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  • Writer's pictureHuub Rutten

The Scope of Innovation Management

Updated: Apr 20, 2021

Dear Reader, take a close look at this picture for a moment..

You see 2 circles that both start with Strategies. The Outer Circle represents the Front End processes. It is in fact a supportive circle that should help the Inner Circle to survive in the market. The Inner Circle with the arrows is the “heart” of the company, there is the blood pressure to launch new products, in time, the right products for the right prices, so that sales can sell, and the plants can produce, and the company can grow. The Outer Circle is not the heart of he company, as said, but is like an oxygen provider, long term, a navigation system. It is absolutely secondary to the Inner Circle where the company makes its living. There is no reason for the Outer Circle to claim Innovation, as if there is no Innovation in the Inner Circle. No reason to be arrogant. And, oxygen can be bought from outside of the company. I believe that in the Inner Circle a lot of creativity, brilliance, professionalism can be found of top class quality: Engineering, Industrial Design, Branding, Manufacturing, and so on. For me this picture presents the scope of Innovation Management. Both Inner and Outer Circle create Innovation.

Why do I tell you this? Let me give you some background.

Just before the pandemic there was a DTIM conference in Berlin about several Innovation themes. It is a conference for Researchers mainly. I gave a presentation there. My story regarded the quite limited view many people from the Research world have on what Innovation is. Many “Front End” people belief that innovation is synonym to Idea generation, Research, Inventions, Disruptive, Radical, New. This goes back to the romantic idea that somebody with genial brains sits somewhere and shouts Eureka! because of the brilliant idea…. A beautiful self image: see me, I am a genius! The DTIM audience consists very much of Front End people and many presentations had this kind of romantic character. And with my picture I tried to tell them that they are not THE innovators.

For me Innovation is not per se romantic, radical, disruptive. For me Innovation is a continuous evolutionary process that contains a lot more than Eureka moments. Look at the evolution of Apple as an example. The evolutionary process is driven by the need to survive in a competitive market, like fish in the deep see have to adapt continuously to survive. And this is not a romantic event, it is a continuous struggle, a battle for food. I never saw an idea go to market: “Idea to Market” is an illusion. Products go to market, not ideas, products are tangible, goods that people can see, that people can sell and buy. And products are always, always a result of many components from the evolutionary past. And the decision making process to bring new products to market is not a Research process, or an Idea or Invention process. It is a process of business strategy, market research, product line management, product and feature selection, and last but not least of innovating manufacturing and distribution. Very hard and disciplined work! To convert an idea or a group of ideas into products takes a lot more than ideas.

Does this mean I don’t love research? Of course not. I like it a lot, being paid to think, invent, try, prototype, preferable without too much pressure, and companies should continuously invest in finding new technologies, processes and methodologies. But: the Front End should not claim that it is THE only force of Innovation. It is just one of many, and not even the biggest one.

For me Innovation Management covers the complete, holistic picture.

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