Developing a Capability for Breakthrough Innovation

Professor Gina Colarelli O’Connor, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York, USA

Companies, large and small, are clamoring for innovation…breakthrough, discontinuous, gamechanging innovation. The trouble is, they don’t know how to make it happen. Many have focused so heavily on responding to customers’ immediate needs and on their products’ costs to meet opportunities for market expansion that they’ve forgotten how to jumpstart gamechanging new businesses. Yet new business creation based on major innovation is, in fact, the engine of organizational growth and renewal in today’s highly dynamic, competitive global economy.

Breakthrough innovations operate in domains of high uncertainty, on many dimensions.  Not only are technical and market uncertainty quite high, but organization and resource uncertainty abound as well. The predominant management system in mature companies is structured to reduce uncertainty in order to achieve operational excellence and customer satisfaction.  While critically important for near term success, this approach will nearly always reject the development of new growth platforms based on breakthrough innovations.  The result is that breakthrough businesses occur sporadically, and depend on strong willed internal champions who break organizational barriers to achieve success.  But innovation doesn’t have to be this haphazard.

In this seminar, Professor O’Connor will discuss how companies seeking to compete on the basis of breakthrough innovation can build sustainable competencies to do so. Based on a fifteen year, multiphase research program involving more than 35 large established companies, she and her colleagues have identified three distinctive competencies that firms must develop to ensure that breakthroughs happen more regularly in companies, and a management system designed for innovation that aligns with the well-honed management system of operational excellence that is predominant in most established companies today.

Questions to consider:

  • How successful, over the long run, has your firm been in commercializing discontinuous, or breakthrough innovations?
  • How well rewarded are innovators in your company?
  • How many times has your organization started an ‘innovation’ mandate, only to have it evaporate within a couple of years due to perceived lack of success?
  • Do you know what Incubation requires?
  • What are the appropriate metrics for innovation?
  • What are the right processes for managing and evaluating projects that are highly uncertain and ambiguous in terms of potential outcomes?

About this seminar

This workshop will provide an understanding of how to build a sustainable capability for breakthrough innovation in your firm.  Traditionally, companies have initiated such programs, but they are short lived. The average life expectancy of a New Ventures Group within an established, mature firm is approximately four years.  Senior leaders grow impatient with the seemingly low productivity in these groups and shut them down.  As we learn more about how to build an innovation capability, the life expectancy of more recent forms of new business creation groups is increasing.  The workshop will address the following topics:

  1. Definition of innovation types and their importance as a driver of growth;
  2. Challenges of managing breakthrough innovation projects, with company case studies;
  3. Elements of an effective, sustainable management system for a breakthrough innovation portfolio;
  4. Discovery, Incubation and Acceleration; the three distinct capabilities necessary for an innovation function;
  5. How to structure an innovation function and connect it to the dominant management system;
  6. Assessing your company’s Innovation maturity level;
  7. Plotting out a roadmap for evolving your company’s capability for breakthrough innovation.



08.30-09.00   Registration, Coffee, tea

09:00-09:30   Introduction and Expectations; Participants describe their current approaches to breakthrough innovation.

09:30-10:00   Why is Breakthrough Innovation so Difficult? The problem, historical approaches, definition of innovation types and their importance as drivers of growth

10:00-10:15   Coffee

10:15-11:45   Innovation Management System and Competency Requirements

11:45-12:15   Assessing your organization’s capacity for breakthrough innovation

12:15-13:15   Lunch

13:15-13:45   Orchestrating to align the innovation and operational excellence management systems

13:45-14:45   Assessing your current innovation management system: Are you ready? 

14:45-15:00   Share results:  What is working? Not working? Missing? Surprises?

15:00-15:15   Coffee

15:15-16:00   Architecting your Breakthrough Innovation capability: Roadmap development and bumps to come. 

16:00-16:45   Plot your next steps and share

16:45-17:00   Wrap Up and Close

About Professor O'Connor

Gina O’Connor, Ph.D. is Professor of Marketing, Director of the Radical Innovation Research Program, and Director of the Severino Center of Technological Entrepreneurship at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lally School of Management and Technology in Troy, New York. She researches, teaches and consults on the topic of managing for breakthrough innovation in large established organizations. She is a well known scholar in the area of innovation management within large established firms. Under her direction, the second phase of the Radical Innovation research program helped define sustainable competencies and the elements of a management system to enable companies to develop breakthrough innovations repeatedly. The third phase of the research program, currently underway, is examining approaches to talent development for the innovation function in companies. She is well published, having won the Journal of Product Innovation Management’s Best Paper of the Year Award three times, as well as publishing articles in highly acclaimed professional and scholarly journals, including Organization Science and MIT’s Sloan Management Review. She is co-author of Radical Innovation: How Mature Firms can Outsmart Upstarts (Harvard Business School Press, 2000) and lead author of Grabbing Lightning: Building a Capability for Breakthrough Innovation, (Jossey- Bass 2008), which was named one of the best business books of the year in Business&Strategy magazine.


Önskar du ytterligare information, vänligen kontakta Mikael Weimarck.

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