Innovation is one of the core subjects that is important in determining the success of a business enterprise in meeting its customers’ needs. The main objective in innovation is the creation of something new that will lead to positive changes. The difference between innovation and invention is the former occurs when one uses an invention to change the world, how people organize conduct their lives (Aggaral & Demskey, 1997).
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Innovation in an organizational setting is affected by several factors each of which plays a central role in the concepts, models, theories and classification that the management of the innovation process will take on. The organizational culture is one of the key concepts that greatly determine the success of innovation. The personality of an organization which comprise of norms, artifacts, behavior and values is central to success in the process as it affects to a great deal the work relations in the organization. Secondly, the structure of the organization which describes the subordination of processes and entities that work together to achieve a common goal (Anderson, 1993).
A structure that is invention friendly is determined by how well the innovation process is carried out in such a structure. Third, the innovation strategy adopted by the organization which describes how the innovation process is to be carried out affects th implementation of the innovation process and thus very deterministic on the success of innovation. This may also include the innovation process which is a description of how all the entities within the innovation sphere interact within themselves and with others outside the sphere.
The organizational structure is one of the key areas that determines the success of an industry in meeting its goals and thus determining the goals of an organization (Gestelarnd, 1996). The structure of the organization determines the communication process, the policy formulation, culture and thus the entire operation process in an organization. Innovation as a process is thus dependent to a large degree on the organizational structure in its operational environment (Griffin & Pusrtay, 2004).
The structure of the organization needs to be one that is invention friendly, in the case the approach to management is a hierarchical approach where the organization is headed by a CEO which is seconded by Choate as the director of R &D. Heras heads the materials and research department, other departments are the Smart lab managers and Nanotechnology departments. The departments have technicians and a number of specialist depending on the main role of the department role.
Under this structure all communication to and from the departments has to go through Choate. She has been well integrated into the long beach organization and her colleagues refer to her as the gatekeeper for she is an invaluable information source due to her love for engineering journals and language acumen. This is as a result of the inherent nature of the innovation that requires one to keep in touch with the current development in related fields. Therefore, in this case the success of the innovation process can be attribute to a good organizational culture as the interface between those responsible for the formulation of the policies and those that carryout the policies is very good.
The structure adopted should be one that places more emphasis on the implementation and smooth coordination of the entire process. An organization structure that supports the inclusion of marketing and invention is very important for in the case Choate saw long beach as an opportunity to combine science, invention, commercialization and marketing as a a way of changing peoples lives. Integration of various fields in innovation determines to a great extent the success of an organization and therefore organizational structure must complement integration (Franck & Bond, 1991).
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Innovation is best achieved through good coordination and the implementation of a good organizational structure ensures that (Franck & Bond, 1991). In the case, whenever one had a problem they would bring it to the resident experts who would cook up a number of promising batch products based on their experience an intuition. The results would be a working model or one that would work with some little modification.
The case therefore shows clear coordination within the departments, team are implemented as Rob Heras coordinates a group of researchers. Therefore, coordination at team and organizational levels is important to the innovation process and therefore the organizational structure should be one that allows good coordination between all entities in the innovation process (Hawkins & Hudson, 1990).
Skill and education are two interdependent aspects in invention (Balett & Ghoshal, 1989). Toledo’s success can be attributed to an organizational structure that is based on highly skilled and experienced employees. Many of the Toledo engineers pride themselves of years of experience, the departments are headed by vastly experienced an widely knowledgeable people. Choate a Ph. D graduate is second in rank and she commands a good grasp of various disciplines, the organization has also maintained contacts that helped in the identification and the recruit of the top students from the top schools.
The structure implements a mechanism where the inexperienced work directly with the inexperienced so that skills can be acquired by both (Friedman, 1999). Therefore, as organizations seek innovation they should seek potential, skill and experience and create a structure that is suitable for the interaction of the various aspects.
Culture is often described as the personality of the organization and is therefore unique (Haull, 1976). The organizational culture dictates how things are done in an organization (Haull, 1976). In an innovation environment the culture is very important to the implementation of the process. Innovation can be viewed as a single isolated or an organization wide event, the breakthrough to the Solar Sandwich machines was a brainchild of Heras and form the case it is logical to attribute him to the success, on the other hand there have been other like Choate who along the way created a mechanism through which the innovation was realized.
Therefore, individual and organization wide initiatives that constitute the culture of the organization are important to innovation (Evans & Barsox, 2002). Choate likes working at the engineering department because of the opportunity it provides in advancement and working on real products, she has also been well integrated into the organizational. One approach to innovation is viewing innovation as a subject that is dealt with at the firm level ignores the possibility of inter-organizational networking that has been one of the major ways through which new products have been discovered (Daniels & Sulivan, 2001).
The firm level approach is suitable where high levels of secrecy is desired, in Toledo a good camaraderie developed amongst the employees, while group members are tight lipped about their work outside the group the ideas and prototypes flowed fast within the boundaries. On the other hand Toledo has supported many university based research, and maintained contacts with academics. Furthermore, the organization has placed its members in a position where they can read widely and get access to new information before it is printed on journals.
The organizational culture should support both the firm level and the interconnection approach in order to reap from both while reduce associated with them. The organizational culture should promote interdependence while still maintaining individual autonomy; invention as a process is very complex and any small changes or error that are common in group initiatives could lead to diversions, on the other hand the wealth of creativity associated with groups if well used could lead to a more successful innovation process (Daniels & Sulivan, 2001).
The organization culture may also act as a stumbling block to innovation (Evans & Barsox, 2002). Harlan’s lack of openness was a major stumbling block to the development of the Solar sandwich project as neither Toledo nor Palo Alto were as experienced as him. He initiates a variation and lets all the others follow up. He used Choate in the same way as he would come upon with a surprising technology and it would be up to Choate to explain it and the explanations would then be the basis through which he would determine the dead ends and the correct approach to take.
But when Choate argues against his approach as being irrelevant in the current world he clamps up. Now, it is important to note that Harlan has a great influence on the norms and the attitudes of his immediate workers as most of them share in his approach that involves lots of risk taking, and is therefore one of the key figures that many in the organization emulate. The culture is thus one that is influenced by success, and is seen in its history of success. Thus, organizational culture plays a great role in the implementation of the innovation process especially under the consideration that it determines the motivational levels of the employees (Henderson & Parsorns, 1990).
Therefore, organizations should cultivate a positive culture put up measures to ensure that the levels of motivation within their employees are maintained at high levels to ensure innovation (Drucker, 1985). Furthermore, determination is very important in Toledo transferring processes to long beach are not always easy though it always seem to happen when the management applied enough pressure. Determination should characterize the organizations workforce attitude towards issues, especially when the levels of uncertainty involved and complexity are very high which is the case in innovation (Daniels & Sulivan, 2001).
A culture based on encouragement should also be encouraged. In Toledo the management encourages the scientist and engineers to read and publish scientific and engineering journals even without the $ 500 award for getting a patent, this encouragement has led to the development of positive norms towards work and thus a more innovation oriented culture since the process of invention can and is often unclear and is characterized by many uncertainties and failures that many can not deal without little encouragement.
The existence of subcultures within an organization should be addressed by organizations. In Toledo the scientists are more dependent on their field or ‘scientific college’ but the engineers are rather dependent on such people as Choate and Heras. This is a manifestation of subcultures based on profession within an organization, such subcultures should be assessed by the organization and their contribution to the innovation process determined (Doz & Prahalad, 1984).
In Toledo’s case the existence of the subcultures bring about differences in the manner in which the engineers and the scientist conduct their business. The differences could be detrimental in that the scientist could fail to utilize the vast wealth of experience within their ranks and thus fail to grasp principles that may be important to innovation, the engineers may also fail to use their internal know how and creativity that over the ages proven to be a great source of innovation.
On the other hand the scientist by focusing on their work as source of reference could improve on their confidence and attain very high levels of self motivation and determination that could aid the innovation process. The engineers culture enables the to get more hands on experience that is relevant to their job just like the scientist find their works relevant to their jobs.
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Innovation may take place within a clearly set guideline, and involve players who try to innovate by bettering their actions and inventions. Some manage to do this better than others and the rules are quite stiff. At times thins change and this widely accepted framework is dislocated leading to change in the rules, these changes may redefine the space and environment in which the innovation process takes place in, thus they open up new horizons, though they provide a challenge to the existing players as they are required to reconsider their approach (Daniels & Sulivan, 2001).
An approach that is based on breakthrough ignores the potential incremental innovation bears (Dominguez, 1998). Moreover, it exhibits the inability to add on gains from radical changes since the incremental aspect of innovation in his approach is limited. Harlan is one of Toledo’s base researchers and he is indispensable to the organization. He works well with those who have just graduated but is very poor in dealing with experienced workers, this is because of his inflexible approach to innovation where he is the initiator of ideas and rejects ideas from others.
There are two aspects that are brought out clearly in the case with regards to this; Harlan is a successful innovator and a very creative individual, on the other hand there was an instance when Choate helped him clarify an aspect that he did not understand and he therefore the help of others now and again.
Therefore, organizations must base their strategies on both individual and company wide approach to innovation, in this way individual ideas may be used in a manner that will ensure that the organization succeeds in innovation (Douling & Shuler, 1999). Harlan’s approach is an example of the view that innovation as a single isolated event rather than an organization wide event which often leads to failure to utilize the available pool of creativity and the secure of inputs and views that may improve on the process of innovation.
Viewing innovation as being only externally generated leads to a situation where the focus shifts so much on outside information and there is thus very little learning and development of competencies that may aid in innovation (Cuningham, 1986). Though the organization utilizes outside sources, the focus on internal research is quite considerable. Therefore, organizations must use both its external and internal resources and always aim at ensuring quality of such resources in innovation, since the availability of data and the availability of such data in a form that can be assessed easily by researchers and innovators is important to innovation (Cavugil, 1997).
An approach that is based on breakthrough ignores the potential incremental innovation bears (Cuningham, 1986). Furthermore, it exhibits the inability to add on gains from radical changes since the incremental aspect of innovation in his approach is limited, the approach employed by Harlan in the first stages is based on strategic planning, he makes a number of improvements but he soon looses interest in the subjects. This is one of the disadvantages of strategically targeted projects. Due to the nature of the relationship between Choate and Harlan, they started competing and fabricating and soon Choate gave up on the project though Harlan continued the fabrication of multiple layers and soon stumbled on something.
Though the approach was initially strategic, there was a shift to a breakthrough approach when Harlan started fabricating results. Note, both methods contributed significantly to the discovery of the Solar Sandwich maker and are thus equally important in approaching innovation. Organizatios should thus employ both mechanisms; strategic targeting should be employed in approaching innovation though room must be left for breakthrough approach (Black & Oddu, 1991). A balance should be struck between the two approaches as overemphasis on one may lead to limited success which is also the case in under use.
Innovation is greatly affected by the availability of resources and technological ability. Toledo is blessed with natural gas and high quality sandstone, proximity to rail road and steamship lines. These were the main factors behind Toledo’s initial success, though the explosion of demand for Automobiles was responsible for its growth thereafter. The organization is located in Long beach where the weather is outstanding and he can engage in his favorite past time; riding all year long.
The weather is very attractive and therefore provides the organization with a good pool of employees who are willing to work under such conditions. Furthermore, the lab is located at a very serene and suitable environment that make is welcoming to innovation. Therefore organizations should, in a bid to improve on their innovation process, locate their organizations and create program or incentives that will ensure it attracts good innovators and ensure the smooth implementation of the innovation process (Bemish, 1990).
The effects of organizational culture, structure and the innovation strategy on innovation are quite clear for all to see. Any innovation conscious organization should thus address all these issues, as failure to address them will lead to failure or limited success in the invention process. The organizational culture should be innovation friendly, the organizational structure should aid the smooth implementation of all innovation oriented policies and actions and lastly the innovation strategy should be structured in such a way that it uses all the available resources in an optimal manner while increasing the likelihood of its success.
The organizational structure to be adopted, the responsibilities of each member, the interaction between the employees, the level of skills required, experienced, resource pool, the implementation strategy be adopted, the players in the innovation process, the nature of the innovation and the timescale are some of the consideration that determine the success of an innovative process. In summary an innovation is a result of good organizational structure, culture and strategy that work together in an operational environment to come up with better product, service or idea.
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