In an informative new book, two Wharton professors look at innovation from a process management perspective.
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Nurturing a new and lasting idea doesn’t result from analyzing market data. Aspiring creators must act on what nonprofits already know: you get the best answers by burying yourself in the questions. The authors explore the efforts of companies such as Grameen Bank and Hindustan Unilever Ltd., the Indian subsidiary of the Dutch consumer products multinational Unilever N.V. They are engaged in serving the multitrillion-dollar consumer market at the “base of the economic pyramid” or BoP — the four billion people with annual per capita incomes below $1,500.
Innovation strategy expert Vijay Govindarajan thinks that businesses should be careful not to abandon innovation in their quest for efficiency and cost control during a recession — but they may need to reduce their focus on risky breakthrough innovation plans.
Innovation consultant Scott D. Anthony, author of a new book called “The Silver Lining: An Innovation Playbook for Uncertain Times,” calls the era we’re in “the great disruption” — a period when competitive advantage is temporary. And “no matter how tough the times, innovation happens,” Anthony observed.
Don’t have all the resources you’d like due to the economic downturn? Fear not: Resource constraints can spark creativity, according to a new article.
For any breakthrough innovation project, specific objectives are often unclear or highly malleable, and the paths to them are murky. Rather than feign a certainty that doesn’t exist, project managers need a systematic, disciplined framework for turning uncertainty into useful learning that keeps the project tacking on a successful course.
To understand how breakthroughs in creativity occur, managers must understand how most collaborations work. “Managers first need to understand that invention is essentially a process of recombinant search,” writes Lee Fleming. “That is, I adopt the classic definition of invention as a new combination of components, ideas or processes.” Fleming adds that “Almost all inventions are useless; a few are of moderate value; and only a very, very few are breakthroughs. Those breakthroughs constitute the ‘long tail’ of innovation.”
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