With the growth in the innovation processes and the need for trained sensitized employees, understanding of the innovation process is becoming critical to business operations. A trained sensitized employee will be able to recognize the problems or opportunities in the innovation process and be able to help guide the business through the process. These trained employees become key contributors to the success of any business because they are able to identify problems before problems occur. This understanding allows these trained individuals to contribute innovative solutions to business operations. In this article, we explore some key ideas to help us understand the importance of understanding the innovation process.
Linear approaches to innovation: We have all heard the stories about the great engineers, inventors or creators who “invented” something way before others thought of it. Often these innovators will get into what they believe is the solution first and then go out and do a controlled test to see if their approach to solving the problem was correct. Then they start to take further steps to improve on their original approach. Some of these approaches to innovation are: using trial and error approaches, linear processes, incremental approaches and non-linear approaches. We can learn from these examples how to approach and evaluate different innovation approaches.
Open innovation processes: Many innovations do not result in significant change when introduced in a new environment. For example, many medical researchers in infectious disease have been developing antibiotics for years with little impact on how the drugs are used in practice. Because these researchers were not taking into account the barriers that might keep people from taking their antibiotics, they did not consider the fact that people would not take their drugs unless there was an available alternative to antibiotics. Because of this lack of attention to the issues surrounding the new technologies, they did not change considerably in the way they carried out their innovation processes.
Linear approaches: It takes time to develop a new technological solution. In principle, it takes time to improve upon what has already been done. This is true in innovation processes as well. If the process does not focus on changing the process so that it becomes faster, easier, and cheaper, then the innovation process will be ineffective. The same holds true for introducing new technological methods.
Non-linear approaches: Rapid and open innovation models can lead to significant changes, but this requires a lot of upfront capital and funding. It is not feasible in many cases. Most of the time it is more expensive to change an existing business model than to develop new technology. This holds true especially for the larger firms who have access to a large amount of capital. It also means that the results of the reengineering process will not be as quickly observable as desired. On the other hand, if you go with a non-linear or slow approach, then you can change the system over time as you implement the better solution.
Change frameworks: Changing the framework conditions is necessary for an innovation process to work. If you start with a simple change that does not require a large amount of capital and if there are no major risks associated with the change, then it is likely that your efforts will succeed. The framework conditions have to be dynamic too. Otherwise, it will not matter how much money you have available to spend on your innovation management team because you will not be able to make the kind of radical changes that you need to make. For example, the automobile industry might be able to innovate by making small changes to their production processes, but if they are not willing to do this in order to reduce their cost base, they will not be able to compete in a free market for new innovations.
Platforms and frameworks: The fifth generation platform that has been developed by Rethink could help to improve the overall efficiency of an innovation process. By enabling multiple processes to collaborate together and to execute the same goals, you can save a significant amount of money, improve the time it takes to implement improvements, and eliminate wasted effort. The framework conditions have to be dynamic as well. Otherwise, it will not matter how much money you have available to spend on your Rethink Lab.
Open innovation model: In addition to the other things that we have mentioned in this article, you should consider whether an open innovation paradigm is right for your organization. In an open innovation paradigm, it is possible to quickly and inexpensively obtain and apply insights from your research to create solutions for problems facing your customers. These solutions can then be deployed to the marketplace for solving problems quickly and efficiently. However, the downside to this approach is that the innovations that you are able to identify and incorporate into the marketplace are almost always generic and therefore you are not really offering anything unique to your customers or clients. In a more closed innovation model, where the processes are standardized and controlled, you can be more specific in what you can do because you know ahead of time which approaches will work well and which will not.