Strategic Planning

Innovators Role at Hard Times

One Research Scientist at the Hewlett-Packard (HP) Imaging Systems laboratory said Carly Fiorina was a marketing person put in change of engineers who cared nothing about the art and beauty of technology. She just wanted saleable stock to bring to market. He exhorts that when she walked into the HP Labs for the first time, she said that their new company slogan was "Invent." Then, she told them that the technology industry would never again be as exciting and profitable as it was in the '90s. That they'd all need to grow up now and face that fact.

This was not the first time; a CEO had preferred cash to innovation. Carly's pitfall was taken care of, anyway. She has a point, though, while saying innovators need to have business sense. Especially when time is not that right for long-term R&D projects. Here is a list of five things innovators need to be sure that they are in place in order to make innovation worthwhile.

1. Innovation needs to reflect the company's macro and micro visions. Every company has one macro vision. Microsoft wants every computer's operating system to be running their software. Cisco says every network needs to be based on Internet Protocol and running over their products. It is not difficult to grasp that one sentence that defines why that company exists. Micro vision is a lot more difficult to get as it is a sophisticated message delivered to the market. Depending on innovator's access to the product marketing team, it may lead you to the right answer or to a dead end. No matter how organic and difficult the micro vision is; important move would be to look at the core values micro vision stands for. The question innovators need to answer is what are the trends that are unlikely to change over 5 years and build their dream over it.

2. Innovation is needed for competitive advantage, not for fun purposes. This is hard to get most times but innovation has a meaning for the company. Definitely that meaning is not fun or to show how geek of an R&D team the company has. The real meaning is; innovation puts company ahead of its competition. Innovator may not be excited with what s/he has at the end of the day because of the level of his/ her involvement with the project. However, as long as strategic value is delivered for the company, the job will be considered fully done. Innovation is to forge you ahead, not to excite its innovator where it will only be appealing to his/ her equivalents.

3. Innovation has two ends. Number 1 is innovating for the next-generation needs with an edge. Number 2 is making existing technology cheaper and/ or simpler. It is not so clever to follow sophistication over simplicity, because the winner is always the latter. Delivering sophisticated technology in a simple way is the greatest thing, an R&D team can deliver; if strategy is set as number 2. The truth is, Number 1 is enticing to an innovator but needs more time to deliver, while number 2 is boring but more effective for strategic purposes. Companies with R&D labs need to have a nice mixture of both to keep the excitement level at acceptable rates.

4. Every innovation has a time. The important thing is to flesh it out at the right time. If it is delivered early, it is called pupa. Company needs to hold onto the technology until it is the right time. 18 months early release is good enough for a pupa technology to be announced. If innovation delivered to the market is too late, it will be called a tardy so integration to the solutions without any big announcements is necessary. Innovators are supposed to read the time well.

5. Innovation's core source is evolving. For a long time, North America has been considered as the HQ of innovation. However, both Europe and Asia are striving to be more involved in the process. Understanding where the idea bulbs are is extremely important to an innovator.

Today's corporate world is asking innovators to make the connection between innovation and business on their mind. No matter how hard it is; they need to assume this new role to move their company to the next stage.

Burak Fenercioglu is a freelance writer. He is working for a computer network security company for over 4 years. His articles are about ideas, innovation, strategy and can be found at

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