A Comparative study of Innovation Practices in Business
Companies want to be innovative, but what does innovation mean?
Results of interviews with corporate executives and senior innovation officers in four of the largest publicity-traded companies and one government agency in the Chicago-area, provide some insights into how businesses approach innovation.
The dictionary defines innovation as ‘the introduction of something new’. Regardless of the type innovation – whether it be product, process, or service – it results in significant change. This change could be as simple as ‘changing the way we do something routine,’ a breakthrough which provides a substantial benefit the customer, or one of that dramatically increases the revenue of profitability of the company.
Participants interested in breakthrough innovation believe ‘if innovation doesn’t deliver bottom-line results, it is just creativity’. Indeed, the very definition of innovation for Afuah (2003) is ‘invention plus commercialization.’ The relationship of innovation to financial performance was well demonstrated by Kin and Mauborgne (1997). In manufacturing environments, they found that while 86% of product launches involved some small improvements to existing models – that is, incremental changes – they accounted for only 62% of total revenues and 39% of total profits. The remaining 14% of launches – the real breakthrough innovations – generated 38% of total revenues and a huge 61% of total profits.
Innovation may offer one significant way that companies can gain advantage. Utterback’s (1994) concept of ‘dominant design’ provides insight into how an innovation can create a temporary monopoly situation that will weaken competitive forces; however, when an innovative product or service is launched, rivals typically begin to copy it (once patents run out). Hence, it is necessary for the company to continuously seek further ways to innovate.
Every innovation process has its strengths and weaknesses, but it seems that when a company sets up a systematized innovation process, it communicates the importance of innovation to the entire organization. In these companies, more resources are devoted to development. The best companies have learned to systematize the process (Hargadorn & Sutton, 2000).
The primary disadvantage to having a structured innovation process is speed to market – the more structure, the longer the lead time is from idea to product. The only company that described its process as ‘quick’ did not have such a process. Employees were empowered to solve problems and create new products for the customer by responding to demand. While this benefits customers, the company stated it lacks systems to share learning with other segments of the organization. A potential disadvantage of this approach, according to Utterback, is that evolutionary change can be missed when companies are too focused on pleasing customers.
The most challenging aspect of any innovation is determining marketability. No company said it lacked creative ideas or creative people, but many ideas require significant resources to test, develop, and launch. Millions of dollars are at stake, so an element of risk – taking is required.
Taking risks is generally defined as being able t drive new ideas forward in the face of adversity. Publicity – traded companies have a major dilemma. To guarantee a leadership position, they have to stay on the leading – edge of innovation. This requires a long-term approach and high tolerance for risk. Investors, especially in a down economy, want short-term results. As investors’ tolerance for risk decreases, so does the company’s ability to take the significant financial risk necessary to create breakthrough change; however, most recognize that investing in innovation is the ‘right thing to do’.
One company actively pursues a rather unusual strategy of ‘acquiring’ innovation by purchasing other smaller companies or partnering with specialized companies. This enables the acquiring company to bring a product to market more quickly and gives the smaller company access to funds it might not otherwise have.
How can a company involve all its employees in the innovation process? It may be as simple as requesting new ideas. A brainstorming session during a staff meeting need only take 30 minutes. Another system is to use existing ‘suggestion box’ processes. Involving employees in idea-generation can reap some large benefits at a very low cost. Only modest monetary rewards are necessary for successful innovation ideas, especially since many companies have found that employees place high value on recognition.
In most organizations, teams are extensively used to evaluate ideas, but rarely to generate them. Companies need to learn how to construct teams for the purpose of innovation. A team member should be selected based on their tendency to be more creative or more risk-taking. This could be markedly increase innovation output. According to Hargardorn and Sutton, using teams to capture and share ideas is one method of keeping ideas alive – a key step in the innovation process. Good ideas need to be nurtured by teams and incorporated into the information and communication systems of the company.
In conclusion, innovation can be difficult to structure. It is the author’s perception that even the most innovative companies in the sample underinvest in market research during the concept refining phase. Risk could be reduced considered by adoption of this strategy, but, of course, it could not be eliminated.
Most of the ‘problem’ sited by participants were due to a low tolerance for risk – by employees (what they would or would not say), and by committees (being afraid to invest money without knowing the return on investment). Raising the risk tolerance would reduce the amount of analysis required to bring a new idea to market, thus shortening the cycle of time of new product/ service development. According to psychologists Kahn and Hirshorn, people come alive when they feel safe. It is threat and anxiety that inhibit them. It would follow that in order for people in organization to take risks; lack of success must be tolerated. The organization that manage risk most effectively transform those risks into challenges and opportunities.
Look at the following theories (Questions 27-33) and the list of experts below. Match each theory with the correct expert A – E. Write the correct letter A – E in boxes 27 – 33 on your answer sheet. NB you may use any letter more than once.
List of Experts
|B||Kim and Mauborgne|
|D||Hargardorn and Sutton|
|E||Khan and Hirshorn|
27. A business cannot rely on the success of one good innovation.
Jawaban yang benar (C) Utterback
28. A group approach is an effective way of generating innovation.
Jawaban yang benar (D) Hargardorn and Sutton
29. Employees are more creative in a culture that accepts failure.
Jawaban yang benar (E) Khan and Hirshorn
30. Radical innovations will provide greater income than minor changes.
Jawaban yang benar (B) Kim and Mauborgne
31. Business with a structured approach to innovation are more likely to succeed
Jawaban yang benar (D) Hargardorn and Sutton
32. Innovation consists of a new idea combined with business potential.
Jawaban yang benar (A) Afuah
33. A business that concentrates on corresponding to clients’ needs may overlook the need for the wider development.
Jawaban yang benar (C) Utterback
Questions 34 – 40
Complete each sentence with the correct ending A – I below. Write the correct letter A – I in boxes 34 – 40 on your answer sheet.
|A||Can be to develop a sympathetic manufacturing environment|
|B||Must put time and money into innovation|
|C||Can be a very cost-effective way of achieving innovation|
|D||May require a more sophisticated communication system|
|E||May give rise to a lengthy period between initial concept and launch|
|F||Could be attributed to an unwillingness to accept risk|
|G||Can be work out the sale ability of a future product|
|H||Would be to put money into the analysis of customer demand|
|I||Might involve collaboration with another company with particular expertise|
34. Unfortunately the development of an organized innovation process.
Jawaban yang benar (E) May give rise to a lengthy period between initial concept and launch
35. One of the most difficult issues in innovation.
Jawaban yang benar (G) Can be work out the saleability of a future product
36. A company wanting to maintain a leading position in business.
Jawaban yang benar (B) Must put time and money into innovation
37. A different approach to achieving innovation.
Jawaban yang benar (I) Might involve collaboration with another company with particular expertise
38. Getting staff to come up with new ideas.
Jawaban yang benar (C) Can be a very cost-effective way of achieving innovation
39. A recommendation for companies already committed to innovation.
Jawaban yang benar (H) Would be to put money into the analysis of customer demand
40. Problems experienced by companies participating in the study.
Jawaban yang benar (F) Could be attributed to an unwillingness to accept risk
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