[EAS]Innovation Strategy

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Wed Nov 21 18:59:20 EST 2001

Subject:   Innovation Strategy

(from INNOVATION, 21 November 2001)

Now is the time for companies to do things that were difficult when
markets  were expecting steady increases in numbers, says Michael
Porter, director  of the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at
Harvard Business  School. He is a contributor to the World Economic
Forum's Global  Competitiveness Report 2001-2002, and sees the current
economic slowdown as  a cyclical, not structural, process. "...It's
very important for managers  to see this period ... as an opportunity.
In this era of low expectations,  in this era where results are going
to be bad anyway, this is the moment,  we believe, that it's very
important to kind of rediscover, and revisit,  and refocus on
strategy. Any company that's making across-the-board cuts in  cost is
really missing a tremendous opportunity to use this period to  really
get it right strategically, to focus on those parts of its business 
where it has a real advantage, to kind of shed some of the barnacles
that  were created during the Internet experiment and the excessive
efforts to  grow that many companies felt compelled to pursue over the
last four or  five years," he says. (Harvard Business School Working
Knowledge 12 Nov 2001)

Research and development divisions of major corporations are turning
their  innovative spirit on their own organizations, devising new
cost-effective  processes and structures. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer
built a $4.4 billion  Discover Technology Center in Cambridge, Mass.,
where scientists team up  with academic researchers and small biotech
firms. Key to its success are  its size (just 70 researchers) and
location, at the center of the  Boston-area biotech hothouse -- and a
healthy distance from Pfizer's main  R&D facility in Connecticut.
Meanwhile, Intel is supporting a series of 20-  to 30-person "lablets"
adjacent to top universities, each focusing on a  promising young
technology. Intel is encouraging its researchers not only  to follow
projects to market, but to cycle back to the lab until they have 
further ideas. And IBM's new Emerging Business Group proposes to offer
 small startup firms access to IBM's extensive research in information
 technology. In return, IBM may get a small amount of cash or equity,
but  the main point is to encourage the smaller firms to build their
own new  technologies on top of IBM software and services. (Technology
Review Dec 2001)

This is also a reminder of two worthwhile online publications,
"Working Knowledge" from the Harvard Business School and "Technology
Review" from MIT. 
The latter used to be on my short list of must-reads. Unfortunately a
couple of years ago they abandoned a more policy-oriented editorial
view to become a rather breathless booster of all things innovation.
Technology Review in its present form (a mix of WIRED, Scientific
American and Business Week) is still useful, but don't come without
your critical thinking ability.  --PJK

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