How Kodak Missed The Turn…

The first and second previous articles were the beginning of a series about Innovation Waves. This article is the third of the series, and is taking the example of Kodak to illustrate the threat that innovation waves can pose to established companies. In the mid-1970s, Steven Sasson, a young electrical engineer, was hired by Eastman Kodak, at that time the world leader in silver-based photography. He was a member of a team that was incorporating electronic commands into film cameras. He was asked to evaluate a new CCD chip from Fairchild Imaging (containing ten thousand pixels!) and took the concept so far that he actually invented the first portable digital camera. The prototype was a proof of concept but was

Read more

Knowledge for Innovation: Parallel Worlds

In the previous articles of this series, we wrote about Internal Knowledge, Time Horizon, Frontier Sciences, Academic Knowledge and Learning and Experience.  Here we deal with Parallel Worlds. Parallel worlds, shown in the figure as a box between learning and experience and the company’s in-house knowledge, contain industrial knowledge far from the standard knowledge base of the company’s own industry. The piece of knowledge may be unexpected and not present in the existing knowledge base of the company’s industry but applicable to the company’s situation. For example, a metal packaging company trying to conceive a fraud-resistant container for medicine will have a good chance of being inspired by exploring knowledge in the banknote and credit card printing industry. This is a

Read more

Knowledge for Innovation: Learning and Experience

In the previous articles of this series, we wrote about Internal Knowledge, Time Horizon, and Frontier Sciences and Academic Knowledge. Here we deal with Learning and Experience. Learning and experience, the accumulated knowledge carried by an individual, is the box shown to the left of academic knowledge in the figure. It is the sum of an individual’s education, which also belongs in the area of academic knowledge, and experience. As such, it is a complex collection peculiar to each individual. When trying to understand and explain the mysterious mechanisms that made them follow a path that nobody ever followed before them, many inventors refer to some long-ago, fortuitous event that left a mark on his or her mind. A person who

Read more

Knowledge for Innovation: Academic Knowledge

In the previous articles of this series, we wrote about Internal Knowledge, Time Horizon, and Frontier Sciences. Here we deal with Academic Knowledge. The natural fate of frontier knowledge is to rapidly pass to the most advanced laboratories and academic teams in the relevant field, as indicated by the box labeled academic knowledge and shown to the left of the one labeled frontier sciences in the figure. They then reprocess and test the new discovery and evaluate all fruitful applications and potentials extensions of the concept. A critical task usually done at this stage is the reformulation of the new knowledge into wording more accessible to a larger number of people and disseminating it via review papers and conference keynote

Read more

Knowledge for Innovation: Frontier Sciences

Knowledge is the fuel of innovation. In the previous articles we wrote about internal knowledge and about time horizon. This article is about Frontier Sciences. Further away from the daily activity of most companies, we have located the new knowledge generated by basic research or emerging application fields. We call these the frontier sciences. At the beginning nobody knows how soon this new knowledge will be relevant to industrial innovation. However, this new knowledge certainly has an intrinsic potential for creating novel combinations that will affect the industry eventually. Important discoveries penetrate industry as waves with associated delays. The typical delay and duration varies widely; electricity came as huge wave but slowly, stretching on for half a century. Conversely, it took

Read more

Knowledge for Innovation: Trends and Environment for Innovation Deployment Horizon

Knowledge is at the source of the rationale for the key decisions that shape and drive an innovation project. Relevant knowledge can come from a wide variety of sources. Winners at the innovation game are the best at rapidly seeking, filtering, digesting, and interpreting the appropriate knowledge. In the previous article we wrote about Internal Knowledge. We have positioned on the left side of the figure all knowledge related to the industrial and social environment in which a potential innovation project should be considered. This knowledge is typically acquired by a company when defining its strategy. However, when an innovative concept is proposed, it is very important to revisit the environment for the proposed project. By environment, we mean the broad,

Read more

Knowledge for Innovation: Internal Knowledge Flow

Knowledge is at the source of the rationale for the key decisions that shape and drive an innovation project. Relevant knowledge can come from a wide variety of sources. Winners at the innovation game are the best at rapidly seeking, filtering, digesting, and interpreting the appropriate knowledge. Relevant knowledge comes first from within the company contemplating the new endeavor. Although it may be considered obvious, we take this opportunity to stress the importance of the internal knowledge transfer shown as the upper vertical arrows in the figure. Above all, the innovation drive must be consistent with the company’s strategy. This requirement is not as easy to satisfy as you may think. In real life, company strategies are often vague, wishful,

Read more

Knowledge and innovation: a tight interdependency

Any innovator knows from experience that knowledge is as important to him or her as mortar is to a mason. Knowledge is required at every step of the innovation process. Knowledge is the key resource in the generation of an innovative concept. We speak here about all types of knowledge, not only technical knowledge but also knowledge of markets, user ergonomics, business trends, geopolitics, and so forth. When an idea is found worth pursuing, further knowledge is needed during the engineering phase to implement the concept. In parallel, another layer of knowledge is required, this one to back one of the most critical phases of innovation—the process of shaping a business model and defining a marketing strategy for the new

Read more

Mega-trends in employment and work organization

In parallel to the third Industrial Revolution, the world of work and employment is changing rapidly. Birth of the enterprise: from a marketplace of skills to employment Blanche Segrestin and Armand Hatchuel give a very clear history of employment and of the notion of an enterprise in their book Refonder l’Entreprise. A traditional factory, such as a textile factory, before the first Industrial Revolution, differed from today’s factories in two important ways. First, people rented out their skills to the factory—the worker was a supplier. The notion of a work contract did not exist, but rather there was a real marketplace of skills driven by demand (by factories) and supply (by workers). Second, the factory relied on inventions and innovations

Read more

Toward the third Industrial Revolution: optimizing resources

The economist Adam Smith identified three key factors for economic growth: labor, capital, and resources. While the first and second Industrial Revolutions were mostly concerned with optimizing labor productivity and capital allocation, the third Industrial Revolution is expected to focus on optimizing resources. Resources are understood in a broad sense to include land, raw materials, energy, workspace, knowledge, human resources, and so forth. First Industrial Revolution: optimizing labor The first Industrial Revolution spanned from the late eighteenth century to the early nineteenth century and was characterized by dramatic improvements in the methods of producing material goods. The steam engine, invented by Jerónimo de Ayanz y Beaumont, commercialized by Thomas Newcomen and much improved by James Watt, replaced more traditional power

Read more