these disciplines. This initiative is a key step in fostering the skills of our young people and will eventually create new companies, higher-paying jobs and additional revenue streams in Hawaii.
This program will allow us to maintain our standard of living while using fewer natural resources, including land. It will spur economic diversification. It will ensure a sustainable and successful future for our beloved state.
Marc Benioff is CEO of Salesforce.com
Inc., an on-demand customer relationship management company. He is a part-time resident of the Big Island.