Innovation Strategy

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Navigating the Patent Minefield Through Consortia

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 10 min 

Bringing high-tech inventions built on patented technologies to market can be complicated and risky. The threat of added costs from patent infringement lawsuits has led technology companies to pool their talents — and patents — in technology consortia. Joining a tech consortium requires managers to weigh intellectual property value against the value of future collaborations and assess the consortium’s pros and cons for innovation, competition, and market creation.

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Foundations of Analytics Strategy

Competitive advantage from analytics is declining, according to the 2016 annual report about data and analytics by MIT Sloan Management Review. In this on-demand webinar, the authors of the report — Sam Ransbotham, an associate professor in information systems at Boston College and guest editor at MIT SMR; David Kiron, the executive editor of MIT SMR’s Big Ideas Initiative; and Pamela Kirk Prentice, the chief research officer at SAS Institute Inc. — discuss how analytically-sophisticated companies are managing to cultivate both innovation and competitive advantage with analytics.

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Finding the Right Role for Social Media in Innovation

Social media provides a game-changing opportunity to support new product development. But taking advantage of the opportunity requires more than just a Facebook presence with a loyal base of “friends.” To use social media for innovation, organizations need clear strategies and objectives. They also should look beyond social media used by the general public to lesser-recognized platforms, such as special user forums or expert blogs, for especially valuable user-generated feedback.

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Now That Your Products Can Talk, What Will They Tell You?

Products connected to the Internet of Things are providing unprecedented levels of information that can be used to improve both products and customer experience. For instance, a company does not have to wait until a customer calls with a complaint to know that a product connected to the Internet of Things is not working correctly. Instead, the product could already communicate the information, giving the company the ability to provide proactive service. Result: more loyal customers.

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Developing New Products in Emerging Markets

How can multinational companies turn ideas from their emerging-market subsidiaries into global products? A successful innovation developed by Cisco’s R&D unit in India offers practical insights into how to make that process work effectively. Key enablers in the Cisco case included well-developed R&D capabilities at a company center in Bangalore, a large market opportunity, and the support of executive champions. The process also demanded clarity about what product to develop, and how — including working on a shoestring budget.

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How Crowdfunding Influences Innovation

Crowdfunding is changing how entrepreneurs bring new products to market. It has allowed thousands of innovating entrepreneurs to raise money, build brand awareness, and join a broader conversation with large numbers of potential backers — all while still in the product development process. But crowdfunding’s potential goes beyond financing and marketing. The people who back projects can also be important sources for product feedback and ideas.

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Debating Disruptive Innovation

Few MIT Sloan Management Review articles garner as much attention as Andrew A. King and Baljir Baatartogtokh’s “How Useful Is the Theory of Disruptive Innovation?” After surveying 79 industry experts, King and Baatartogtokh concluded that many of the cases cited as examples of disruptive innovation by Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen and his coauthor Michael E. Raynor did not fit four of the theory’s key elements well. Here, three experts provide responses to continue the conversation.

“How Useful Is the Theory of Disruptive Innovation?” was the question raised by an article in the fall 2015 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review. In this issue, several more experts weigh in on the topic.

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Keep Calm and Manage Disruption

Disruption can be averted, and many businesses manage through it by beating the new competition, joining them, or waiting them out. “To be sure, facing disruption is no picnic,” writes Joshua S. Gans, author of The Disruption Dilemma. “But it also isn’t the existential threat that so many see it as.” Many businesses are finding ways to weaken disruptive events, sometimes by investing aggressively in the new innovation after entrants had brought it to market or by acquiring the entrants and the actual disruption.

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When Customers Become Fans

Beijing-based smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc. has actively involved enthusiastic customers — known as “Mi Fans” — in both software and hardware development processes. Tech-savvy users test interfaces and products as volunteers, doing much of their communication on the Internet. Customer involvement in the product development life cycle has not only helped Xiaomi reduce R&D costs but also enabled the company to cultivate a sense of participation and pride among lead users.

Image courtesy of Flickr user A. Strakey.

How Useful Is the Theory of Disruptive Innovation?

Clayton M. Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation has been very influential. But how well does the theory describe what happens in business? The authors of this article surveyed industry experts for each of 77 case examples of disruptive innovation found in two of Christensen’s seminal books. The results suggest that many of the cases do not correspond closely with four elements of the theory of disruptive innovation — and the theory may not fit as many situations as is often assumed.

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What to Know About Locating in a Cluster

A study of two industry clusters in Denmark shows that the factors that can make clusters attractive — easy people movement and knowledge spillovers — can also make it harder for individual companies to retain proprietary knowledge. The authors present two case studies that present starkly different experiences. They conclude, in part, that clusters with core platform strengths that span noncompeting sectors are exceptionally attractive and that healthy clusters have core institutions with scale and scope in relevant fields.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Randy Heinitz https://www.flickr.com/photos/rheinitz/8578335823

Real Innovators Don't Fear Failure

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 2 min 

One way to learn, argue Paul J.H. Schoemaker and Steven Krupp, is to “try to fail fast, often and cheaply in search of innovation.” Asking “what if” questions, they say, challenges executives to incorporate broader perspectives, stimulating “out-of-the-box dialogues that help leaders make better choices and find innovative solutions sooner.” Schoemaker and Krupp write that to help a team learn faster, leaders must frame mistakes as valuable learning opportunities.

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Mastering the ‘Name Your Product Category’ Game

When is the best time to enter a new industry? As it turns out, understanding the product category dynamics in an emerging industry and when a dominant category label has been introduced are important to identifying the “window of opportunity” to enter. Dominant category labels typically are introduced right before the industry starts a phase of rapid growth and consolidation. Companies would do well to track category labels before introducing a product in a nascent industry.

Image courtesey of Quicken Loans Inc.

Embrace Your Ignorance

The overconfidence of presumed expertise is counterproductive. Instead, data trumps intuition. Serious innovators take data seriously, argues Michael Schrage: “Organizations may be confident they know their customers, but they’re very likely to be overconfident. Most executives aren’t nearly as smart, perceptive or customer-centric as they believe.” Successful innovators, he writes, “have the courage of their curiosity” and run experiments that challenge their assumptions.

Image of Shanghai courtesy of Flickr user John Chandler.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnchandler/9268261356

The Surprising Effectiveness of “Assembly Line” Innovation

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 2 min 

Unconventional approaches to innovation are speeding up new product development, making R&D faster and cheaper. In China, companies are embracing an industrialized approach to research that allows them to complete projects as much as two to five times faster than they did before. “These developments have potentially huge implications for how companies should think about global competition and whether they need to rethink and reengineer their established innovation and product development processes,” the authors write.

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Accelerated Innovation: The New Challenge From China

Chinese companies are opening up a new front in global competition. It centers on what the authors call accelerated innovation — that is, reengineering research and development and innovation processes to make new product development dramatically faster and less costly. The new emphasis is unlikely to generate stunning technological breakthroughs, but it allows Chinese competitors to reduce the time it takes to bring innovative products and services to mainstream markets. It also represents a different way of deploying Chinese cost and volume advantages in global competition.

Image courtesy of Flickr user squeaks2569.

“Diverge Before You Converge”: Tips for Creative Brainstorming

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 3 min 

A new integrative process for idea generation uses approaches drawn from education, business model design and more, and breaks down the process of creativity into seven distinct steps. One of the most intriguing steps is number five, “diverge before you converge.” The idea behind it is that the most effective brainstorming processes draw from both individual thinking and group discussion, with individuals coming together only after independent idea generation.

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The Discipline of Creativity

Managers can’t afford to rely on haphazard, hit-or-miss approaches to idea generation. Ideas must fit with an organization’s strategy or take it in a new, purposeful direction, and they must solve real problems for stakeholders. A new seven-step process for idea generation is designed to help managers understand their problems deeply, generate tangible ideas for solutions and translate those ideas into action.

Image courtesy of Astrobotic Technology.

Spurring Innovation Through Competitions

Rather than seeking in-house solutions to problems, companies are increasingly turning to contests to generate many diverse ideas. The authors write that companies are finding “that many of the very best ideas lie outside their organizations, in an ecosystem of potential innovators who possess wide-ranging skills and knowledge.” But the advantages of using competitions to pursue innovation must be set against the potential costs and risks.

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Innovation Process Benefits: The Journey as Reward

What motivates volunteers to take part in innovation projects? And how can companies that sponsor such projects better attract individuals from outside the organization to participate? Christina Raasch and Eric von Hippel investigate the ways that individuals can gain significant benefits from participating in an innovation process — and the implications of that for organizations.

Showing 1-20 of 101