Management of technological innovation

In preparing a study guide for this subject, I’ve come across a few rather interesting paradoxes of technological innovation management. Here’s just one of these.

First of all, some parameters for this discussion are necessary.

If we agree that “innovation” is the successful application of creative problem solving and creative thinking within an organisation (often for commercial benefit), and if we accept that innovation applies to business processes as well as improvement in products (goods and services), then technological innovation should be technological solutions, or processes that rely on technology, and management of technological innovation should be about the strategic and administrative concerns associated with ensuring continuous improvement of technological innovation. Okay?

As has been noted in several academic papers, management of technological innovation will be to the early 21st century, what total quality management and quality assurance was in the 1970s to the 1990s. Ensuring that organisations continue to innovate, and that continuous improvements in efficiencies can be achieved through technology investments, are heady goals for firms, but they are necessary in order to ensure sustainability, and to capture and maintain competitive advantage. Still with me?

Trouble is that technology has often been found to be a limiting factor in organisational innovation, and that most organisational investment in technology produces much less than the total potential benefits any technology solution could provide for a firm. Capiche?

So while there is a potential to gain much higher efficiencies in normal business activities from a technology solution implemented by an organisation, the technology itself might actually limit the innovation that an organisation may achieve.

Moral to this story? If you’re going to sustain innovation within an organisation, make sure you keep reviewing and, where necessary, replacing your technology to ensure you avoid “lock in” to the limited functions of the technology solution. This means you will probably never be able to get maximum efficiency from any technology solution investment. Sorry.

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