True Innovation

Bell Labs is a revered name as an important part of New Jersey’s technology pedigree. Jon Gertner new book “The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation” tells its story.

From a February 25, 2012, NYTimes article
By JON GERTNER

INNOVATION is what America has always been about,” President Obama remarked in his recent State of the Union address. It’s hard to disagree, isn’t it? We live in a world dominated by innovative American companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook. And even in the face of a recession, Silicon Valley’s relentless entrepreneurs have continued to churn out start-up companies with outsize, world-changing ambitions.

But we idealize America’s present culture of innovation too much. In fact, our trailblazing digital firms may not be the hothouse environments for creativity we might think. I find myself arriving at these doubts after spending five years looking at the innovative process at Bell Labs, the onetime research and development organization of the country’s formerly monopolistic telephone company.

Why study Bell Labs? It offers a number of lessons about how our country’s technology companies – and our country’s longstanding innovative edge – actually came about. Yet Bell Labs also presents a more encompassing and ambitious approach to innovation than what prevails today. Its staff worked on the incremental improvements necessary for a complex national communications network while simultaneously thinking far ahead, toward the most revolutionary inventions imaginable.

Indeed, in the search for innovative models to address seemingly intractable problems like climate change, we would do well to consider Bell Labs’ example – an effort that rivals the Apollo program and the Manhattan Project in size, scope and expense. Its mission, and its great triumph, was to connect all of us, and all of our new machines, together.” [READ MORE]

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