Innovation is only a young discipline

Even though recent management literature is buzzing with good advice on innovation, we  need to realize that innovation management is a very young discipline. Until quite recently, the attention of management scholars was focused on increasing the efficiency and efficacy of existing businesses.  Innovation as part of the company strategy only became part of boardroom agendas during the nineties of the previous century. The 1995 success of Prahalad and Hamel’s classic ‘Competing for the Future’ illustrates the major shift in management thinking that occurred at that time.  Company leaders started to realize that it was no longer sufficient to focus on ‘protecting the company’s core’ but that the rapidly changing world required the development of new strategic directions, which often required innovations to materialize.  And from that time, innovation became part of management thinking.  That does not mean that companies did not innovate before the nineties: just think of telephones, tv’s, radios, pc’s, cars and many other household products which were developed before the innovation revolution. But those products were developed without innovation management tools like stage-gates, and prescribed product development and business creation processes. Something that is hard to imagine for innovation leaders in today’s world. Twenty years after the ‘discovery’, innovation management has become a discipline of it’s own: bookshelves are piling out with good advice about ambidexterity, stage-gate processes, blue ocean strategies, design thinking and business creation. And in many companies, innovation is managed as a part of the business, with clear targets, progress reviews, portfolio management and transparent resource allocation. But let’s be honest, the innovation track record of many companies remains poor. In real life, it remains very difficult to make new ideas part of an existing, running business.

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