The uncertain and apparently unpredictable nature of the innovation in management process, it is possible to find ultimately resulting in success. Not every innovation fails, and some firms and individuals appear to have learned ways to responding and managing it such that while there is never a guarantee but successful innovation can be improved. I am using the term manage here not in the sense of designing and running a complex but creating conditions within an organization under which a successful attempt is made.
One indicator of the possibility of doing this comes from the experiences of organizations which have survived for an extended period of time. Whilst most organizations have comparatively modest life spans there are some which have survived at least one or more centuries. Looking at the experience of firms like 3M, Corning, Procter & Gamble , Reuters, Siemens, Philips and Rolls Royce – we can see that much of their longevity is down to having developed a capacity to innovate on a continuing basis. They have learned the hard way how to manage the process so that they can sustain innovation.
It is important to note the distinction here between ‘management’ and ‘managers’. There is no arguing here about who is involved in taking decisions or directing activity, but rather about what has to be done.
Close analysis of many technological innovations over the years reveals that although there are technical difficulties, teething troubles to be resolved and the occasional big hurdle to overcome, the majority of failures are due to some weakness in the way the process is managed. Success in innovation appears to depend upon two key ingredients – technical resources that is people, equipment, knowledge, money etc., and the capabilities in the organization to manage them.
Firms develop particular ways of behaving which become the way things are done around here to strengthen. These patterns reflect an underlying set of shared beliefs about the world and how to deal with it, and form part of the organization’s culture. The result of repeated experiments and experience around what appears to work well are learned. Over time the pattern becomes more of an automatic response to particular situations, and the behaviour becomes what can be termed a ‘routine’.
This does not mean that it is necessarily repetitive only. The example of driving a car can be given; it is possible to drive along a stretch of motorway whilst simultaneously talking to someone else, eating or drinking, listening to and concentrating on, something on the radio or planning what to say at the forthcoming meeting. But driving is not a passive behaviour; it requires continuous assessment and adaptation of responses in the light of other traffic behaviour, road conditions, weather and a number of different and unplanned situations. It can be concluded that driving represents a behavioural routine in that it has been learned to the point of being largely automatic.
In the same way an organizational routine might exist around how projects are managed or new products are consolidated. For example, project management involves a difficult set of activities such as planning, team selection, monitoring and execution of tasks, and so on. All of these have to be integrated and offer plenty of opportunities for making mistakes. Project management is widely recognized as an organizational skill, which experienced firms have developed to a high degree but which beginners can make a mess of. Firms with good project management routines are able to codify and pass them on to others via procedures and systems. Most importantly, the principles are also transmitted into the way we run projects around by existing members passing on the underlying beliefs about project management behaviour to new recruits.
Over time organizational behaviour routines form and are strengthened by various kinds of formal and informal structures, procedures and processes which describe the way we do things around there and symbols which represent and characterize the underlying routines. It could be in the form of a policy and the firm will be widely known for its routines for regular and fast product innovation. These routines are firm specific – for example, they result from an environment in which the costs of product development experimentation are often quite low.