An Executive Guide to the Winter 2019 Issue

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Grow Faster by Changing Your Innovation Narrative

George S. Day and Gregory P. Shea (Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania)

Companies aspiring to be organic-growth leaders in their industries have abundant advice to follow. They can emulate the practices of giants like Amazon, Starbucks, and 3M, and adopt a host of popular innovation prescriptions — use design thinking, act more like a lean startup, cocreate with customers, and so on. Though much of this well-meant advice has its merits, it often leads to patchwork interventions with disappointing results.

It’s better to start with a coherent, affirming narrative about how the business is equipped to innovate for growth. Of course, once that message is in place, the company must reinforce it with action.

The authors tested 18 widely touted levers that companies could pull to support their innovation narratives and identified the four that organic growth leaders use most to stay ahead of competitors: (1) investing in innovation talent, (2) encouraging prudent risk-taking, (3) adopting a customer-centric innovation process, and (4) aligning metrics and incentives with innovation activity.


Key Words for Digital Transformation

Shantanu Narayen (Adobe), interviewed by Paul Michelman (MIT SMR)

By many rights, one might have expected to find Adobe on the register of companies disrupted by digital transformation. And yet the 35-year-old software developer has persevered — even excelled — by embracing the very technological forces (think cloud computing, mobile technology, platforms, IoT) that could well have been the harbingers of demise for a legacy producer of packaged software designed for the desktop.

In conversations that took place via videoconference and email, MIT Sloan Management Review editor in chief Paul Michelman asked Adobe chairman and CEO Shantanu Narayen to share his thoughts on several key words related to Adobe’s journey: communication, artificial intelligence, platforms, expectations, and uncertainty.


The Promise of Targeted Innovation

Marcel Corstjens (INSEAD), Gregory S. Carpenter (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University), and Tushmit M. Hasan (University of Texas)

The largest consumer goods companies each spend more than $1 billion annually on R&D. What have they gotten in return for their hefty outlays? On average, virtually nothing from a sales perspective. An industry analysis found that the sector’s biggest R&D spenders saw no appreciable impact on revenue. That’s troubling for companies whose growth has plateaued over the past five years.

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