The Secret Of Rapid Growth Lies In “Innovation Management”

Many of the modern world’s trailblazing inventions have entered our lives by chance. Du Pont’s research team accidentally came across Teflon while they were working on a cooler. the Post-It, which ...

1.08.2005 03:00:000
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Many of the modern world’s trailblazing inventions have entered our lives by chance. Du Pont’s research team accidentally came across Teflon while they were working on a cooler. the Post-It, which is one of the most creative innovations of recent years, was originally just a run-of-the-mill adhesive. Later it became an essential office tool. Experts say that this will no longer be the case. They say that the era of ‘leaving it to chance’ is long over. Today the way to stay one step ahead of the competition is to concentrate specifically on innovation. Companies which are successful in this regard can make a difference on the market.

“Most people think that it was Thomas Alva Edison who invented the light bulb. In fact, before Edison made this invention there were many others who followed the same path as him and made a considerable contribution to the invention. No one knows the names of these people today. The most important reason is that what they did has become overshadowed by Edison’s invention. In order to ensure that this innovation reached the masses, Edison developed products which supported his invention such as the electrical system, the light sockets and fuses. Together with his team, he worked on this invention for years. But, after he had done all this, electricity had a major impact across the whole world.”

These words belong to Andrew Hargadon, who wrote the book “How Breakthroughs Happen”, which describes the surprising realities behind companies’ creative and innovative efforts. He believes that Edison succeeded in staying ahead of his rivals who were working in the same field by managing the creative process.

Today it is undoubtedly easier to manage the creative process than 125 years ago. But the number of companies who succeed in this is still extremely small. Experts say that what is important here is continual experimentation. Paul Safo, who is Research Director at a think-tank called the Future Institute says: “Creating a new innovation is a bit like creating the environment for lightning to strike twice.” In fact, these words of Safo’s underline how difficult the process of creating a new product remains.

Chance used to predominate

When we look at modern examples of trailblazing creativity, an interesting pattern appears. Most of these innovations are the result of chance.

For example, penicillin, which has blazed a trail in pharmaceuticals, was developed from a mould which accidentally grew on a culture. Initially, Teflon was known as an unsuccessful coolant. More recently, Post-It, which is often cited as an example of a creative success story,  appeared as the result of work to create a simple adhesive.

Experts believe that these examples show in recent years innovative efforts have not been well-managed. They say that in recent years companies have made very little progress when it comes to work on innovation and creativity. There are also companies which manage this process well, such as Toyota Motor, Apple, Procter & Gamble and GE. The secret that these companies share is that, even though they think that most of their efforts will be unsuccessful, they also continue with their research in the name of innovation and never give up trying.

Being the biggest is not important

Experts say that having the largest factory or the highest production capacity no longer means anything. The new way to survive is to take risks, create new ideas and manage these ideas well. In recent years Apple, the creator of the iPod, which has blazed a trail on the technology market in recent years, is one of the most successful examples of this. In 2001 the company set about creating a new product to rival the Sony Walkman. As a result of these efforts, the iPod was launched on the market.

Nine months after launching the product on the product, CEO Steven Jobs decided that it was not enough just to concentrate on the hardware side of the business. And he began to do what, until that date, everyone had regarded as impossible; namely trying to provide different songs free to consumers legally and easily. Jobs managed to succeed in realizing this dream in a short time of just two years.

Apple created an online download store from which one could download 200,000 songs. As a result of this initiative of Jobs’, Apple sold a total of 3.7 million units and the iPod became the darling of the technology sector. Jobs launched new products to support the iPod and, because he managed the process well, he achieved success.

Those who manage the creative process well

Arçelik is one of the giants of the white goods sector and a company which has acquired a reputation for creativity. In recent years in particular, the new products it has produced and its use of technology have meant that it has caught the public’s eye. In 2004 the company had a turnover of €1.915 billion and it assigns 1.5 percent of its turnover each year to R & D expenses. Its team concentrates in particular on products which are environmentally friendly, have low energy consumption, low water consumption, are a suitable price and are easy to use.

Ford is another example of a company which in recent years has established a reputation for creativity. Ford has adopted a strategy of being a ‘centre for excellence in the design and production of commercial vehicles’. Its company in Turkey is one of the few in the organization which is able to design and develop a complete vehicle. In addition to vehicle design and production, Ford also designs all the machines and moulds that are needed in production. As a result, it manages by itself the entire creative process from start to finish.

INNOVATION LESSONS FROM THE CREATOR OF THE PDA

Jess Hawkins is the inventor of the PDA, which has recently has been one of the most successful technological inventions. At the same time he is also the author of the book entitled ‘On Intelligence’. Based on his own creative experience, Hawkins has the following advice.

CREATIVITY IS LIKE BASEBALL  Creative and innovative processes do not have any set rules which have to be followed from scratch. What is important is that, once s/he has begun to work on it, the creator manages the process in the right way. S/he must accept that the process may end in failure. When I was creating a new product, I usually failed. But one must not be beaten. I believe that putting one’s name to a good innovation is like having a good score in baseball. I know that most people will not succeed in even one good hit in their entire lives. For this reason, people should not be discouraged by a few failures.

I WAITED FOR THE RIGHT TIME I used to think a lot about what would happen to my innovation after I had produced it. The most important thing is to follow the process closely after it has been created. While working on the PDA, I started off by thinking that everything in the world would be cordless and portable. In fact, I had noticed this years before but I waited for the right time.

ONE MUST TAKE EVERYTHING ONE STEP AT A TIME The basic point here is to make the subject clear in your mind and have a long-term vision. Later you must work out how you are going to realize this vision step by step. It is impossible for you to solve all of the problems immediately. In fact, if you are working on an idea which is going to make money, you must be aware that you will have to deal with a lot of problems. The key is to be ready to manage these problems.

Şeyma Öncel
soncel@capital.com.tr


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