Roadmaps for Success

Successful innovators acquire and accommodate and accumulate technical resources and managerial capabilities, over time there are plenty of opportunities for learning – through doing, using working with other firms, asking the customers etc., but they all depend upon the readiness of the firm to see innovation less as a lottery than as a process which can be continuously improved.

From the various studies of success and failure innovation it is possible to construct checklists and even crude blueprints of effective innovation management. A number of models for auditing innovation have been developed in recent years which provide a framework against which to assess performance in innovation management .Some of these involve simple checklists others deal with structures, others with the operation of particular sub processes.

For our purpose in exploring innovation management throughout the rest of the article it will be helpful to build our own simple model and use it to focus attention on key aspects of the innovation management challenge. At its heart we have the generic process described earlier which sees innovation as a core set of activities distributed over time. (Of course, as we noted earlier innovation in real life does not conform neatly to this simple representation -and it is rarely a single event but rather a cycle of activities repeated over time). The key point is that a number of different actions need to take place as we move through the phases of this model and associated with each are some consistent lessons about effective innovation management routines .

Search phase:

The first phrase innovation involves detecting signals in the environment about potentials for change. These could take the form of new technological opportunities or changing requirements on the part of markets, they could be the result of legislative pressure or competitor action. Most innovation results from the interplay of several forces some coming from the need for change puling through innovation and others from the push which comes from new opportunities.

Given the wide range of signals it is important for successful innovation management to have well developed mechanisms for identifying processing selecting information from this turbulent environment.

Organizations don’t of course search in infinite space but rather in places where they expect to find something helpful. Over time their search patterns become highly focused and this can – as we have seen sometimes represent a barrier to more radical forms of innovation. A key challenge in innovation management relates to the clear understanding of what factors shape the selection environment and the developments of strategies to ensure their boundaries of this are stretched.

Selection Phase:

Innovation is inherently risky and even well endowed firms cannot take unlimited risks. It is this essential that some selection is made if the various market and technological opportunities and that the choices made fit with the overall business strategy of the firm and build upon established areas of technical and marketing competence. The purpose of this phase is to resolve the inputs into an innovation concept which can be progressed further through the development organization.

Three inputs feed their phase. The first is the flow of signals about possible technological and market opportunities available to the enterprise. The second input concerns the current technological base of the firm — its distinctive technological competence. By this we mean what to know about terms of its product or service and how that is produced or delivered effectively. This knowledge may be embodied in particular products or equipment but is also present in the people and systems needed to make the processes work. The important thing here is to ensure that there is a good fit between what firms currently know about and the proposed changes it wants to make.

Source: Managing Innovation