Full citation

Roberts, E. B. (2007). Managing Invention and Innovation. Research Technology Management, 50(1), 35-54.

Format: Peer-reviewed article

Type: Research — Non-experimental

Experience level of reader: Fundamental

Annotation: This article was a reprint of the work originally published in 1988. Current reflections were added, however the majority of claims from the 1988 paper remained unchanged in the 2007 version. The overall theme of the work addresses the management of innovation via people, processes and planning. Claims are based upon an extensive examination of existing evidence, substantiated by case studies and experience.

Setting(s) to which the reported activities/findings are relevant: Large business, Small business (less than 500 employees)

Knowledge user(s) to whom the piece of literature may be relevant: Manufacturers

Knowledge user level addressed by the literature: Organization

This article uses the Commercial Devices and Services version of the NtK Model

Primary Findings

Primary Tips:

  • There are a variety of key roles in organizations generating innovations that require individual levels of support and monitoring. For example, there may be idea generators; entrepreneurs or product champions, program managers or leaders, gatekeepers or special communicators, and sponsors or coaches. Although these groups of employees will function as a cohesive unit, each type of employee may need differing forms of training, rewards, and performance measurement.
    Literature review and experience
  • Selected customers should be actively involved in the product development process on multiple occasions — early when the product is being defined, and again during the prototype development and testing activities.
    Literature review and experience

Secondary Findings

Secondary Barrier:

Failure to anticipate or react to technological threats can inhibit success. (Foster, R. N., 1986; Cooper, A. C., & Schendel, D., 1976)
Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 2.2

Secondary Carriers:

  • A technological strategy or product innovation charter should be used, and should consider the current stages of an organization's main technology and the states of competing technology. The plan or charter should also consider the target business arenas; objectives of the product innovation; specific program of activities; the degree of innovation sought; and any special conditions or restrictions on the activity. (Crawford, C. M., 1980; Baker, M. R., & Pound, W. H., 1964)
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 2.2
  • Employ competitive product profiling to make comparisons with key competitors. Measures should include functional performance, acquisition cost, ease of use, operating cost, reliability, serviceability, and system compatibility. (Fusfeld, A. R., 1978)
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 2.2

Secondary Tips:

  • As the number of years a group has been together increases, productivity decreases. Upper management can improve the situation by ensuring that an appropriate leader is heading the group. (Katz, R., & Allen, T. J., 1982)
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 3.1, Step 4.1
  • To achieve the highest level of technical excellence, technical groups should be formed based on individual's areas of expertise. (Marquis, D. G., Straight, D. L., 1965)
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 3.1, Step 4.1
  • Creative tensions in groups can help to improve performance by providing security and stability while also offering challenges. Further, a mix of technical backgrounds, age, experience, and values can help improve group productivity. (Kuhn, T. S., 1963)
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 3.1, Step 4.1
  • The process of researching, developing, and producing innovations is iterative, and feedback loops are present at all stages. (Kline, S. J., 1985)
  • 60% to 80% of successful technical innovations were the result of attempts to meet a need or satisfy demand- i.e. market pull forces. (Utterback, J. M., 1974; Gerstenfeld, A., 1976; Rothwell, R., Freeman, C., Horsley, A., Jervis, V. T. P., Robertson, A. B., & Townsend, J., 1974)
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 1.1