April 2008 - Posts

Welcome to the Innovation@Merage Blog
The Paul Merage School of Business is pleased to provide this blog for discussing information on all aspects of innovation and how it is impacting businesses and academics. We hope you will find our blog to be an engaging way to communicate about the latest topics on thought leadership.  

  • Insights from the World Innovation Forum

    World Innovation ForumI just returned from the World Innovation Forum in New York, where hundreds of business people and academics gathered to hear the experts in the field. MacArthur Genius Award winner Amory Lovins told us how to reduce reliance on oil through eliminating waste in our engineering (oddly enough, research sponsored by big oil companies). Business guru Gary Hamel explained why innovation has become the mantra of every business trying to survive in a global economy. Andy Cohen escaped from a straight jacket faster than Houdini to tell us how to escape from our own thinking traps.

    The most fascinating insights, however, came from Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind. According to Pink, for the last century, the world rewarded analytical skills. If you could make it through any professional school—law, medicine, business, engineering—you had a ticket to the upper middle class. Today, any knowledge that can go into a spread sheet will migrate to the huge masses of educated people around the world who are willing to analyze data for a fraction of the salaries we command here. 

    Value today, he demonstrates, will only come from people who can see the bigger picture and anticipate the future. The analytical skills taught in graduate schools and executive courses today are necessary, but not sufficient.

    At Merage, I see this new focus: learning the soft skills to manage virtual teams, hands-on innovation projects in design classes with Alladi Venkatesh and strategy classes with Leonard Lane, plus the latest stories from real innovators in the Edge class. Across the whole curriculum, innovation is an increasingly important part of all we teach, so that we’re creating the leaders of tomorrow.

    Lynda Lawrence is an innovation consultant with Ideaworks Consulting. She teaches Strategic Innovation and Design Management at the Merage School at UCI, and is an advisor to the Beall Center.

  • Innovation Traits

    Wikibranding blogI just read David Murphy’s Wikibranding blog today titled “Should you innovate during a recession?”  David’s post resonated with me as he equates the need for continuous innovation with not just “bet-the-ranch new products” but, also with “small, but meaningful, improvements in the customer experience”, “innovating new business processes” or “a smart cross promotion” which in alignment with my last blog post on the subject of “recognizing innovation”.

    But, what really caught my eye is David’s list of the six traits that effective marketing innovations share.  His stated traits come from the perspective of solving real customer needs bases on creative research and meeting a sustainable business case.  I encourage you to view the details on his blog post.  I will pick up on this theme of “the genesis of business innovation in my next article.”

    Mike Mata is a member of the Advisory Board for the UCI Don Beall Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

  • How Do You Recognize Innovation?

    recognize innovationThe popular press often associates “innovation in business” with the process of new product ideation.  And, the definition of innovation is regularly tied to the “home run” idea that launches a company to the forefront of an industry.  These published tales are then packaged together with the profile of a single flamboyant, iconoclastic or unexpected innovator.

    I suggest that “strategic innovation” is an overall process that sustains the growth of existing organizations as well as launches new entities.  Such a framework comprehends not just the occasional generation of a major disruptive product introduction but, also the range of continuous innovation necessary to sustain competitive advantage.  This perspective spans significant new product or service introductions all the way to go-to-market innovations with leading edge value chain improvements in between.

    Additionally, I am partial to a definition I saw many years ago which outlined the opportunities for innovation as falling into one of three categories:

    • Significant new functionality for a well-know offering
    • Novel form for delivering a well-known functionality
    • Significant new functionality in an completely new product or service

    I would add that what makes innovation more or less “strategic” for a particular enterprise is whether the concept represents a potentially, sustainable material impact for the organization (either stand-alone or, as an enabler of other revenue or differentiation sources) when commercialized. 

    Mike Mata is a member of the Advisory Board for the UCI Don Beall Center for Entrepreneurship