Innovation Technology Management

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Innovation Engine
11.03.2019
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Introduction

The current coursework provides description and assessment of the advice and innovation steps provided in the article “Build an Innovation Engine in 90 Days” written by Scott Anthony, David Duncan, and Pontus M. A. Siren. They have the aim to make innovation more systematic and strategic, and concern to providing a systematic approach for development and realization of the innovation process, facilitating employees’ engagement into this process, and rewarding the failure. The purpose of this paper is to provide critical evaluation and personal understanding of the above-mentioned advice and steps by supporting or rejecting them with using concrete real-life examples. The main limitation of this work is the assumption that described companies have enough funds for the development of the new ideas and that they do not direct their actions only on decreasing expenses. The methodology of this report was collecting theoretical information concerning above-mentioned advice and supporting this information by real-life examples of conducting business. Different articles and studies were used for preparing this paper and for providing integral vision on them.

Literature Review and Analysis of Literature

The systematic approach during the development and implementation of innovative solutions was thoroughly studied on examples of different national and international companies. Charles Edquist states that this approach provides effective collaboration of different units of the company, the direction of employees’ knowledge and skills on obtaining set goals (2001). Consequently, this leads to decreasing expenses and to lowering the time of manufacturing and development thorough planning and constant control for the elimination of any mistakes (Brands, 2010). The necessity of the thorough assessment and control at the beginning of the product lifecycle for a considerable decrease of the expenses in the future is shown by the example of the company that produces weapon and space services described in the work Enabling Innovation Through Integrated Systems Engineering (Siemens PLM Software, 2011). Also, this paper provides an understanding of the necessity of simultaneous development of products and supportive services for better coverage of the customers’ expectations and decreasing their expenses on maintenance of new technologies illustrated by the example of Pratt & Witney (Siemens PLM Software, 2011). This company developed a fighter engine and support system. Apart from that, attention should be paid to systematic coordination of both, internal and external factors, like suppliers, manufacturers, funders, etc. Failure of the interaction between knowledge – production units and sponsoring participants can zero out the advancement of the innovation, even if it was recognized all over the world. This failure is illustrated by the example of biotechnical innovation in Brazil described by Eva Dantas (2015).

In this coursework, much attention was paid to the investigation of the necessity of employees’ involvement in the innovation process of the company. Judy Laws stated that employees’ engagement should be an inherent part of the company’s strategy (Laws, 2005). Different methods of employees’ stipulation and involvement are described in Focus on Innovative Work Culture, RINL CMD to Employees (Sartyendra, 2015). Not engaged workers will stay in their comfort zone and will not offer any innovative ideas (Hobcraft, 2012). This can lead to loss of the competitive position and to the downfall of the company, as it happened with Nokia. James Surowiecki (2013) mentioned that one of the reasons for the company’s failure was that it directed intends on the improvement of the existing technologies instead of presenting completely new ideas. Anthony Ferrier (2014) in his work Seven Signs That Your Innovation Program is at Risk of Failure described this situation as the process of repeating the innovation.

The role of failure reward for building a strong innovative culture was shown by Stefan Lindegaard in his work Embrace Failure to Build a Stronger Innovation Culture (2013). Charles Coy (2014) stated that such initiatives facilitate employees’ creativity and excitement from doing something new. Example of the reward of failure was presented in the global company by Gwen Moran (2014). Much attention was paid to the description of the consequences of failure punishment onto organizational processes. They were thoroughly described by Jacob Morgan (2015) and David Grossman (2014).

Critical Discussion

Scott Anthony, David Duncan and Pontus M. A. Siren (2014) in their article Build an Innovation Engine in 90 Days provide the description of the four-step approach for creating innovations in small organizations. The first step is the determination of the gap between growth goals and current operations. This step is extremely necessary for setting concrete goals of the organization. Leaders should determine whether their innovations will be directed toward obtaining short-term or long-term benefits. I think the clear vision on the goals of the innovational process is proof the approach proposed by the authors. However, it may be difficult for leaders to obtain this vision within 30 days. As per personal opinion, this vision should be generated for a longer time of the working process. Authors of the article did not pay attention to a great variety of methodologies of its generation, such as studying competitors’ positions or intends to implement the unique modern innovative solutions.

The second step described by authors of the article is meeting with numerous customers for determination of their needs and perceptions. The great benefit that can be obtained by this action is a clear understanding of the customers’ behavior and determination directions of the company’s development that will be successful in the future. As per personal opinion, this step is very relevant. Any organization that wants to be successful should clearly understand its customers. At the same time, the main disadvantage of this step is that it proclaims communication with a dozen of people and companies. I think this approach can diffuse actions of the innovation team and cause a lack of focusing on concrete strategies of development. Each customer (either a company or a person) has its own needs and visions on the quality of provided services and goods. Hence, it is impossible to satisfy all of them. Innovation team should focus on communication with a concrete target audience.

Then leaders should determine concrete employees who will be totally engaged in the innovation process. Authors of the article paid attention to the necessity of total involvement of these people in the innovation process; otherwise, it will not bring considerable results. I agree that the above-mentioned total involvement will be beneficial for the company and will form one of the strongest features of the innovation approach because these people will direct all their efforts, knowledge and skills on the development of new projects. At the same time, I think that this step has a weak side. The other members of the company are not considered as active participants in the development of new projects. Consequently, there can be some difficulties during the future incorporation of these projects into the working process of the company.

The last step of the building of MVIS is the selection and training of senior leaders for overseeing the development team and the establishment of oversight rules. It is very beneficial to the company because as per my personal understanding, the performance of any team should be observed for setting new goals, timely solving of existing problems. Effective and efficient team management is based on a constant assessment of the performance results and development of the new ways of their improvement. At the same time, certain autonomy of leaders in making decisions will make problem-solving easier and quicker.

Authors of the article also provided three different advice directed on the improvement of the effectiveness and efficiency of the innovation management process. This advice will be evaluated below.

The work of the Minimum viable innovation systems (MVIS) is based on the systematic approach. The main benefit of this advice is that it enables to perform thorough development of demanded production or services and their successful diffusion. Also, the systematic approach provides unification of knowledge and experiences of all team members and the direction of their skills on reaching set goals of the organization (Edquist, 2001). However, the authors of the article did not mention that much attention should be paid to accuracy and precision during the process of development of innovations. The systemic approach creates the background for the performance of constant control over the development, manufacturing and testing processes for the elimination of any mistakes and discrepancies. This advice should be supported by the clear understanding that maintenance of the revision control is extremely important during the development of technological innovations, like software for airplanes.

Nowadays numerous companies are working on the creation of innovative solutions for already existing mechanisms. For example, the use of composite materials for aircraft coverings. Consequently, research teams should perform a thorough assessment of the effectiveness and appropriateness of integrated solutions (Mangu-Ward, 2012). The revision control can lead to considerable improvement in the success of new products or services. This process implicates the following sub-processes which should be performed by different researches: “management all relevant designs and variants, product specification, models (including 3D simulations), and test results” (Siemens PLM Software, 2011). The systematic approach enables to perform central management of all the components and systems as individual parts and as the one united process (Robinson, 2014). This ensures that the team is working on the same set of assumptions and takes into consideration the same environmental characteristics. It is notable that a systematic approach can be applied to the creation of the new product for common customers because the development team should work for the target audience that has some particular characteristics. For example, an American company that provides weapon and space technologies recognized that more than 90 percent of the expenses on new products and services depend from decisions made at the beginning of the product lifecycle. Top management decided to increase control and assessment of these decisions. Consequently, “requirements specification capture, traceability, and management have improved company-wide, enabling the company to realize significant cost savings” (Siemens PLM Software, 2011).

Authors of the article created a broad vision of the great role of systematicity in the innovation process. They did not mention the great benefit of the development of several connected products or services simultaneously. During the development of a new innovative product, the team should pay much attention to supportive products and services which can provide considerable benefits to final customers. This can be performed by systematic recognition of customer’s needs, assessment of expenses of simultaneous development and realization of several projects. The systematic approach can decrease the time and cost of production, and help the company to exceed customers’ expectations. For example, Pratt & Witney decided to present their customers an innovative fighter engine and support system simultaneously. These projects were developed by researches, assemblers, mechanics, and other technicians. Consequently, new products are more beneficial than existing ones because their assembly, maintenance, and repair are easier. The amount of the major parts of the engine was lowered by 40 percent and requires 50 percent less time on support (Siemens PLM Software, 2011).

Apart from that, the described advice did not contain any information concerning the great role of cooperation between different units of the company and between different companies which are the inherent parts of the development and realization of innovations. Orientation on assessment, evaluation, and coordination of actions of involved parties provides a faster, more effective and less costly way of development, manufacturing of production and rendering services to final customers. It is notable that a systematic approach should be applied to internal components of the company and to its external factors. The examples of external factors for small organizations are the following: suppliers of raw materials, manufacturers, legal departments, transporters, etc. Examples of external factors for big national and international corporations are the following: research institutions, local authorities, governmental institutions which develop and adopt different initiatives, transportation companies, etc. It is notable that the failure of the collaboration between these parties can zero-out any ideas, as it happened in Brazil. This country is well known as the importer of the biotechnological innovation systems which should be properly licensed. Local governmental institutions financed public researches and educational institutions for the development of the new project “Xylella fastidiosa — a plant pathogen that affects citrus fruits” (Dantas, 2015). It was highly recognized all over the world and put the country on the leading position of biotechnological innovations. However, Brazilian companies were not interested in manufacturing and spreading of Xylella fastidiosa because of the weak links between these companies and knowledge – production organizations.

The authors of the article emphasized that innovation can become more systematic and strategic when all team members are involved in the innovation process. I agree with this advice and think that it is one of the main factors of success of the innovation. People should understand the necessity of innovations, organizational goals, and directions either on obtaining short-term success or long-term benefits. Top management of any company should “tackle employee engagement by focusing on innovation as part of their employee engagement strategy” (Laws, 2005). Workers should be attached to the innovation processes intellectually and emotionally, otherwise, they will be unable to provide and develop innovative ideas and visions. Employees of the upper level should facilitate engagement of workers into the process of providing new ideas by different techniques, like brainstorming, rewarding innovation offers, and supporting uncommon activities. Also, they should support the teaching of the ways of acquisition of tools, techniques, and skills that help to think differently.

At the same time, authors of the article should pay more attention to the fact that innovative approaches cannot be developed and successfully realized if employees want to stay within their “comfort zone of existing products and technological understandings” (Hobcraft, 2012). This will lead to the company’s stagnation. The company will be unable to offer new products and services to its customers. Hence, people will turn their attention to other companies which are constantly improving and developing. Consequently, this inability will lead to the situation when the company will lose its market position, and might even disappear. Further intents of improvement of the situation by providing innovative decisions will be too late, as it happened with Nokia.

Nokia was a successful and highly adaptive company until 2009 (Suriweicki, 2013). It was involved in different businesses, such as paper, rubber galoshes and electrical goods. However, Nokia became popular for producing cell-phones. It made cell-phones not just a means of communication, but also the modern accessory. Company’s employees pay much attention to the development of innovative solutions. For example, Nokia was the first company that introduced smartphones and created a prototype of the touch screen. However, its employees were not totally involved in the innovation processes. They prefer to focus on the improvement of existing solutions (hardware) instead of developing new approaches (software). This process is also known as repeating the innovations when people repeat the same successful actions over the long period of time and expect that these actions will bring the same success to the company (Ferrier, 2014). The company did not “move off its smartphone platform Symbian onto its next-generation platform MeeGo” (Lomas, 2012). Unfortunately, development requires more than just improvement of the existing technologies. People should also develop completely new approaches for gaining success in the future and remain competitive on the market. Employees of the company failed to recognize this fact. Consequently, Nokia did not recognize the greatest threat to its existence – the iPhone. Even after the tremendous success of competitors, employees of the upper management did not want to direct their company on searching innovating approaches and preferred to stay inside their comfort zone. They “continued to insist that its superior hardware designs would win over users” (Suriweicki, 2013). Their expectations failed and the company lost its customers and competitive position. Even intends to improve the situation by the presentation of Windows Phone was unsuccessful because solutions offered in this model were already introduced on the market by other companies. In 2013 Nokia had 3 percent of the global market share of smartphones and sold its handset business to Microsoft for about $ 7 billion (Suriweicki, 2013).

In order to avoid the company’s failure described above, managers of the company should determine the most successful approaches to further the company’s development and encourage their employees. As per official Canadian researches, “employees who receive encouragement to innovate are more likely than those who do not to say that they have opportunities for innovation in their workplace” (Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, 2012). This leads to increasing the output form of the performed organizational activities, development of the new approaches of performing common tasks, and elaboration of strategies directed on the further development of the company.

Increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the innovation process can be reached by rewarding employees’ failure. It is even more important than an appreciation of the success because the “failure is the inherent part of the process of coming up with something new” (Lindegaard, 2013). People try new methodologies and ways, develop new approaches and do not reach success. However, they obtain some knowledge and experience. Employees enrich their understanding of the nature of things and processes. Rewarding failure is also rewarding excitement from doing something new or performing common tasks in a unique manner (Coy, 2014). Nowadays big international companies like Google and P&G reward failure for supporting people in their involvement in the innovation process, helping them to get their best and to learn from their mistakes (Llopus, 2014). P & G even established the heroic failure reward for ideas which were the most unsuccessful, like “E*Trade baby commercial that called Lindsay Lohan a “milkaholic,” resulting in E*Trade getting slapped with a $100 million lawsuit by the actress” (Moran, 2014).

If the company will penalize failure, its employees will fear to do something new and even make some new propositions. At the same time, their propositions will still appear in their heads. Instead of focusing on the working process, people will cogitate on these ideas and sap organizational spirit (Grossman, 2014). They will not contribute to the current and further development. Hence, the company may face a deficit of new ideas and visions (Morgan, 2015). Moreover, employees in such an environment will not take the risk of solving uncommon situations. It should be noted that rewarding failure is even more important than rewarding success because of the excessive reward of success enervate workers and decrease their attempts to develop new ideas. They can even blame about the effectiveness of their future actions for obtaining additional rewards. In the same time, appreciation of failure facilitates honest speaking of what is working and what is not working (Moran, 2014).

Stand Taken

Current work provides support to steps of the innovation processes and advice provided by the authors of the article. All of them will help the company to develop and successfully realize innovation projects. The main weak side of the above-mentioned steps and advice is the lack of specifics and particularities. Authors should pay more attention to the description of concrete actions and examples necessary for gaining the success of their new projects

Every organization that wants to make innovation approach more strategic and effective should emphasize the systematic approach of development, presentation, and realization of new ideas and visions. All concerned parties should actively participate in this approach for increasing its efficiency, decreasing expenses and lowering the time of realization. This statement concerns not only external forces (like suppliers or manufacturers) or different organizational units. It is also applicable to team members who are responsible for the development, assessment, and advancement of new ideas. They should be physically and psychologically involved in the process of innovation development. Top management of the company should clearly understand that the innovation team will face considerable challenges during the formation of the new projects. Failures are inevitable. The company should appreciate these failures because they help to obtain necessary knowledge and experience, understand weak sides of the project, eliminate future considerable expenses on unsuccessful ideas, and encourage employees to proceed their efforts of providing new ideas and implement them into real-life (West, 2012).

Justification

Information in this coursework provides an understanding of the necessity of close collaboration between employees and units which are involved in the innovation process, and high appreciation of their success and failures. The theoretic statements are supported by real-life examples which describe companies that become successful by the implementation of the above-mentioned ideas or faced downfall due to non-using of the above-mentioned advice. This coursework is directed on the achievement of deep understanding of the background of business processes of big and small companies all over the world. This understanding will help to improve the development and realization of innovative ideas and eliminate failures

Conclusion

The current paper definitely supports ideas directed on the improvement of the innovation process by implementation of systematic development and realization of innovations, supporting and facilitating employees’ engagement and avoiding punishment for the failure of new projects. Failures are inevitable during the development of something new. Systematization helps to unify all available financial, intellectual and manufacturing sources of the company for providing better visions, faster and more effective realization of new ideas. Employees’ physical and emotional engagement into the innovation process is extremely important for the direction of their abilities on obtaining new results and development of new projects instead of staying inside their comfort zones. They accompany obtaining knowledge, experience, and understandings which are necessary for the development of successful innovations. All above-mentioned advice is supported by real-life examples of successful implementation of new organizational failures based on insufficient employees’ involvement in the innovation process and lack of cooperation between different business units. It is notable that these ideas can be applied to big and small, national and international companies.

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