Innovation connotes the changes and ideas that create a totally new dimension of performance in an organization. It is founded on the concept of creativity and careful implementation of new ideas that are translatable at the economic cost to satisfy a specific need of the consumers. Today, the demand for innovation has increased tremendously in each industry sector and has become the area of concern for senior management. Innovation needs a deliberate information application, initiative and imagination to drive greater and different satisfaction from the utilized resources. It will, therefore, entail all the processes of generating new ideas and translating them into useful products. Often in business firms, innovation is the result of application of technical and scientific ideas to bridge the gap between customer expectations and needs and the firm’s product performance.
This paper looks at the two broad types of innovation, the way innovation relates to the field of management and how it is used in the management. The paper will also explore the historical theorists in this field and their early contributions, as well as the current trends in the field of innovation. Further, the study reviews a corporation with a cutting edge technology and innovativeness, how it arrived there, why they decided to innovate and its future plans. Broadly, this paper categorizes innovation into evolutionary and revolutionary innovations.
The evolutionary innovations are brought by various incremental technology advances and processes. The evolutionary innovations are of two types. The first type is continuous evolutionary innovations, which has a limited effect on the existing consumption pattern of a product (Business Dictionary). Evolutionary innovations are especially witnessed in the computer industry due to the advancement in the information technology field. The other type of evolutionary innovation is dynamic continuous innovation in which case, it evolves over many years and do have a pronounced effect on consumption practices (Lantos 289). Perfect examples of such includes hand-held computers, cameras, and fax machines.
Revolutionary Innovation/ Discontinuous Innovations
This form of innovation greatly requires user-learning as it leads to development of a totally new product that may never have hit the consumer’s mind before (Lantos 289). and often disrupts the routine of the consumers, sometimes so significantly that results in the change of behavior patterns of the consumers. An example of such is the internet innovation that once radically changed consumer behavior. Since this kind of innovation is so abrupt, the firms that undertake revolutionary innovations, such as technologies and products, bear the greatest risk because such firms have to create new market for themselves (Business Dictionary). Still in innovation, the less risky management strategy is to imitate what other firms have done, but effectively improve the innovation to fill the market, which has developed a demand for the new products. For example, Dell imitated its earlier products by inventing cheaper clones.
How Innovation Relates to Management
In the contemporary world of business, innovation has turned out to be a very important tool in gaining the competitive edge and increasing market share in the market, which is characterized by cut-throat competition. This calls for a new kind of leadership in managing innovation because innovation is the direct translation of the attitudes of the senior management (Christiansen 254). Innovation is usually misguided and misleading if there is a lack of the clear corporate strategy to achieve the objectives and mission of such company. The management is therefore charged with the responsibility of setting the context of the innovation, guiding the process, communicating the needs for the process, shielding the creative group in the organization and welcoming the needed innovative change in the organization. As such, the management is supposed to have the courage to explore and defend their positions regarding an innovation project to the board that either succeeded or failed.
As opposed to invention, innovation is carried out often in teams, which have to be effectively managed. In this context, the role of management is to provide an enabling work environment built that will encourage free sharing of ideas and personal views concerning product design and development without the unnecessary fears of a reprisal by the seniors (Christiansen 254). The management is also charged with the creation of environment for calculating, testing, securing and evaluating the viability of those upcoming new ideas in the organization. And although traditionally the bottom-up approach to innovation discovery has been predominant, firms, which intentionally need to innovate, have to take conscious steps and strategies to effect the top-down approach to innovation (Serrat 2). Innovation is being one of the scarcest resources of an organization and cannot be left unmanaged.
The innovation process is very expensive to undertake by any organization. Considering the high rate of failure of products and services in realizing the commercial value, the role of management is enormous in managing the company’s resources to the venture, as well as dealing the financial, legal, and bureaucratic constrains (Christiansen 255). In the general observation, the management is charged with a number of specific tasks geared towards encouraging innovation in their organizations. The management should create the work environment, where employees are motivated and encouraged to think of new ways of doing things, then considerably evaluating the idea before accepting or rejecting it. In the open and professional manner, the management should give feedback on whether the organization will adopt the idea or not, in which case good reasons should be communicated to avoid demoralizing the innovative minded parties (Heskett). In well managed organizations, employees at all levels are encouraged to think innovatively and are handsomely rewarded. In other organizations, managers erect suggestion boxes or other improved forms of collecting ideas so as to in-source innovation from their employees, holding the managers responsible for the continuous advancement of innovative teams by institutionalizing the team and taking responsibility of the output of the innovation teams.
Traditionally, the management has been accused of instituting negative creativity in their organizations by seeking to maintain the status quo (Heskett 1). To counter this historical fact while also cultivating a culture of innovation in the organization, the management is endowed with breaking down the functional barriers and minimizing the effects of hierarchies in the vertical inorganic organization to foster the flow of information and ideas. Innovation is always present in and around the organization and the role of management is vital in facilitating the commercialization of innovation to the business resource.
Historical Theorists in the Field of Innovation and Their Contributions
Frederick W. Taylor
Taylor is considered a controversial figure in the history of scientific management. His particular field of innovative scientific management was in industrial engineering, particularly in motion studies. The studies and ideas of Taylor are recorded as having dramatic improvements in production management. Also, Taylor is credited for the destruction of the soul of work, or dehumanizing factories, and making the laboring men into automatons (Sandrone). This was especially a turning point in history considering that the majority of factories were managed by the rule of thumb in 19th century. Taylor published his ideas in the publication called ‘scientific management’ in the year 1911.
However, with the promotion of the scientific management approach to the organizations aimed at attaining efficiency by minimizing time wastage and encouraging specialization with the aim of promoting innovation, his method has been blamed for creating the bureaucratic red-tape that has come to hinder innovations in business organizations (Sandrone).
Elton Mayo (1880-1949)
Professor Mayo is credited with a series of experiments that have later turned out to be pivotal in the management of innovations. For example, he realized that employees were more satisfied when they were involved in making decisions, rather than by short term incentives from the management. This is what is termed the Hawthorne experiment (British Library). Mayo introduced new ideas and also perfected the ideas of Taylor discussed above.
Current Trends in Innovation
Investment in Innovation Shifts to India and China
In the recent industrial and manufacturing surveys, China and India have emerged as favorite destinations for innovation investment. The Asian markets have especially emerged as the good choices due to the low levels of saturation with huge prospects of future growth in innovation (Fannin 10). China leads the statistics with 39% of respondents in favor of investment in the mainland especially on technological innovation. Majority of the technological innovative firms are already operating in these two Asian markets, expressed their intentions to expand their investments with others prompting to maintain their investments in the next three years. Research intensity has increased considerably in Asian markets, as overseas firms focus on India and China as their potential market destinations, especially in the face of the US economic crisis (Fannin 10).
Case Study: Apple Inc.
Apple Inc. is the brainchild of the late businessman Steve Jobs and technology guru Steve Wozniak. Since its incorporation on 1st April, 1977, the company has grown to be the world’s leading supplier of portable digital music players, computers, mobile communication devices and related services, software, peripherals and networking solutions (Barrile 9). This success has been attributed to the company curious knack to produce blockbuster products through highly innovative and successful business strategies.
Innovation is the essential tool in today’s global economy. It plays a significant role in enhancing an organization’s success by increasing its profits and revenues, while at the same time creating high levels of customer and stakeholder satisfaction. Studies focusing on diffusion of innovation have integrated new ways of adopting high technology products and services including personal computers, peer-to-peer music file trading, next generation products, wireless communication, wireless services as well as online games. A panel of experts attending a “Mobile World Congress” in 2008 contended that Apple Inc. had shown the greatest advancement in mobile telecommunication industry, especially with the introduction of its iPhone (Fareed 40). Adoption of Apple iPhone has been considered as the cultural icon of the digital age.
The innovativeness of Apple Inc. in the Smartphone industry has transformed the world thinking of personal productivity and communication. iPhone is the combination of a wide screen iPod, mobile phone and internet utilities that has transformed web browsing, email, mapping, entertainment and networking. Since its introduction, iPhone has been considered as the world’s most influential smart phone (Barrile 11). It has experienced a phenomenal growth in sales and popularity among the media and consumers. It has been termed as the prime subject for research in innovation. Over the last decade, Apple Inc. has managed to launch five more legitimately changing innovations including the iPod, iTunes, AppExchnage, iPad and the Apple store (Barrile 12).
Apple Inc. Innovativeness
It is undeniable that Apple has many admirers because of its mastery in design and innovation. When the name Apple Inc. is mentioned, the majority of people undoubtedly think of innovation. However, despite the huge admiration that Apple has won from the world, many fail to understand the specific strategies, which the company uses to approach innovation in order to deliver blockbuster products. Apple Inc. develops innovation using five fundamental approaches. First, the company believes that a good design is the present that is awaited in anticipation to be opened by the receiver. As a result of this understanding, Apple’s products are designed in the way that arise interests and builds up anticipation among its customers (Fareed 38). This is achieved by paying detailed attention in fitting and finishing of its mass-produced consumer products. Apple Inc. is able to be innovative by wrapping ‘great ideas inside great ideas’ that link consumer the whole experience to the present concept tracing concentric circles from core outwards.
Another strategy that the company employs is conducting paired design meetings, where teams of engineers and designers come together for weekly complementary meetings. During these meetings, brainstorming with no rules is facilitated. Attendees develop various approaches to solve the particular problem or to enhance existing designs. During these meetings, free thinking is essential (Barrile 6). Also, the production meeting is held to help put structure to the brainstormed ideas and define its how to, why and when questions.
These two meeting are continuously held throughout the development phase of any application to guarantee perfection. The free-thinking mentality gradually shifts towards a production mindset as the application progresses. A room for creative thinking is provided. At Apple Inc. ‘pony’ meetings are scheduled after every two weeks to help in education of design-makers on the explored design directions, as well as to influence their perceptions of the final product. They are referred to as ‘pony meetings’ in accordance with Lopp’s description, where senior managers dispense wisdom and advice the development team during early discussion of product specifications. These meetings are crucial in promoting innovation at Apple Inc. because they help in managing expectations of senior managers by aligning them with the team’s vision (Fareed 36). Also, they give a sense of control to senior management by having visibility in influencing the direction through intensive consultation in its decision making processes.In addition, Apple Inc. approaches innovation through its designs borne from the perceptions of the company’s design team. Apple scoffs at doing market research and prefers figuring out specific needs of its customers. The company invests in hiring smart employees with visions. It has the small team tasked with designing of its major products. The dozen to twenty member designer teams is behind the company’s genius proudest that have been delivered to the market since the iMac in 1998. The innovativeness of the company is driven by its creative world class designers.
Apple Inc. has also managed to remain innovative because it owns the entire system making it completely independent in designing and developing its products. The company owns the OS, the software, as well as the hardware making them independent on other providers for inputs (Grossman 70).This approach has made the company distinct from other electronic companies because they own the technology and have control over the critical interactions that shape overall user experience. Apple approaches innovation by focusing on certain products that are artistically and beautifully developed, making them hard to have extensive product lines. This is a risk strategy for such a large company but its small teams of designers and engineers have pulled it off by paying attention to finer details of each product (Grossman 67). This has allowed the company to lay the emphasis on perfection, which is their mission.
Apple Inc. has managed to be successful in the highly competitive world of business because it chose to be innovative in its operations. The company boasts of collaboration and control that has made them confident enough to tap into innovative approaches in designing its products. Then CEO of Apple Inc. Steve Jobs led the pack by being motivational and charismatic leader with utmost belief in himself and his team. He had a great sense of design with tendencies to hire geniuses, who were willing to deliver on a project with perfection (Grossman 68). The company is famous for hiring the smart and talented employees, who help the company to produce something that they are passionate about. The company believes that when it employees are making a product they love, then, definitely the customers will buy it. This research and development approach has made the company successful in unlocking innovative and dreaming abilities of its development and design teams. Generally, Apple Inc. employs an inter-functional coordination involving cooperation between departments like R&D, business development, marketing, manufacturing and sales to find a shared vision and smooth running of company operations.
Apple Inc. Future Plans
Considering the company’s previous tendencies of surprising its customers and competitors with new innovative products, it is quite challenging to unambiguously pinpoint future plans for its potential new products. Plans for future products largely remain Apple’s secret. The then CEO, Steve Jobs was quoted as saying that “the new products in the pipeline are the best I have ever seen in my life” (Dalrymple). This means that the company is continuously committed to bringing to market new unprecedented products built on a cutting edge technology. Suggestively, they might in the future be considering building “the ultimate, media centre”, a one of its kind for technology and innovation. It is also likely that the company’s future products will be more environmentally friendly as the world’s leading companies turn green. This is also supported by the company’s good corporate citizenship.
In addition, Apple Inc. might explore into Near Field Communication (NFC) technologies. This is especially evident from the fact that the company has filed many patents relating to use of such technologies within its devices (“Patents: Granted”). Some of the patents include those for airline ticketing and boarding pass application, a slew of mobile payment services and a concert, entertainment and sports application. Also, patents under specific service name include iBuy, iCoupons, iPay, Products+ and Grab & Go. Patents on iMusic everywhere NFC-enabled iPod, TV, Iphone and games controller (“Patents: Granted”). Therefore, it is likely that Apple Inc. is planning to venture into innovative products that will employ NFC technologies.
For ideas to be considered innovative they must transform the economic cost to satisfy consumer’s specific need. It requires a deliberate application of information, initiative and drive to achieve it through utilization of the available resources in the business environment. Innovation has evolved over time and has become one of the critical management tool utilized by companies to obtain a competitive advantage over its cut-throat competitors. Apple Inc is the perfect example of a company that has risen from the mere unknown technology firm to be the world’s leading mobile technology and communication giant. Through its persistent and guided innovation, Apple has over the years grown from a garage business to become a reputable world’s leader in the electronic industry. As the international markets increasingly become competitive, turbulent and dynamic, innovation remains the key distinctive advantage and core competency for organizations that seek to remain relevant in today’s market.