Business culture and innovation

I've just come across a short piece about business culture and innovation that precedes an article to be published – date unspecified – in the Journal of Product Innovation Management (you can order a sample copy of this journal). The paper is written by William Qualls of the University of Illinois and Jelena Spanjol. (NOTE: March 3, 2010. My thanks to him for subsequent to my writing this sending the full paper to me).

This piece sent me in two directions. The first direction was a question to myself "Is there a Journal of Service Innovation Management'? The answer to this appears to be "No". There is the International Journal of Innovation Management which has some interesting looking articles in it. For example: Implementing Best Practices to Support Creativing in NPD Cross-Functional Teams "The use of cross-functional teams increases creativity in new product development leading to shorter development time and higher product innovativeness. Research in new product development [NPD] has identified a number of organisational practices associated with supporting organisational creativity in cross-functional teams including frequent and open communication, building organisational slack, attitude to risk and top management commitment."

And there is the Journal of Service Management this too has some interesting looking articles. One I skimmed Manufacturers forming successful complex business services: Designing an organization to fit the market says that "The purpose of this paper was to isolate and characterize organizational factors that enable the formation of high-performing business services in product manufacturing firms". (This uses Galbraith's Star Model of organizations as a starting point), and is a good discussion on organization design.

The second direction I went in related to the content of Quall's piece on business culture and innovation. This is summarized in the sentence "Groundbreaking ideas spring most from companies that stress technology, rather than customer needs or staying ahead of competitors." The short description of the about to be published article makes some standard observations e.g. "Customer- and competitor-oriented companies are more likely to come up with variations of existing products because they watch their markets closely and react to demands rather than building on breakthrough technology." But there is also the point (again fairly obvious but not always acted on) that launching innovative products or services depends on good marketing "If innovation and marketing don't get equal attention, good ideas might never reach the marketplace or firms could sink millions of dollars into innovations that will ultimately have no appeal to consumers," he [Qualls] said. The marketing angle should come in at the ideas stage of innovation generation he suggests.

Since I haven't yet seen the full article I don't know if there are any suggestions in it on how to help people make the link he implies is necessary between what are often functions operating independently of each other – R & D, marketing, finance, and IT (the last to get the systems enabled for customer input to the innovation process). Qualls then observes that the study "shows firms that fail to broaden their cultures or seek outside input will lag behind companies that do." Again I'm wondering if there are any ideas in the article on how to 'broaden their cultures' or 'seek outside input' – both potentially complex organization design tasks.