Why The Innovation Revolution?

Just about every company, since the Industrial Revolution began in the late 1800s, has wished to improve its level of innovation.  How to be a better innovator has been a subject of study for decades.

It was not until the early 2000s however, that collective industry demand for “better innovation” reached a level so as to spawn a revolution in the slowly evolving body of knowledge.  Why then?  Many factors contributed.

In the early 1980s, industry began shifting from a focus on manufacturing and operations excellence to a focus on R&D and Product Development excellence.  The first articles on competing through product development excellence appeared in 1983.  In 1986, Robert Cooper introduced the first “Stage-Gate” framework in his book “Winning On New Products.”  Initially designed to improve “over the wall” from engineering to manufacturing, the framework rapidly evolved to be an end-to-end process from concept to customer.  With an end-to-end framework now available to all industries, the time compression and/or Time-To-Market quest began.  By the late 1990s, some companies were moving so fast that they were losing potential ROI by replacing their own products too quickly.  As a result of the extreme time emphasis, the design communities had even less time for free thinking. Having less time ran contrary to many of the fundamental values as to why engineers, scientists, and designers went into their profession.  There was no longer as much time or budget to innovate.  A “push back” began to emanate from design communities.

Two other major industry initiatives, Six Sigma and Lean for product development, affected development communities in a similar manner.  Lean resulted in fewer people to do the same work, and had some overhead to measure and monitor capabilities.  Six Sigma resulted in many additions to the requirements of executing a product development process, while focusing efforts to eliminate all sources of unnecessary variation.  Experimentation and variation are necessary for innovation and invention.

Globalization across industries also contributed, for good and not so good reasons.  When products could get knocked off without the ability to enforce the intellectual property, companies had to improve their cycles of innovation and learning to get and to stay ahead.  At the same time, there were now many more competitors addressing what once were largely captive geographic markets.  New entrants wished to be better than the current market players.  Current market players wished to be better to stave off new entrants.

The ability of just about anyone to develop Software, combined with the advent of the Internet, was also a giant driver.  Many classic industries were under siege by companies that either delivered their products or services in a different way, or that added additional value into products through software and/or internet connectivity.

The confluence of Time-To-Market, Six Sigma, Lean, Globalization, Software Emergence, and Internet Emergence during the 1980s and 1990s were the primary driving forces that lead to an innovation revolution in the 2000s.

The 12th R&D-Product Development Innovation Summit, April 7-9, 2015, offers a current snap shot of the progress in the development and maturation of the Innovation Body of Knowledge during the past fifteen years.  GGI espouses no methodology of our own at the Summit.  Our sole goals are to look at what has taken place, to cull out what works, and to identify what companies are adopting into practice. The Summit, a defined three day curriculum targeted to decision makers and thought leaders, will address innovation and intellectual property strategies, tactics, processes, techniques, tools, and software.

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