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The Importance of Managing Innovation in Technology: Dealing with Disruptive Change

Jan 6, 2022

Allow Violet Beauregard from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” to serve as a cautionary tale. Once some things start growing, they do not stop, and eventually—often quickly—they become too big to control. 

Much like Violet, innovation grows exponentially. The more advanced an innovation becomes, the more rapidly it can grow. And that’s where innovation management comes in. This article discusses the increasing need for innovation management and how information technology professionals can be best equipped to provide it to every industry. 

Where there are processes, products, or services, there are opportunities for innovation. Some industries are innovating at a particularly fast rate:

  • Manufacturing — with the supply chain uncertainty of the 21st century, manufacturing is forced to become more efficient and find new ways to maximize profit margins
  • Government — governments around the world employ innovation management to bring efficient, cost-effective, and more user-friendly services to their citizens
  • Finance and banking — in an increasingly customer-oriented world, industries like these are constantly trying to make their services and products easier to use, more secure, and more lucrative
  • Automotive — think Tesla’s Cybertruck, which defies everything we know about vehicle interior and exterior styling
  • Technology — every day companies announce more advanced smart phones, smart drones, mapping technologies, and virtual reality
  • Pharmaceuticals — new solutions for modern ailments are constantly evolving to be more effective and have fewer side effects
  • Healthcare — it’s no surprise we are creating new ways to heal and keep people alive, like gene therapy and smartphone-connected pacemaker devices
  • Biotechnology — this industry contributes thought leadership to agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing, aquatics, and beyond

A common thread through all these massive industries is that innovation management plays a key role in moving them forward in a calculated and controlled manner. One of the leading providers of innovation management is information technology professionals.

What is Innovation Management?

Innovation management is the practice of controlling, guiding, and managing the ideation and implementation of new strategies and technology to support business growth. The need for this integrated role spans about every sector of private and public business, and it will only grow as organizations create more advanced solutions. The four key pillars of innovation management provides a foundation for IT professionals to identify the areas where an organization can and should innovate, as well as ensuring a company environment that nurtures innovation:

  1. Competency: The things that your company does really well and better than your competition (independent of whether it aligns with the needs of your target market).
  2. Structure: The systems and business processes within your organization. A well-structured organization is empowered to operate efficiently and execute great ideas.
  3. Culture: How your company values new ideas. A “best idea wins" and “leave your ego at the door" approach to company culture sets the stage for successful innovation.
  4. Strategy: The long-term growth plan for your organization. This prevents you from pursuing dead-ends and repeating failures, and it helps you allocate funds strategically.

Technological innovation is the cornerstone of growth and prosperity, so why does it need to be managed? Innovation management informs high-level business objectives to create maximum value for the organization. To implement effective innovation management, organizations need to embed the expertise of an IT professional in their business strategy, informed by the four key pillars. This intersection allows executives to make smart business decisions using insights from your IT department forecasting potential disruptors in your industry. As innovation becomes more sophisticated, the need for management becomes more imperative. Look at Blockbuster as evidence of that. They were slow to see change in their industry (cue Netflix), failed to innovate, and went bankrupt. 

Types of Innovation

Innovation can be broken into four distinct quadrants

  • Incremental innovation: As the most common form of innovation, incremental innovation uses your existing technology to increase your value in your market. 

Example: Adding new features to an existing product or service

  • Disruptive innovation: This term, coined by Clayton Christensen in a 1995 paper for Harvard Business School, refers to adding a new product to your existing market. Normally, new technology will be inferior to existing tech due to a lack of multiple iterations of improvements.

Example: Apple’s iPhone was the first smartphone to offer a touchscreen

  • Architectural innovation: This form of innovation takes the successful practices, technology, and thought leadership of one market and brings them to a new market.

Example: NASA’s Ames Research Center invented a new foam to increase the safety of the seats on their aircraft. Eventually, they found that it was comfortable enough to use in mattresses. This foam technology is now widely known as memory foam.

  • Radical innovation: This type of revolutionary change doesn’t simply make good products better—it completely transforms the technology landscape forever and swallows the market whole.

Example: Air travel turned the public transportation industry on its head by making commercial airplanes an efficient, cost-effective way to travel long distances.

Each type of innovation has a time and a place, depending on the company, its growth stage, the state of the market, and many other factors. An IT professional’s ability to analyze and weigh these factors is essential in innovation management and making business decisions.

What is Disruptive Change?

Disruptive change is a result of innovation that demands the organizations in an industry to change the way they do business. Industry disruptors are like waves of the ocean: strong and utterly merciless. The scary truth is, in many industries, most organizations fail to answer the call. No industry is safe from disruptive change, and that is a good thing. It has given us Netflix, Uber, cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, gene editing—even wi-fi.

Why Innovation Management is a Crucial Part of Effective Leadership

Companies that do not innovate will die. To stay afloat in our rapidly evolving economy and technology landscape, companies must foster a collaborative culture wherein business strategy and information technology are intertwined in decision-making and employees are encouraged to express their entrepreneurial spirit. Moreover, a leadership team that encourages entrepreneurial thinking prepares the company for disruptive innovation, as long as innovation management goes hand-in-hand.

An IT professional wanting to implement innovation management in their organization can take these steps:

  • Get leadership adoption: The first step to implementing an innovation management process is getting the executives on board. This entails showing how innovation management moves the organization towards its goals and allocating resources to support that.
  • Define strategic objectives: This step requires you to outline the strategic goals of your organization. Define the role you want innovation to play in your company.
  • Identify areas of need: Find out where there are areas of opportunity in your field to help guide you innovate meaningfully. Use market data to find a need for innovation.
  • Brainstorm ideas: Use the first three steps to guide you in producing an innovative idea.
  • Design the innovation process: Create a plan for carrying out the innovation determined in step four. This requires a years-long plan for product development, testing, and launch.

Innovative ideas are constantly surfacing. Just look at the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine if you need convincing. The key to successful innovation is creating a business model where new ideas and innovative technologies are celebrated. Innovation management allows these ideas to come to fruition while considering the risks involved in the process. Implementing a plan for innovation management requires a skilled, trained individual. As a growing need in every industry, innovation management has seen more and more positions open for qualified professionals. An IT degree from Western Governors University prepares you to implement innovation management strategies in healthcare, government, biotechnology, and many other industries. Learn more about how you can enter the innovation field and make a difference helping new businesses manage their growth and introduce new technology and solutions to the world.

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