The Importance of Innovation Architecture
In Innovation as Usual: How to Help Your People Bring Great Ideas to Life (2013), Miller and Wedell-Wedellsborg discuss the importance of establishing systems within organizations that promote not only the creativity that results in innovation, but also make it possible for employees to bring innovative ideas to fruition. Miller and Wedell-Wedellsborg argue that a leader’s primary job “is not to innovate; it is to become an innovation architect, creating a work environment that helps . . . people engage in the key innovation behaviors as part of their daily work” (p. 4). Such a work environment must be reinforced by innovation architecture—the structures within an organization that support an innovation, from the brainstorming phase to final realization. The more well developed the architecture and the simpler the processes involved, the more likely employees are to be innovators.
For this assignment, you will research the innovation architecture of at least three companies that are well-known for successfully supporting a culture of innovation. Write a 1,500-word paper that addresses the following:
What particular elements of each organization’s culture, processes, and management systems and styles work well to support innovation?
Why do you think these organizations have been able to capitalize on innovation and intrapreneurship while others have not?
Based on what you have learned, what processes and systems might actually stifle innovation and intrapreneurship?
Imagine yourself as an innovation architect. What structures or processes would you put in place to foster a culture of innovation within your own organization?
Include in-text citations to at least four reputable secondary sources (such as trade journals, academic journals, and professional or industry websites) in your paper.
Prepare this assignment according to the guidelines found in the APA Style Guide, located in the Student Success Center. An abstract is not require
The Importance of Innovation Architecture
In modern business world, innovation is king. Companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Nintendo, and Samsung have become industry leaders in their respective categories as a result of their undying commitment to innovation. Despite these mega stories of success, there are millions of businesses that continue to fail in their innovation agenda, bringing us to the question of innovative architecture and how it supports sustainable innovation. In the sections that follow, this paper discusses innovation architecture at three giant technology corporations, Google, Apple, and Samsung. It will detail how these corporations have structured their innovation architecture and the elements that support their successful innovations. It will also identify those factors that stifle innovation, concluding with suggestions on structures, culture, and processes that would foster innovation in a choice organization
Google Inc. innovation architecture can aptly be described as a market place of ideas. The company lays great emphasis on the recruitment of talented individuals and provides them with the right tools and environment that fosters innovation (Wunker and Pohle, 2007). At the moment, the company’s 70% of projects are focused on ads and core search with 20% focusing on extensions to searches while 10% is anchored on speculative ideas. In fact, Google allows its employees to spend 20% of their time just to generate ideas which are subjected to a highly decentralized system that determines which projects or ideas are adopted. After creating their ideas, employees post them onto their internal bulletin boards where discussions on merits, risks, and implementation action plans are done. The ideas that generate the highest level of approval through the above process then proceed to the prototyping stage. Here, requirements are kept to the minimum so that features evolve from user provided feedback.
Unlike at Google where innovation is mainly centered on employee input, Apple epitomizes a visionary leader form of innovation architecture. This is an innovation model that revolves around senior executives who understand and can visualize the future of the business better than anyone else and then goes ahead to motivate employees to be innovative towards the attainment of such vision through the generation of ideas that are unprecedented, even profound.
Steve Jobs vision of Apple is prominent for the creation of some of the first personal computers, the Macintosh, computer design with the iMac, the iPod and the famous iPhone, ideas that have continued to revolutionize the world of technology, long after he departed (Katherin et al 2012). Apple innovation agenda is to create just a few ground breaking products at a time, and even spend less than the industry average on research and development. It’s notable, however, that the company’s great ideas, for instance, did not just start with Jobs, as there are many other talented people at the company that has played key roles in the company’s innovation agenda. Jobs role, therefore, also included the ability to spot high potential ideas, champion and inspire his team to pursue them. This visionary innovation has seen the company grow over the years to become one of the most valuable technology companies in the world.
Innovation at Samsung
Unlike Google or Apple, Samsung has created processes that produce systematic results. Over the last 15 years, innovation at Samsung has been a critical component of its market leadership over the fierce competition in a fast changing technology world. This success in innovation has been through a mix of managerial prioritization and well-choreographed team processes. At the leadership level, the company prioritized design and increased the research and development budget significantly. This led to the development of Samsung design centers in the main markets such as London, Tokyo, Shanghai, Los Angeles and SanFransisco so as to understand consumer trends and needs. It has also created an Innovation and Design Lab where it trains its pool of in-house designers. According to Wunker and Pohle, (2007), currently, 10% of Samsung’s revenue is ploughed back into research and development, making it one of the largest innovation spenders in the world while 15% of its design team spends time looking into lifestyles and consumer needs ten years into the future. The management also creates a culture of perpetual crisis where the company is forced to look into competitive threats and develop new products and growth business on a constant basis.
Why these organizations have been successful innovators while others have not
One feature that cuts across these organizations is the fact that they have taken bold steps in their in inculcating the culture of innovation in their DNA. These corporations recognize the place of innovation in the success of their businesses and have invested heavily in research and development, as well as providing a conducive environment that fosters innovation.
The culture of innovation in these organizations is so ingrained in their systems that they can and have been passed on to generations. Apple for instance, even after the demise of Jobs have still been able to produce fantastic products such as the iPhone because the culture of innovation was institutionalized.
One of the main reasons why many organizations fail in their quest for innovation is that they try to imitate the innovations happening in other organizations, without carrying out the necessary background research to establish how such innovations fit into their developmental agenda. This has resulted in the failure of such innovations or even law suits brought against such institutions for intellectual property infringement.
Processes and systems might actually stifle innovation and entrepreneurship
Research carried out by various organizations such as IBM Global Business Services, Innosight has identified replication of successful innovation as one of the key issues that lead to the failure of innovation and even stifle further innovation efforts (Henderson & Clark, 2008). This corroborates evidence from the discussion above to the extent that successful innovation efforts take time, resources, a supportive culture and enabling environment. Failure to create a well thought out innovation architecture that encompasses the right people, resources, processes, and systems is a key contributor of the many innovation failures that continue to be witnessed in today’s business and technology environment.
Lastly, an innovation that is not need-based is bound to fail. The case of Google and Samsung, for instance, is a clear depiction of need-based innovation. At Google, after the team of innovators comes up with innovative ideas, they are vetted at a discussion board where those that receive the highest approval are adopted and taken to the next stage. Such innovation also benefits a lot from user feedback and is updated from time to time depending on how consumers perceive the product. Samsung, on the other hand, has constructed state of the art innovation centers in various parts of the world with the aim of understanding the needs of their customers with regard to the design of their products. Innovation without considering the needs of consumers is bound to fail, as is the case in various vehicle models that are a un-successful year in year out.
Structures to foster innovation within my organization
As discussed above, fostering a culture of innovation should be a company wide effort which comprises the goodwill of the management, provision of the necessary resources through research and development, a team of talented innovators and an environment that enables for innovation (Lessig, 2002). Ideal innovation architecture would encompass the visionary leadership of Steve Jobs at Apple, the enabling environment at Google and the aggressive research and development at Samsung. As an innovation architect, I would, therefore, ensure that I recruit the most talented and innovative staff, provide them with an enabling environment that fosters innovation such as resources for research and development and finally, provide the visionary leadership that is required for successful and sustainable innovation.
Wunker S and Pohle, G (2007) Built for Innovation: Before a company can become the next Apple or Google it must understand its own innovation architecture. https://www.forbes.com/forbes/2007/1112/137.html
Henderson, M & Clark, B.K (2008) Architectural Innovation: The Reconfiguration of Existing Product Technologies and the Failure of Established Firms http://www.jstor.org/stable/2393549
Lessig, L (2002) The Architecture of Innovation, 51 Duke L. J. 1783
Katherin, J. et al (2012) The Innovative Success that is Apple, Inc.: Theses, Dissertations, and Capstones. Paper 418.