Barry Shoop, Ph.D., P.E. Innovation as an Ecosystem

Monday, October 25, 2021 at 5:00pm

Virtual Event

While great strides have been made to understand technological innovation at the individual technology level, the ecosystems that encourage and enable the development of these innovations have not received the same scrutiny. In his seminal book The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton M. Christensen asks the question "Why do well-managed companies fail? He concludes that they often fail because the very management practices that have allowed them to become industry leaders also make it extremely difficult for them to recognize and develop the disruptive technologies that ultimately capture their markets. Well-managed companies are excellent at developing sustaining technologies, those technologies that improve the performance of their products in ways that satisfy their customers. Disruptive technologies, however, are distinctly different and fundamentally change the value proposition in a market according to a distinct pathology. In addition to understanding disruptive innovations, we have found that it is equally important to understand the human dimension of technology innovation – how social, cultural, and religious factors impact the acceptance or rejection of technological innovation Beyond the technological and human dimensions of innovation, it is also important to develop both a culture and organizational structure that encourages and supports innovation. In total, successful innovation requires an ecosystem. Here we extend the elements of Christensen’s original framework, increasing scope from individual corporate-level venues like Bell Laboratories and Pixar, to regional innovation clusters like Boston and Silicon Valley to nations like Israel and Japan. We show that a common thread between the local, regional, and global levels is that each level fosters interaction among diverse populations of participants through deliberate organizational structure and culture, taking advantage of brilliant minds and idea generation from proximate colleges and universities and providing easy access to funding and prototype manufacturing facilities. They also deliberately develop friendly business practices and regulations and offer incentives that financially encourage collaboration and ultimately innovation. The strides made to understand technological innovation provide the context to understand the barriers to disruptive innovation on a local scale, and we show that understanding the elements of an ecosystem that foster innovation provides a model to create the conditions necessary to enable this type of innovation at the corporate, regional, and national level.

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