From Followers to Leaders: Managing Technology and Innovation in Newly Industrialized Countries

From Followers to Leaders: Managing Technology and Innovation in Newly Industrialized Countries

From Followers to Leaders: Managing Technology and Innovation in Newly Industrialized Countries

From Followers to Leaders: Managing Technology and Innovation in Newly Industrialized Countries

Synopsis

This title centres on the ways in which ordinary firms can improve technology management. It argues that succeeding as a follower-firm requires learning from many experiences and avoiding simplistic 'how-to' approaches.

Excerpt

Development is all about overcoming barriers to catch-up: at the level of the nation, the firm and individuals. Industrial development is at the heart of any national catchup process, and firms are at the heart of industrial development. Catching up at the level of the firm means growing value-added faster than leading-edge firms. And growing value-added is all about technical change, about innovation, about doing new things for commercial advantage. This book is about firms that have innovated to climb up the value-chain. This climb begins with the hard slog of getting better at producing, with all the small incremental innovations that involves. Follower-firms therefore learn from leading firms, and develop their own capabilities along the way. As they learn more, they develop new capabilities, which include proprietary technology and new products. Finally, as they close the gap, they emerge as leaders themselves. This book argues that firms must start by being good followers, to learn from the best, but have the ambition to emerge as leaders. Indeed firms must choose to go from followers to leaders, and they must manage innovation to get there.

Some firms, several described in this book, have gone on from being followers to become world leaders. Others are on the way, with some just beginning. Yet others stay followers but still try to do better than the local average. Companies choose to be world-class. Examples from Mexico and Brazil, India and Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe illustrate our argument, in industry segments from pharmaceuticals, to software, garments, beer, petrochemicals, glass, bicycles and steel. They show that successful experiences can arise anywhere in the world, in the most unpromising environments.

The initial idea for the book came from ten weeks of fun, team teaching a course called Comparative Technology Policy at Stanford University in 1990. The focus was rather different to other technology policy courses, because it attempted to focus on the environment for innovation in firms as the unit of analysis. The seminars attracted economists of technical change, international relations majors and even a lawyer, as well as engineering 'undergrads' and 'grads', and MBA students. They wanted to know about more than the national policy environment, about how and why some firms succeeded and others didn't, wherever they were located. The key ideas in this book were further developed when one of us, Naushad, went on to produce a course, Technology, Policy and Management in Newly Industrializing Countries, that more fully met the need for integration of knowledge of innovation theory, technology management and industrial development. Unusually, he tried to address the needs of both practitioners and theorists who understood the main elements of innovation

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