Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Research Project

In order to compete, and even survive, in today’s marketplace, organizations must be capable of innovating. More specifically, organizations should be able to innovate in a highly effective and efficient manner. Failure to innovate can lead to several undesirable consequences from loss of customers to extinction from the marketplace. While these realizations are pervasive among organizations, many have not yet identified how to address the innovation problem.

The innovation problem can be specified as follows: identifying ideas from internal sources (e.g. employees) and external sources (e.g. customers, suppliers, academia, etc), integrating and assimilating ideas to find patterns and trends, interpreting these trends and working on them to develop new products and services, and then conducting the appropriate actions to commercialize them, all of these activities must occur in a timely and cost-effective manner.

The above innovation problem is complicated by several recent developments: (1) organizations realize that good ideas that lead to successful innovations are found outside their boundaries, in addition to their internal sources, (2) organizations work in extensive webs of networked relationships thereby relying on the capabilities of their business partners, hence they must use external capabilities to leverage and build upon ideas even if they are discovered internally, and (3) organizations have come to appreciate the need to work in distributed settings, both across geographies and industries. The innovation problem therefore cannot be managed in a local and isolated fashion; instead organizations must appreciate the global and open nature of the innovation problem.

To date, most models of innovation have focused exclusively on understanding how to leverage ideas (knowledge) from within the organization. These models have had varying levels of success; however, they are at best incomplete. Models are needed that embrace the realities of the need to tap into external sources of knowledge, use external capabilities in the innovation process, and even bring external partners into the innovation cycles, while accounting for the headaches of managing in distributed environments. This research project aims to address this need.

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