Radical or breakthrough innovations – what is it?

By 16. September 2007 No Comments

There are a lot of consultants and trainers in the field of innovation and also a lot of new studies. Some point out the effect of uncertainty. „The study further indicated that while any innovation is typically characterized by high levels of market and technical uncertainties, radical innovation also carries high levels of organizational and resource uncertainty that must be managed for the project to be successful.“ Find the study

A lot of people I talk to recently are sure, that all kind of innovation is actually a change process and it takes more than the development team to change – it is more or less the culture of the organisation itself.

My friend Waltraut Ritter puts another angle towards innovation – she sees intersection between innovation and Knowledge. She said: „I am exploring the intersections between innovation and knowledge management and work with local and foreign companies trying to source know-how in India and China. Where are emerging centres of excellence in R&D and knowledge creation in Asia? Where will world class knowledge centres develop? That’s a big question for R&D managers in (Western) companies. Through this work I found that innovation is often still understood as technical or product innovation, not as social “thing”. The early phase of innovation and knowledge creation often starts with informal discussions in a stimulating environment. How do we know that something exciting is happening in a team of product developers or R&D staff or between a group of software developers and customers? Looking for new ideas on innovation, I came across an inspiring book, called “The Medici Effect” by Frans Johansson. The book has been translated into a kind of a game, a guided power dialogue on how innovations happen in organisations. Read her last interview in Malaysia about KM.

This cooresponds very nicely to a much older study.I found a very interesting remark in Karl Erik Sveibys latest book Treading lightly, where he points out the 5 reasons who are known for years but are still so valid:

5 Reasons why Innovation are accepted or not

Innovation researchers usually identify at least five factors that determine how inventions are accepted by societies.

1. tangible economic advantage compared with existing technology.

2. easily and tangible advantages of an existing new technology, Weapon technology tends to spread much faster than other technology. Bows and arrows medieval warefare.

3. compatibility with existing tangible investments is the third factor. England was late in electrifying street lighting because of the huge investments already made in gas pipes.

4. Compatibility with existing social values and beliefs. American farmers value production-efficiency very highly, so soil preservation innovations tends to make a backseat. Intangible value factors – qwerty keyboard of typewriting, invested in 1873 to slow down the speed of the typist because the mechanism of the early typewriters could not cope with the speed of experienced users. Today, attempts to introduce better keyboards are still being rejected , mainly because of the intangible investment in typing skills already made by typist and typing teachers.

5. Complexity is a factor that reduces adoption of innovations. A new technology that is difficult to understand or that requires considerable skill to learn spreads more slowly.

Finally, innovation researchers identify the fifth factor in how innovations are accepted by societies as intangible value such as a social or status value. A modern example is fashion and design. There is no economic advantage in buying fashion jeans, and designer frames do not help us the see better, but people are happy to pay double the price for them anyway.

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