New Directions in Innovation Management

The discipline of innovation management is still evolving - yes technologists and scientists have always done invention and product development, and entrepreneurs know how to bend markets to their will. But a discipline to stand alongside marketing, logistics and HR, that’s new. A report from HEC Business School is a welcome overview of how that discipline is taking shape.

When people talk, or write, about innovation there is often a missing link. Whichever method or process you follow the difference between success and failure can be something as obvious as where innovation sits in your organisation. Over the past few years innovation has begun to find a place in the list of horizontal functions. It is no longer a preserve of product development. How close is it though to be being embedded in the psyche as well as the corner office?

HEC conducted a web-based survey to find out. The survey was conducted with 39 innovation managers from 24 pioneering companies including Shell International, Ernst and Young, Sony and Renault.

The list looks decidedly European but the results set an important benchmark for future US and Asian studies.

HEC make the point that innovation used to be a process managed by a few people but is now on its way to being a transverse function. What are the strategic objectives of this new function? By and large to engineer growth and to provide differentiation. Innovation as a discipline is also supposed to break down silos but as HEC point out silos come in three groups:

  • Functions closed off from each other
  • Management layers not communicating with each other
  • And suppliers, internal experts, clients and end- customers

Simultaneously breaking down communications barriers across these groups is an ambitious target, especially given resistance by middle managers. Yet HEC discovered that innovation functions have enjoyed slightly increased budgets through the recession and expect significant increases in 2011 as they prepare their organisations for renewed growth.

Another trends is the internalisation of spending, away from consultants towards the innovation office. As yet most innovation managers are relatively new to their posts and are still working on developing their methods. A third of innovation managers hold their post alongside another role which tends to give them direct access to executive management but that still leaves two thirds without such direct access. Top level support remains a challenge.

The value of this report: By making the functions of innovation more explicit it should be easier to address them, and to develop innovation management practice.

The executive summary and full report can be downloaded from the HEC wbesite.

By Haydn Shaughnessy

About the author

Haydn ShaughnessyHaydn Shaughnessy, senior editor, has worked at the epicentre of innovation in a 25 year career spanning journalism, consultancy and research management. He began his technology career as a manager of application research in broadband, mobile and downstream satellite services and has maintained a continuous production of analysis and intellectual material around innovation since then, having written on Wired Cities, Fibre to the Home, Future Search Engines, and international collaboration. He is an emerging thought leader in systemic innovation building on his PhD research in large scale economic transformations. He was previously a parter at The Conversation Group, the leading global social technologies consultancy where he helped companies such as Alcatel Lucent, Volvo, General Motors, Symbian Foundation, and Unilever adapt to the current transformations in the global digital economy. He has written for the Wall St Journal, Forbes.com, Harvard Business Review, and many newspapers as well as making documentaries for the BBC, Channel 4 and RTE. His consultancy and research work encompasses changing enterprise structures, new business models and long-term trends in attitudes. He is in demand as a speaker on the impact of changing attitudes on business and on gearing innovation to new consumer requirements. More information about Haydn can be found at fiveideasthatmatter.com
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