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by Vault Education Editors | February 09, 2011


InnovationInnovationInnovationInnovationInnovation. Now that you've temporarily lost the word's meaning (this is why), ask yourself if you ever really grasped what it meant. Buzzwords, after all, are pools of clear and murky meaning (which can lead to this) that need to be waded through. Given the right context, though, it becomes easier to locate a definition. Let's look at the meaning of innovation as it pertains to business.

In a recent interview with BizEd magazine, innovation consultant Cheryl Perkins, co-author of Conquering Innovation Fatigue, talked about innovation, providing a working definition, and offering advice to business schools on how to teach it and graduate students who employ it successfully, among other things. Here are some highlights from the interview (subheadings mine):

A Working Definition

"Innovation is not a goal—it's a mechanism to achieve a business goal, and it goes beyond a company's products and services. It can be about a company's business model or processes, how it engages with customers, or how it communicates, translates, and services its brands. So innovation is not just about the what, it's about the how—how entrepreneurs or corporations or universities leverage partnerships and/or networks to deliver on their final products."

No Incentive, No Innovation

"An organization that wants to encourage innovation needs to focus on two things: creating the right culture and developing the right processes, which includes offering the right incentives. If an organization doesn’t reward innovative culture and behavior, it won’t stimulate innovation. So it’s important for an organization to set clear structures, objectives, and roles, and then reward the right behaviors."

Skills should Business Schools Teach to Prepare Students to Be Leaders of Innovation

"Innovation leaders succeed by influencing others."

"Exerting influence isn’t just about understanding people, it’s about understanding organizations. Where are the decisions made, and how can you be part of them? Strong lines of reporting don’t exist any more in matrix organizations, so all the work gets done through influence, collaboration, and problem solving."

How Schools Should Teach These Skills

"A number of universities are offering new programs that are more diverse in both content and delivery. For example, the Georgia Institute of Technology is offering an Enterprise Innovation program that focuses on enhancing innovation capability through defining needs, developing solutions, and collaborating to create competitive advantage. MIT is offering both short courses and advanced study programs that build knowledge and capability around platforms such as biotechnology, computational modeling, lean enterprise, and systems engineering."

What Innovative Management Strategies Should Students Be Learning?

"In the future, a great deal of business strategy will be built around collaborative networks, because no single company or university has all the answers"

"I think the most innovative strategies are happening around business models that companies use when they come together to share the risk and the revenue."

"How can organizations engage and make sure all parties are using the right processes, the right products, and the right reward systems? What channels do they use? How do they reach their end users? Students who go into the business world will need to understand how to collaborate. They’ll have to know how to screen candidates, build partnerships, and assess the health of partnerships beyond financial measures."



Filed Under: Education|Grad School

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