Innovation Strategy

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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
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The Surprising Effectiveness of “Assembly Line” Innovation

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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.
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“Diverge Before You Converge”: Tips for Creative Brainstorming

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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

Alan MacCormack, Fiona Murray and Erika Wagner examine the phenomenon of corporations using innovation contests to attract ideas from beyond their organizations. They write that companies increasingly “are discovering that many of the very best ideas lie outside their organizations, in an ecosystem of potential innovators who possess wide-ranging skills and knowledge.”

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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.

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How Innovative Is Your Company’s Culture?

Everyone wants an innovative corporate culture, but how do you develop one? This article posits that the ability of a culture to support innovation depends on six key building blocks: values, behaviors, climate, resources, processes and success. The article also includes a 54-element test developed to enable managers to assess a company’s “Innovation Quotient.” A case study in the article outlines the experience of a Latin American company with the assessment tool.

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The Inside and Outside View of Innovation

How can companies ensure that a promising initiative receives the necessary resources? And why do so many brilliant inventions fail while other seemingly mediocre offerings succeed? Such questions are addressed in two recent books — Unrelenting Innovation: How to Build a Culture for Market Dominance by Gerard J. Tellis and The Wide Lens: A New Strategy for Innovation by Ron Adner. The first book concentrates on a company’s internal workings, while the latter focuses on its external environment.

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How to Use Analogies to Introduce New Ideas

While change and innovation clearly produce much of the turbulence that besets modern businesses, research suggests that change itself is not the culprit, but rather how organizations perceive and cope with change. Both people and organizations rely on analogies to help them comprehend change, including the meaning and potential of new technologies, systems and processes. But do all analogies function in the same way? How strongly should organizations adhere to their chosen analogies?

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What It Takes to Be a Serial Innovator

It’s not easy to develop a breakthrough innovation in an established company and bring it to market successfully — and even more challenging to do so more than once. In their new book, Serial Innovators: How Individuals Create and Deliver Breakthrough Innovations in Mature Firms, authors Abbie Griffin, Raymond L. Price and Bruce A. Vojak describe several years of research they have conducted about a type of employee who can do just that.

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How to Identify World-Changing Innovation

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Anyone trying to figure out which kinds of innovation are most worth paying attention to has to come up with ways to, as Wired magazine puts it, “size up ideas and separate the truly world-changing from the merely interesting.” Here are seven things to look for.

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How to Identify New Business Models

Companies traditionally pursue growth by investing heavily in product development so they can produce new and better offerings; by developing consumer insights so they can satisfy customers’ needs; or by making acquisitions and expanding into new markets. This article identifies a fourth method: “business model experimentation,” or using thought experiments to quickly and inexpensively examine new business model possibilities.

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The Age of the Consumer-Innovator

It has long been assumed that companies develop products for consumers, while consumers are passive recipients. However, this paradigm is flawed, because consumers are a major source of product innovations. This article suggests a new innovation paradigm, in which consumers and users play a central and active role in developing products. The article also summarizes key findings from studies on consumer product innovation conducted in the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan.

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