View of innovation as the core process within an organization association with renewal with refreshing what it offers the world and how it creates and delivers that offering. Viewed in this way innovation is a generic activity associated with survival and growth. And at this level of abstraction we can see the underlying process as common to all firms, at its heart the process involves-
1) Searching – scanning the environment (internal and external) for, and processing relevant signals about, threats and opportunities for change.
2) Selecting – deciding on the basis of a strategic view of how the enterprise can best develop) which of these signals to respond to.
3) Implementing – translating the potential in the trigger idea into something new and launching it in an internal and external market. Making this happen is not single event but requires attention to.
4) Acquiring the knowledge resources to enable the innovation (for example by creating something new though R&D market research etc acquiring knowledge from elsewhere via technology transfer alliance etc).
5) Executing the project under conditions of uncertainty which require extensive problem solving.
6) Launching the innovation and managing the process of initial adoption.
7) Sustaining adoption and use in the long term – or revisiting the original idea and modifying it — re-innovation.
8) Learning – enterprises have (but may not always take) the opportunity to learn from progressing through this cycle so that they can build their knowledge base and can improve the ways in which the process is managed.
The challenge facing any organization is to try and find ways of managing this process to provide a good solution to the problem of renewal. Different circumstances lead to many different solutions – for example large science based firms like the pharmaceutical companies will tend to create solutions which have heavy activities around formal R&D patent searching etc whilst small engineering subordinates will emphasize rapid implementation capability. Retailers may have relatively small R&D commitments in the formal sense but stress scanning the environment to pick up new consumer trends and they are likely to place heavy emphasis on marketing. Consumer goods producers may be more concerned with rapid product development and launch, often with variants and repositioning of basic product concepts. Heavy engineering firms involved in products like power plant are likely to design intensively and are critically dependent on project management and systems integration aspects of the implementation phase. Public sector organizations have to configure it to cope with strong external political and regulatory influences.
Despite these variations the underlying pattern of phases in innovation remains constant. We want to explore the process nature of innovation in more detail, and to look at the kinds of variations on this basic theme. But we also want to suggest that there is some commonality around the things which are managed and the influences which can be brought to bear on them in successful innovation. These enablers represent the levers which can be used to manage innovation in any organization. Once again, how these enablers are actually put together varies between firms, but they represent particular solutions to the general problems of managing innovation. Exploring these enablers in more detail is the basis of the following article.
Central to our view is that innovation management is a learned capability. Although there are common issues to be confronted and a convergent set of recipes for dealing with them, each organization must find its own particular solution and develop this in its own context. Simply copying ideas from elsewhere is not enough these must be adapted and shaped to suit particular circumstances.