Category Archives: Innovations

Lots of talk, No Action—Part 1

Quite a few requests for talks and write ups about our research on Management Systems for Breakthrough Innovation, and Innovation Roles & Responsibilities have come in lately, and I’ve been able to get to a number of them.  It seems there is a lot of interest in improving the success rate for breakthrough innovation in established companies.  That’s not surprising since, more and more, people are concerned about these companies’ fate, and see the waste of mergers, breakups, and failures of iconic companies and brands that leverage wonderful rich troves of physical and intellectual assets and employee bases.

At the Product Development and Management Association’s Boston Chapter meeting in early July, I was describing the challenges that innovators in big companies face in their careers as they bump up against entrenched business models and corporate belief systems that prevent breakthroughs from commercial success.  As usual, after that talk, several people commented “You just described my career!”

A talk to a consortium of well–known global companies hosted by DSM in the Netherlands on the topic of metrics for breakthrough innovation provoked impassioned discussion.  In Denmark, an entire hospital system sent their leaders and innovation officers to an Innovation Leadership training program at Danish Technical University’s Executive Education center to learn the frameworks and principles underlying our research, and to use our Innovation Maturity Assessment tool to evaluate their management system for innovation.  The Industrial Research Institute’s journal, Research-Technology Management, produced an interview of me about our forthcoming book, in its July issue. The Center for Innovation Management Studies wants a shortened version for their publication in September.

Just a few weeks ago I gave the keynote address at the PDMA’s doctoral consortium, which was attended by early career scholars and some senior level academics from around the world, along with a handful of industry representatives, at University of New Hampshire.  There I spoke about what we now know about breakthrough innovation, and identified some of the next fertile fields for academic research in the field.

Actually, we know a lot more than we think we do. The industry representatives expressed amazement at what is known, and at how little of it is put to use.

From what I can tell, there is plenty of interest from industry, but not enough to drive action. With the stock market hovering at record high levels, tech companies in excellent cash positions, and the activist investor community operating on overdrive, large mature companies don’t have the will to invest in innovation.

But now is NOT the time to back away. Now, when the economy is strong, is the time to build that capability. When you think about the immense changes coming down the pike stimulated by the CRSPR experiments in gene editing, or by the onslaught of progress in 3D printing and additive manufacturing technologies, by the Internet of Things, Drones, electrification, alternative energy, robotics….How are large mature companies setting themselves up to lead the way into their future?

We’re back with thoughts on boring breakthroughs

Greetings all! It’s been a long, long time. Lois and I have been way busy with the third phase of the Radical Innovation Research program. We have visited 9 companies in 3 countries over the past year and conducted over 150 interviews. Lots to digest about roles and responsibilities for Breakthrough Innovation in large established companies. But enough about us. There’ll be more to follow as we figure out what we’re learning. Right now it’s like drinking from a firehose.

Even more exciting is what’s happening at the Lally School…our school. We have an incredible group of MBA students who are extremely interested in this whole breakthrough innovation/corporate entrepreneurship thing. They are an inspiring bunch. Some of them have asked about why this blog has stalled,…and have offered to help. So I’d like to introduce one of them, Peter Roberts from Utah. See below some thoughts on the Tesla Electric Vehicle. Let us know what you think.


The Tesla/New York Times spat this February overshadowed a great achievement in innovation. Some would say that Tesla’s model S is a radical innovation; however, they would be wrong, Thomas Parker invented the electric car in 1884. The real radical innovation from Tesla was accomplished was with the refueling stations. Tesla has already made inroads on the west coast as seen in this map. Tesla has been working to this implemented since 2011. By focusing on changing current infrastructure, Tesla is setting themselves up for success. They now aim to expand electric car potential from their lone pair of charging stations in NY and DC throughout the east coast.
In a broader sense, Tesla has opened up several possibilities for the future. By controlling both the vehicles and the charging stations, Tesla can work out pricing strategies with electricity and/or vehicles. Tesla is creating a whole new market and setting up the infrastructure for this market. The question we should all be asking is, ‘when the rest of the automakers jump on the electric bandwagon will Tesla’s infrastructure make them a dominant player in the marketplace?’.
Others seem to agree with this, see Adam Morath’s blog from 2/14/13 ( Still other see adoption of the of the electric car will require an infrastructure revolution See Ben Holland post in January of this year (

So, while electric cars are all the rage, they’re the small part of the picture. It’s the infrastructure that’ll make this happen.