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Innovation Management

Innovation is the process of introducing something new. This could include goods and services, as well as practices. Most innovations are driven by curiosity, creativity and inventiveness. While it is politically correct to state that innovation stems from the energy and desire to better the world, the enormous amount of innovative energy that has gone into the development of weaponry down the ages would point to a totally different set of drivers.

Innovation has been applied with great success in industry and business and its relevance in today’s globalised world is greater than ever before. This essay focuses on innovation management in commercial enterprises, particularly on the areas of responsibility of innovation managers. Many pathbreaking developments have arisen from innovations in areas of technology, leading experts to argue that innovation managers should restrict their efforts to technological innovations.

This assignment looks at the various facets of innovation in commercial enterprises and analyses the correctness of restricting the scope of activity of innovation managers to a specific area like technological innovation. 1. Introduction The phenomenal growth of western economic and political power in the last three hundred years owes much of its success to innovation. In the 1800s the ratio of affluence of

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Europe and North America to the other countries of the world was in the region of 2:1 and possibly 1. 5: 1 for China and India.

Today the ratios are vastly distorted and could go up to 400: 1 for countries like Switzerland and Mozambique. While colonialism and suppression have had much to do with this unfortunate situation, much of the economic surge and political dominance achieved by western nations and their business corporations are due to successful innovations and their management. The successes achieved by businesses in the United States is of particular note.. Innovation was fostered and managed in these societies in many spheres, in technology, economics, business and government policy.

Innovation can be typically understood as a process that involves the successful introduction of something new and useful, and in the organisational context, something that can be converted into achieving and maintaining competitive advantage. It could include the introduction of new or changed products or services or refer to fresh methods, techniques or practices. (Conceptualising Innovation, 2007) In current business language innovation is often used as a catch all word to include improvements and inventions.

Many product and service improvements are often termed to be innovations. Likewise sometimes the designing of new tools is sometimes referred to as innovation. While differentiating these concepts is often difficult, it would be most appropriate to associate innovations in business organisations with the successful introduction of change that would increase the competitive advantage of the organisation by increasing value, both to the customer or producer.

Innovation can be linked to changes in efficiency, productivity and quality, introduction of products or services, and their positioning in the market. In recent years some management experts have argued that Innovation Managers should primarily focus on technological innovations to ensure maximum contribution from structured internal processes, which aim to optimise innovation. It is the objective of this essay to analyse the implications of such statements and assess their validity in the organisational as well as in the broader economic context.

2. Commentary In todays increasingly globalised world, marked by the rapid economic emergence of China and India, western economies have come to realise that the major differentiating factor capable of keeping their noses ahead in the economic stakes will be their capacity to innovate. India’s indigenous space programme has been a revelation whereas China has just demonstrated its ability to blow satellites out of the sky.

These countries are moving sharply on the road to development of skills and knowledge, hitherto the preserve of European and North American nations. Business organisations in the western world understand that companies cannot afford to wait any longer for innovations to happen. New technology is the driver of growth in the emerging environment of a knowledge-based society. Innovating must therefore become a continuous process, propelling companies towards higher planes and newer benchmarks; thus, the need for institutionalising and managing innovation.

The most successful companies are those that invest in applying technology to add value to their products, services or processes, by undertaking or collaborating in original research and development, by adapting and enhancing existing technology or by procuring or transferring technology for the benefit of the company. (Technology Innovation Strategy, 2006) Technological innovation is possibly one of the most complex and challenging tasks that confront organisations. It comprises of the whole or part of the journey that starts with ideas and ends in commercial application of goods or services.

Technological innovation is different from technology invention. An inventor is not tantamount to an innovator. Only when invention is integrated with economic activities and economic benefits are brought about, can final innovation be achieved. The motivating force of technological innovation comes from the market, its success or failure has to be tested by the market. Technological innovation is, in essence, the combination of the technological opportunity and the market opportunity.

Anyone who is able to accurately grasp this combination and successfully introduce it into the market will succeed in innovation. (Opinion, 2000) Markets are obviously the starting point and end destinations of all technological innovations in business enterprises. It is enormously difficult to constantly identify market needs for such innovations, work at developing such innovations and then introducing them in the market. In many cases valuable research lacks a market basis and goes waste leading to waste of scientific and technological research.

At the same point of time organisations realise that reducing the pace of technological innovation could lead to being overtaken by competitors who could gain competitive advantage in product features, costs and in speed to market for newer developments. Google is a prime example of a company that is successfully working on innovation. New products like Google Earth, which have flowed from the company have not just taken the company to stratospheric levels but have made it possible for the company to impact global events.

Management of technological innovation involves the creation of systems that encourage creative work and independent innovation. The creation of good operational mechanisms for technological innovation need to ensure that while creativity and independent thinking is encouraged through organisational atmosphere as well as incentives, the work should closely connect to the organisation, existing products and market needs. Innovation activities in commercial organisations are distinctly different from research projects at engineering colleges.

They have to be much more focussed, need enormous creativity and independent thinking, yet be constrained by organisational factors. At all points of time innovation managers are also aware of their enormous responsibilities and the costs that ride on the success of their efforts. Management of technological innovation involves not only technological development but also technological adaptation, speed to market being of the essence in the commercial exploitation of any recent innovation.

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