By sourcing and integrating knowledge from dispersed geographic locations, companies can generate more innovations of higher value and lower cost.
Many companies have supply chains that are global. They start with the sourcing of components and raw materials from around the world, then move their basic manufacturing to low-cost locations overseas. But few organizations have innovation processes that are equally global. That is, rarely do businesses have innovation activities that integrate distinctive knowledge from around the world as effectively as global supply chains integrate far-flung sources of raw materials, labor, components and services.
But some companies — Nokia, Airbus, SAP and Starbucks, among them — have managed to assemble an integrated “innovation chain” that is truly global. They have been able to implement a process for innovating that transcends local clusters and national boundaries, becoming what the authors call “metanational innovators.” This process requires three steps: prospecting (finding relevant pockets of knowledge from around the world), assessing (deciding on the optimal “footprint” for a particular innovation) and mobilizing (using cost-effective mechanisms to move distant knowledge without degrading it).When done properly, metanational innovation can provide companies with a powerful new source of competitive advantage: more, higher-value innovation at lower cost.