Innovation refers to coming up with new ideas or products that are yet to be invented or used by anyone else, especially from a competing company. The main aim of innovation is to disrupt or redirect the market. For instance, when a company launches a new product, the consumers of that market sector direct their interest to it. As a result, innovation is regarded as a platform that allows a company to rebrand. Competition in common markets has made innovation an important factor in the business organisation. Most companies and organisations invest in managers and teams that can utilize various aspects of technology so as to achieve a competitive advantage. In order to become viable, innovation has to offer a certain advantage over what it seeks to replace. If not, there is a risk that users will have little incentive to implement or use it. Therefore, the major cost of an innovation apart from the need to learn new skills, convenience or finance, is the greater importance of creating potential benefits and rewards. This paper seeks to discuss whether firms can manage innovation and thereby establish methods that can aid the process of innovation and new product development.
Keywords: innovation, technology, managers, management
Innovation management can determine an organisation's development processes. During product development, companies often face various challenges some of which include; designing, branding, and marketing. In the 21st century, technology has brought about new ways through which innovation can be managed. As a result, the viability of a given organisation depends on its ability to adapt to technologies in a timely manner. Different market sectors have dissimilar challenges. With the rise of technology public and private stakeholders have been trying to come up with ways of setting up international co-operation with the main aim of building up innovation capacities. Innovation plays a crucial role especially in high-technology products, managers of companies that deal with such are always a task to ensure that they are up-to-date with technology. Microsoft, which is an example of such companies, has mentioned that their success has depended on their control of sales, profits, and innovation. This paper will identify ways through which firms can manage innovation so as to improve sales and profits.
Product Development Process
As mentioned above, in a world that is advancing significantly in technology and innovation, the success of a company greatly depends on whether it can effectively manage innovation. According to CITE, most managers spearhead technical innovation by utilizing education and experience. There have been several studies that have been done on how new technology can be implemented in the workplace. The first example is the Stage-Gate model that was developed by Cooper (Cooper, 1990). This method is considered the most applied given that the model can be customised to fit the needs of any given organisation. Essentially, the model set up a roadmap that guides the development of a new product. It describes common processes that need to be adhered to by project teams and company managers in executing a new product development process (NPD). It entails the following steps;
(i) Concept development
(ii) Set up of a business case
(iii) Product development
(iv) Validation and testing
(v) Product launch
(vi) Post-launch review
(Popper, Velasco & Popper, 2017)
The second example is the Cyclic Innovation Model (CIM) which was developed by A.J Berkhout. The model describes various factors that affect the innovation process in different worlds. The main idea behind the model is that the innovation process is not linear but cyclical. Therefore, unlike liner innovation model, this methodology does not take into account investments or technological development; it is the direct opposite of the Stage-Gate model. Instead, the CIM model factors in economic variables that are considered key to the successfulness of innovation. It consists of four main worlds; the centre (entrepreneurs), the right (business sector), the left (science), and the bottom (market belong to specific businesses). These four worlds interrelate in order to bring about the completion of the innovation process. For instance, the entrepreneurs introduce new ideas and information to initiate innovation (Berkhout & Van Der Duin, 2007).
Although the two models differ in how innovation is derived, the bottom line is that innovation creates or breaks a company. As stated above, the Stage-Gate model is the most implemented approach in the quest to manage innovation; the reason being that technology is at a driving factor in the model. According to Long (2018), the implementation of new technology in order to drive innovation must overcome; the inescapable dual role, the various internal target markets, the legitimate resistance to change, the extent of promotion, the need for overall responsibility, and the choice of implementation.
A Dual Role
Commonly, those tasked with managing technological changes play the role of technical developers and implementers. In most companies, after the development of technology, less technically skilled but knowledgeable workforce is left to apply the technology in various processes within an organization. However, in reference to the lattice organization, Bill Gore, co-founder of W. L. Gore & Associates Inc., states that in practice, most users are often unwilling or are unable to take full responsibility of an introduced technology (Manz, Shipper & Stewart, 2009. Therefore, if the desired innovation is to be achieved, there is a need for the person responsible for implementation, whether in the developmental, user organization or intermediary level, to come up with an effective hand-off process. It is the responsibility of a manager in charge to integrate the needs of both the developers and users; this will significantly facilitate the implantation process (Hosseini et al., 2017)
According to Piercy (2018), as much as involving users in the implementation of a new technology is important, the need for timing, proper timing, and user involvement is also crucial. For instance, if a software developer designs a program that is still at the prototype stage, an appropriate user design can allow prospective users to try out the program. An effective communication loop can allow the developers to gain feedback from the potential users and thereby make necessary improvement to their development. The process can go on until the users are certain that the new technology is workable and viable. The users can ask the developers to, for example, incorporate their preferences. Consequently, the technology that will be designed will improve incentive as the users would feel involved in its development of a technology (Li et al., 2018).
Framework for Information
Another instrumental aspect of facilitating innovation is gathering critical product information. According to Hislop, Bosua, and Helms (2018), for the implementation process to feasible, managers must design an iterative framework that will guide decisions on how or when required information from different groups affected by innovation has to be collected. Kasemsap (2017) refers to such a framework as â€˜accordion-like' because it entails that a process of; search for information, pause and digest it, and thereafter another active search period; the cycle can repeat until there is an acquired satisfaction. It is important to note that the information obtained through the framework can vary at different stages of the implementation process. In order to manage this, it is necessary to coordinate the iterative work of information gathering, this role can be played by the implementation manager.
Technology is dynamic in that it is constantly changing. It takes a proactive management to be able to stay in front or at least at-bar with technology. One of the best ways to sustain a competitive advantage is to ensure product innovation. As the competitive environment continues to change, the systematic impacts of new technologies also become more pronounced. People tasked with keeping that in check, the managers, are set to face a distinctive set of challenges. They will not only have to make their companies flexible enough for change, but they will also have to engage in a continuous learning process; this way they will know when and how to implement a technology change to the benefit of innovation and the resultant competitiveness.
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