Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Management for the New Millennium-The Challenge of Change. (One Point of View)

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Management for the New Millennium-The Challenge of Change. (One Point of View)

Article excerpt

My first "One Point of View" in Research * Technology Management was published September 1980, five years after I joined the Industrial Research Institute as its executive director. The article was titled "Management for the 80s--A Challenge to Change." I had wanted the title to be, "A Challenge of Change," but our then-editor would not relent. Hence, the title of this article.

My earlier article emphasized that U.S. industry was losing ground internationally in technology and management practice, noting that Western Europe and Japan had adopted and improved upon U.S. technology and management techniques. Also noted was the importance of industry taking a longer-range view of investment in research, and recognizing the human element on both the producing and consuming sides of our economic enterprise. Finally, I observed that our Federal government was giving increasing attention to policies that impact technological innovation in industry.

The New Challenge of Change

R&D and innovation in the United States have experienced dramatic changes since 1980. R&D investment by industry increased from $31 billion to $192 billion. Technological innovation, nurtured by actions in industry, universities and government, brought the U.S. to the top of the list of most competitive nations in the world for the past eight years and produced a period of unequaled economic growth.

R&D and innovation in the U.S. are now in another period of dramatic change. Paul Germeraad recently described some of these changes (RTM, March-April 2001, pp. 15-20), pointing out how knowledge is now the basis for market capitalization; that traditional enterprises have to be entrepreneurial to compete with new "flip" companies designed for a short life span; that intellectual capital represents more than one way to profits; and that new portfolio-management and product-development techniques are significantly reducing cycle times.

The world of industrial technology and innovation obviously is quite different than it was 20 years ago. This contrast could be equally dramatic over just the next 10 years. The article on "Industrial R&D in 2008" (RTM, Nov.-Dec. 1998, pp. 19-24) speculated that the R&D function could eventually become a virtual function, brought about by rapid advances in information technology obviating the need for physical testing, and an overwhelming emphasis on innovation being led by some other function in the company. Thus, technical leaders in industry are now more challenged than ever to deal with change.

"Industrial R&D in 2008" also noted the growing importance of technical intelligence and planning, two critical keys for future success. We have read too often recently of major corporations, with highly astute CEOs and Boards, making huge investments of billions of dollars that turn out to be worthless. Technical intelligence, knowledge management and scenario planning cannot actually tell us what will happen in the future. But increasingly sophisticated tools will certainly help. The key to future success is obvious--anticipate change and adapt accordingly. Easier said than done!

Key Ideas for Future Success

The April 6, 2001 issue of Science featured an editorial on "An Algorithm for Discovery" developed by two carpooling academic physicians. They reduced the process of creating new knowledge, a critical factor for success in innovation, to five simple principles: 1) Slow down to explore (resist quick closure and instead actively search for deviations and inconsistencies); 2) Read, but not too much (it is important to master others' ideas, but fledgling ideas need nurturing); 3) Pursue quality for its own sake (rigorous attention to refining methods and design helps to avert premature rejection or acceptance of hypotheses); 4) Look at the raw data (viewing data first hand provides a check on automated averaging); and 5) Cultivate smart friends (sharpens critical thinking and sparks new insights). …

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