by Elana Varon

What is Bleeding Edge?

Aug 30, 20062 mins

A discussion at lunch one day last week during the CIO 100 conference leads to this question: how do you think about bleeding edge technologies?

Let’s start by acknowledging that bleeding-edge has negative connotations for a lot of people. Just think for a minute about the imagery. Bleeding edge evokes danger. It’s something you have to fight with in order to get it to work. Engage in that battle, and you might survive, but you’ll get bloodied in the process.  Living on the bleeding-edge takes courage—and only companies with deep pockets or startups operating out of a garage ought to take up the challenge.

But my conversation with a couple of IT executives has me thinking about an alternative vision for the bleeding edge. These execs are working in organizations that are, at their most daring, fast followers. And yet, they see a place for emerging, risky technologies in their portfolios. The reason is that until you start messing around with new stuff, you can’t answer the question about whether it might provide a competitive advantage or suggest a new business model.

And if it does, then bleeding-edge technology starts to drive innovation. And it offers a value proposition that, while still risky, has a potentially big payoff. So these IT execs in these conservative companies make small investments in technologies that look promising for their organizations.

The implication here is that even a company that is uncomfortable adopting a new technology until someone else works out the bugs can’t really afford to wait to check it out.

The bleeding-edge might be your competitive edge. And it starts to look smart, rather than dangerous.