Monday, 13 July 2015

Invention Is a Flower, Innovation Is a Weed

The inventor of Ethernet and founder of 3Com shares some lessons with young innovators.

Bob Metcalfe’s career traces the trajectory of innovation. He started in the academy, as an undergraduate at MIT and a graduate student at Harvard. In his doctoral dissertation he laid the theoretical foundations for a novel method of boosting the power of personal computers: network them. At Xerox PARC, he turned that theory into something called Ethernet. Xerox wasn’t particularly successful at exploiting Ethernet commercially, so Metcalfe decided to try himself, founding 3Com to do the job. After many incarnations at 3Com, he cashed in his chips and became, in his words, a “technology pundit,” who writes a column for InfoWorld, organizes some of the information world’s best conferences, and sits on the board of Technology Review. TR asked Metcalfe to tell us what he learned as he followed the trajectory of innovation from the lab bench to the boardroom and beyond.

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