Radio Show

Sunday’s radio show on June 7th,2009 as mentioned earlier in our monthly update was so much fun. Zara was such a knowledgeable and energetic host. We could’ve spoken for hours. Her focus is on the people issues associated with breakthrough innovation. Of course these are HUGE. But of course they’re only one element of a system of issues that must be considered…but you know that by now! Listen in if you’re interested.


Looking forward to a few upcoming events in the next several days. Just wanted to let you know in case you are interested in tuning in:

This Friday, June 5th I will be moderating a brown bag lunch discussion of a recent article published in Research-Technology Management titled Sustaining Breakthrough Innovation,authored by yours truly. This series is organized and hosted by the Industrial Research Institute, and you must be a member to participate so check them out at

Sunday, June 7th, 4:00-5:00 p.m. EDT, I am joining a new acquaintance of mine, Zara Larsen, on her Tucson-based live talk radio and web streamed show. “Circles of Change with Dr. Zara Larsen: Where Your Path is Created by Walking on It” is dedicated to opening up positive conversations on personal career and organizational change to inspire and help others during these change-rich times. Zara has hosted over 120 shows in just over a year featuring guests from around the country. No surprise, we will be discussing our new book Grabbing Lightning: Building a Capability for Breakthrough Innovation.

Join us live via web stream at your computer or within the Tucson/Phoenix broadcast area on AM 1330 KJLL “The Jolt”. Call-in questions to (520) 529-3508, toll free (877) 544-2580, or email questions can be sent to

If you miss the live show, a recap and full podcast will be posted at “Circles of Change Radio”, 2009 Season left hand tab by Wednesday evening, June 10th, where you will also find the free library of thought provoking shows to date.

Thanks in advance for joining us!

Big Companies in Innovation Mode!!!

We’re back! What a lengthy absence from the blog scene, so we apologize to our innovation enthusiasts out there. It’s been a long, and jammed semester, but all that’s over for now.

So The New York Times has written a piece lately, Who Says Innovation Belongs to the Small that recognizes the power of large established firms to develop and commercialize breakthrough innovations. Welcome to our world! They are reporting on Clay Christensen’s recent book on Health care systems and how to fix them. Now mind you, Prof Christensen is the one who’s always maintained that large firms are least likely to innovate for the well know reasons, and that radical disruptions arise from start ups.

You know, it just isn’t necessarily the case. So the NYT article states: Big companies like General Electric I.B.M that employ scientists in many disciplines typically have the skills and scale to tackle such projects. Their advantage is in “being able to integrate innovations across these complex systems,” said James E. Spohrer, a scientist at I.B.M.’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif.

Technology trends also contribute to the rising role of large companies.The lone inventor will never be extinct, but W. Brian Arthur, an economist at the Palo Alto Research Center,says that as digital technology evolves, step-by-step innovations are less important than linking all the sensors, software and data centers in systems.”

It’s true that big companies can be the integrators, but also, due to their vast reservoirs of knowledge and flexible internal networks, they can learn and leverage new information quickly.And the many disciplines present in industrial R&D groups are the key advantage of seeing novel opportunities, which ALWAYS arise from the points of intersection of disciplines.

So why haven’t we known this????? Why has Christensen’s initial message prevailed for nearly 15 years????

Because large companies have the potential…but have not executed on this well. And they can and need to be MORE than integrators on complex problems, which is the focus of the NYT article . They need to build management systems for breakthrough innovation. The ONLY way to do this is to make innovation a business function, just like marketing is, or R&D is, or accounting is.

Large companies have lots to learn in this regard, but the train is leaving the station. Many are tuning in to this message. I’ve given talks at two recent meetings of the Industrial Research Institute…once in March and one just last week. Standing room only. All of those member firms are ready, so they say. They’re frustrated at the rich discovery opportunities they have, but at the very difficult challenges they face in articulating opportunities in a manner that will get senior leaders’ attention, and then at incubating them into businesses. So we’re starting a forum on Breakthrough Innovation. We’ll be meeting regularly to discuss. They’ve asked our team to facilitate the forum. We look forward to sharing our knowledge, to learning from them as they go forward.

We’re also running our Innovation & Corporate Entrepreneurship (I&CE) program here at RPIto help these companies learn how to build a management system for breakthrough innovation. Come one, come all!