Major societal and environmental challenges have made innovation the linchpin of companies seeking to remain competitive and sustainable. As technology development advances at an ever faster pace, businesses and managers have to understand the intricacies of creating and implementing a successful innovation strategy. What aspects of this challenge can managers work on to ensure the sustainability of their organization?
“Today’s managers face an enormous variety of challenges in terms of technology, quality, the environment, sustainability, prices, etc. Simply providing a service or product to an end-client is no longer sufficient. In our complex business world, managers must understand innovation and development processes as well as the many opportunities they offer,” explains Michele Coletti, an associate professor at Grenoble Ecole de Management in the department of Management, Technology & Society.
Managing a complex innovation ecosystem
“Steve Jobs often mentioned the importance of intuition. While our gut feeling can still be essential, businesses are operating in such complex environments that they must also set up solid processes to manage innovation. This is where the innovation manager can shine,” says Michele.
Innovation and research used to be carried out in-house. However, the cost of always developing cutting-edge laboratories, equipment and human resources often outweighs the efficiency of internal innovation. “Certain companies realized they couldn’t be good at everything. To focus on their core competencies, they started outsourcing services. We often think of outsourcing services like maintenance, cleaning or call centers. But, technology is also a commodity that can be externalized,” explains Michele.
Structuring the innovation process
Innovation managers learn to organize the innovation process with an open-mind. “Nowadays, efficiently getting a technology to market might only be possible through the use of a spinoff. We recently switched the name of our third module for the Innovation Manager Certificate from ‘intrapreneur’ to ‘entrepreneur’. The idea is not that participants are going to necessarily become entrepreneurs. But they really have to integrate that successfully developing new solutions often means thinking outside the box and externalizing certain innovation processes,” adds Michele.
To properly organize the innovation process, managers have to ask themselves the right questions. “What is your company’s primary focus? Core technology? What elements are critical for your product or service development? You have to figure out what needs can better be met by external partners. You have to think about the market and your efficiency: How do you optimize your processes? What talent do you need? How well do you know your customers?. And last but not least, you have to find ways to motivate your team and encourage them to adopt an open innovation mindset. For example, some companies reward researchers for both the tech they develop and the tech they find from external sources,” concludes Michele.
Innovation Manager Certificate
The Innovation Manager Certificate is a three week course designed for professionals and managers working in environments that require innovation. Participants learn general knowledge and practical tools to understand, create and implement an open innovation strategy. “We explore theory, practical online simulations, design thinking, mockups, prototypes, business models and how to pitch your innovation strategy,” highlights Michele. The program also offers a great opportunity to exchange with other professionals, experts and professors. “It’s not just about learning theoretical knowledge and business cases. Participants have the opportunity to analyze and reflect upon their actual situation and environment. They can realize what areas can be improved and how to improve them!”