Innovation in business
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According to Baregheh et al, innovation is a multi-layered tool where ideas are converted into improved processes, or commodities, or results or services (2009). In a hyper- competitive environment, organisations rely on innovation as a vehicle to further advance, thrive, challenge, and maintain a comparative advantage over other organisations in the same field.
According to Humanitarian Innovation Fund, the Bessant and Tidd model of innovation are four intertwined complementary components, where positive change is necessary to secure a conducive environment for sustainable innovation in an organisation as follows (2014):
Position innovation where changes in the context of how clients perceive the product and how the product is communicated would push staff to further innovate. For instance, by safeguarding the social and ecological issues in the innovation product Iife-cycle (issues of child labour etc.), the organisation protects its credibility and guarantees future investments. Also, ensuring quality sustainable products will positively change clients’ perceptions, and prompt staff to innovate.
Process innovation that not only covers leadership styles, approaches, and corporate culture, but also the techniques: With the participation of staff, management to develop a sustainable strategy with focused, well understood and accepted goals that embraces innovation, while allocating sufficient resources (human and financial). This creates an environment that enables the organisation to better comprehend, predict and respond to the changing environment that shapes the competitive edge; The flexibility and ability to re-organise the organisational structure towards a more decentralised structure that ensures team autonomy and enhances the organisation’s ability and capacity to innovate (i.e. use of technology); Senior management’s flexibility, commitment, support and willingness to take calculated risks;
A performance appraisal system (PAS) in place to promote a culture, where staff show willingness and commitment to change, and linked to intrinsic and / or extrinsic incentives; and The external and internal pressures coupled with the changing external environment drive staff to further innovate. Paradigm innovation where mental models change to promote an innovative environment that will: Ensure integration and exchange of information internally and externally since innovation should initiate from client problem identification and finding creative solutions where the agency should (Koch, 2013): a. Promote cross functional teams, where the research and development department as well as other departments work together depending on the type of product in the supply chain, fostering a sense of ownership and commitment to the product; b. Teams to make use of knowledge and research results from external sources, whether from research organisations or information from the target audience and reuse it in adapting the product according to the needs or in developing future products, thus increasing efficiency of innovation.
Product innovation that is based on the demands and needs of clients while ensuring quality and sustainability of innovation, will motivate staff and will create an innovative environment.
Organisations should have controls or barriers in place to ensure innovations advance its strategic goals, which include: Speed is an essential control mechanism, organisations however, should balance between quality of product and speed to market to safeguard its credibility while meeting its clients’ needs (competitive edge); Create control mechanisms for sustainable product development that will complement the research tools, directing decisions towards a more sustainable innovative product (Hallstedt, 2013); Establish innovation teams to provide oversight and guidance; Develop measures to mitigate possible conflicts between teams or members of a team; Link the reward mechanism to the PAS; and
Self- control mechanism for senior managers, where they should exercise self-control by monitoring their saying and actions to ensure consistency of innovative messaging (Kuczmarski, 1996).
During the beginning of the current conflict, children were not able to attend school. Based on the needs of the children, and the external pressures, UNICEF in partnership with the Ministry of Education used a multifaceted approach to innovation. Six ‘remedial education’ worksheets covering four subject areas, math, science, Arabic and English Languages for students in grades 1-6 were developed.
The position of UNICEF was clear, to safeguard the reputation of UNICEF by ensuring the highest level of efficiency, ensuring fast completion, and quality of content that is apolitical and serves the education needs of children. While the Ministry wanted to include some political issues in the books. The latter created some challenges between both teams, which was handled strategically, by placing the best interest of children as a common priority between both organisations.
For the process, UNICEF provided autonomy to its cross functional team, which consisted of research, education, communication, supply and finance officers. UNICEF management was committed, focused, flexible and secured the necessary resources (human and financial), while the ministry secured an integrated autonomous team. An integrated team between both organisations, known as ‘innovation team’ was also created and responsible for the oversight and guidance. The first phase of the project was developed, pretested and distributed to a specific area. Intrinsic rewards highly motivated the team. The high level of appreciation from the Minister, Head of UNICEF, the community and the children was a major motivating factor.
For the paradigm innovation, both teams ensured inter and intra knowledge integration. And during the second phase, the lessons learned from the evaluation of the first set of worksheets, were used to further improve the worksheets (incremental innovation). This secured a better quality folder, and a new product was produced (an interactive e-remedial worksheets). It is noteworthy that the worksheets were used in other Arab countries suffering from conflict, such as Iraq.
In a hyper-competitive environment, whether profit or non-profit organisation, management must foster a sustainable innovative culture in order to survive, grow and have a comparative advantage over others. While disruptive innovation is the most complex, all innovations require a set of actions that will ensure quality, sustainable and innovative products or services. And in order to further enhance gains from innovation, it is best that organisations use various components of innovations (process, position, product, and paradigm) (Doran, 2012).
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Baregheh, A. et al (2009), ‘Towards a multidisciplinary deﬁnition of innovation’. Management Decision, [Online], 47(8), pp.1323-1339. Available from: http://www.emeraldinsight.com.ezproxy.liv.ac.uk/journals.htm?issn=0025-1747&volume=47&issue=8&articleid=1811622&show=html (Accessed: 10 July 2014)
Child, J. Organisation: Contemporary Principles and Practice (2005), Blackwell Publishing pages 380-387 Doran, J. (20120, ‘Are differing forms of innovation complements or substitutes?’. European Journal of Innovation Management, [Online], 15 (3), pp.351- 371. Available from: http://www.emeraldinsight.com.ezproxy.liv.ac.uk/journals.htm?issn=1460-1060&volume=15&issue=3&articleid=17042797&show=html (Accessed: 10 July 2014)
Hallstedt, S. (2013), ‘Key elements for implementing a strategic sustainability perspective in the product innovation process’. Journal of Cleaner Production, [Online], 51, pp 277-288. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.liv.ac.uk/science/article/pii/S095965261