Innovation can be describe as the developing of costumer value through solutions meeting needs, articulating these needs and marketing in new ways. To adapt to the external environment, organizations should develop and inculcate the art of innovation in its production process. It also helps to perceive changes outside or inside the organization which is an indicator in the market that the organization is doing well. Maintenance, improvement of the level of performance or effectiveness can be achieved by implementing innovation in the organizations structure, its outcomes and its processes (Webb, 2000). Product innovation is the development of the new product, use of different design, material and component in the established product. This is not only limited to products only but also to the services. Organizations that offer services should come up with creative ways of meeting customer needs. It should inculcate the art of innovation in every process of its service delivery.
This essay looks into product innovation as it proves that it is not a one off activity but rather a complex one. It shows that product innovation calls for team work, combination of ideas, resources and involvement of all organization’s structures. It also needs patience, perseverance and time to achieve successful product innovation. A case study of 3M Company is considered to prove that product innovation is indeed a complex process.
Product innovation- a complex process
Production innovation is a complex organizational process, in that, Industrial firms and companies have cope with increasing global competition and dynamics (Cooper, & Edgett, 2009). This resulted to development of a number of innovative products and services. Innovation is not a one-off event in that it entails complex and dynamic processes; it is not only done once. For example, in the case of 3M Company, which was founded one hundred years ago as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, took a long time before it achieved a successful product innovation? Multiple crises faced 3 M a century ago, but its perseverance mattered. Innovation is a mantra of success in today’s business world (3M Company, 2002). 3M Company began by mining stone from quarries which were used in grinding wheels. The company struggled with quality and marketing of its product and also supported its workers to be innovating and start developing new products, which became its main business (Goldenberg, J., & Mazursky, D. 2002). 3 M developed Three-M-Ite cloths as its first exclusive products twelve years after its establishment. In this era, waterproof sand paper, Scotch brand tapes and masking tape were also innovated. By 1929, it had moved toward international expansion, forming Durex in Europe to conduct business. The company’s stock was also traded over counter the same year and listed in the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) (Damanpour, 1999). This means that for a company to grow, it must face innovation challenges to survive the market competition. Meeting the innovation challenge is a system approach deliberately focusing on people, need, context and method. Hence product innovation must be continuous (3M Company, 2002).
There is a need to cope up with arising and current challenges of production innovation thus making it a complex process. There are a large number of factors that enables 3 M to innovate successfully. These factors include the culture, forward mapping in the research teams and the identification of the innovation components. 3 M used a long-term approach to product innovation and development of new product by adopting a culture that encourages risk taking, tolerates mistakes and reward achievement (Cooper, & Edgett, 2009). 3M combines diverse technology in unexpected and new ways. They make up upon innovative technologies from its portfolio of 55, 00 products to get new solutions, such as car part applied by using dental technology. By making such complex connection, it enables the company to pioneer new innovation process. Thus making product innovation process the need continuous creativity. The success of 3 M was more driven by culture than by structure. It has been open innovation at 3M throughout its history (Damanpour, 1999). The company began making sandpaper, sold its products to all kinds of people. The salesmen talked about the problem of the workers struggling to paint fine lines and borders in an auto-body shops hence leading to beginning of the masking tape business.
An innovative organization is capable of organizing its work as a hierarchy of process preserving the whole of the product innovation process. It focuses on problem identification and finding a solution. The delineation of work is through a process rather than steps in a process. This makes innovation process complex (3M Company, 2002). 3M made employees understand their work as the whole process and see it as their role. It concentrated on the flow of work and on the inter-connections and iterations among steps, functions, and procedures, and rethinks and re-negotiates steps and connections as adjustments in the whole are developed (Bolen, 1984). This enable the company grows gradually from a small company to any organization making a variety of products such as pharmaceuticals and electronics while it began as a mining industry.
Product innovation process undergoes various stages. First stage is uncoordinated stage characterized by low productivity and frequent changes of product design. There are low constraints for the product development caused by low integrated production process. Organization should be more persevering for the new product to emerge, and must continually make frequent changes on the product features (Trajtenberg, 1990). 3M had a tradition of pursuing uninhibited research despite uninhabited markets. The company sold shares and started to plan mining despite uncertainty of customers’ availability. Hermon Cable, a 3M co-founder with two successful Harbors meat market owner went to Chicago, and Detroit to test samples of corundum with potential customers, and they were able to sell their first batch of minerals. Production innovation involves risk taking thus making it a complex process; it enables the organization make new products and the emergence of the new product in the market.
Production innovation requires efficient decision making. It involves scrutiny of ideas and efficient screening. Promising options can be analyzed, refined or developed, when developing solutions (Webb, 2000). A criterion is generated and selected up on which to evaluate and develop promising options among available alternatives. This assist in preparing for improved value and acceptance.
If an organization is using of original ways to compete in the market, it should have the capability of investing effort in screening, choosing and supporting new concepts and solutions. After developing the new ideas and concepts, they are prepared for the market place and acceptance by long term, and it is not because of the patients of money but due to the support of the new idea by the people. Executive chairman, John Benson said that to develop new and better products in improving the practice of pharmaceuticals and medicine, and making human health advance with practitioners like nurses (Beckley, Paredes, & Lopetcharat, 2012).
Product innovation cannot be achieved without quantity efforts, hence making it a complex process. 3M made its achievement by tallying the amount of revenue from the product in the past four years, to enable it analyzes whether its R&D money is used wisely. The companies centralize basic research after viewing its data from 14 centers (Clark, & Fujimoto, 1991). The research is tied to the customer, and the employees takes a lot of time with customers, so as to help them understand their needs and come up with valuable products.3 M researchers learned that a large number of people store their images on a computer while digital photography is easier. These researches lead to innovation of Post-it Photo Paper. This shows that product innovation is more of one-off event if the company needs to survive in the market (Rainey, 2005).
In production innovation, one has to deal with the demand of the current market. Customer demand and needs always changes with time thus making persistence viable in innovation. During World War II in 1940s 3M diverted its efforts into defense materials, which eventually led to products like Scotch lite Reflective Sheeting used for highway marking, filament adhesive and tape magnetic sound recording tape. It also extended its reaches towards the graphic arts industry on a line of offset printing plates. After the end of the world war, the company resolves to renew the products and developed it. Thus in product innovation one needs to continuously be creative to be successful (Trajtenberg, 1990). The main reason why 3M is where it is today is because it has got no boundaries in term of technologies and technological capabilities. It as has developed across consumer, transportation, electronic markets, security and industrial among others. Innovation of product is a wide range having corporate research laboratories (Koontz, & Weihrich, 2007) 3 M technical community comprises of over 10,000 R&D people in its 73 labs around the world. The wide range of innovation is complex since its deals with different fields and different departments. (Beckley, Paredes, & Lopetcharat, 2012)
For industrial companies, product system innovations and particularly innovations of the related processes are mostly essential (SchöTtler, 2007). The fact that there is a relationship between technological facts and technical products and processes, which are implemented to generate these products, makes the whole process complex (Goldenberg & Mazursky, 2002). Developing of innovation strategies has to take into account the products-process interactions. Like some of 3M’s earlier leader, Allen Jacobson who was a chemical engineer, he knew the most about manufacturing since had spent 18 years working around the plant. Jake, on the other hand spent his first three years of his career in the tape lab. Then he later moved to manufacturing and process engineering. This helped in the advancement of creativity and innovation among the workers since there was no specialization.
Innovative business can be achieved in many ways, but the most crucial factor is considering the costumer buying the products. This shows that the more product innovation emerges from the increased Research and Development (R&D), the more people get to know about product innovation. Sometime innovation may spread from the main innovator to other individuals. This is referred diffusion. This refers to movement of ideas from one person to another until it covers the entire organization (Goldenberg& Mazursky, 2002). This is one of the strategies that 3M Company utilized to ensure that innovation was nothing personal, but the entire organization’s responsibility. Diffusion in itself is a complex process, which if not well managed; it may result into undesired outcomes (Kang, 2009). An innovative idea should emanate from the source to the other workers through a well structured process. This is to allow the idea to be appreciated, adopted, patent and have a clear mechanism of improvement.
From various evidences from the 3 M case study, I propose the product innovation is a long process which need frequent persistence and perseverance. An organizational innovation is linked to goals and objectives of the organization. Innovation is a key element for increasing the bottom line results and providing aggressive top-line growth. Reduction of cost and reengineering alone cannot make the company grow. Systematic programs of organizational are driven mostly by: improving quality, extending the product range, reducing labor cost, creating new markets, reducing material among others. These goals vary between improvements to products and the new products development. Failure can also develop in the programs of innovations. Some causes can be external to the organization and outside its influence of control (Webb, 2000). The common causes of failure can be classified into: poor communication and access to information, poor team participation, poor results monitoring,