People unfamiliar with technology management believe that innovation results from scientists working in an academic-like environment, free from the cares of the marketplace. Nothing could be further from the truth! An innovative climate tempers freedom with structured processes. The best innovative organizations are designed in ways that integrate them internally with the business units and externally with the customers.
The Innovation Challenge
The role of the contemporary chief technical officer (CTO) extends well beyond the management of the laboratories. Its internal focus includes creating a "mutual fund" of market-oriented projects, guiding them to the marketplace, and developing the technical capability of the firm. Its external focus includes using alliances to access "best in class" technology quickly and at low cost, extracting value from the firm's patent portfolio through out-licensing and predicting which new technologies will lead to the "next big thing".
How do most firms train their technology managers? They don't! Technical managers learn their skills through trial and error. Many do not know what is really important. It is only by persistent effort that great technology managers help their direct reports look past the day-to-day tasks and work on projects that will change the course of the organization.
A persistent technology management challenge is integrating the R&D function with the business units. Friction in organizations occurs at the boundaries. Marketing can't understand why R&D is not responsive to customer needs and timeframes. Product development reminds R&D to develop low cost technologies. Manufacturing feels left out of the development loop and resents fixing manufacturing problems designed into the product. The bigger the company gets, the worse these problems get. While there is no "one-best-solution", proven methodologies such as stage-gates, matrix designs and heavy weight product development teams guide management thinking as they address the challenge.
The most successful research organizations invent from the "outside-in". They use strategic alliances to access the technology of others and radically decrease the cost of research while dramatically increasing speed to market. Here's the concept. If the answer to my technical problem is known in the world, I buy it. If the answer to my technical problem is not known in the world, I either invent it myself, or partner with the leading firm in the field to cooperatively invent it.
The final challenge is motivating technical professionals. Innovating organizations balance the need to meet organizational goals while providing intrinsically satisfying work. Volumes have been written on motivating technical professionals. Much of it is 50,000 foot fluff written by people who never worked in an R&D organization. Motivating technical professionals requires a combination of interesting work that clearly brings value to the organization, a challenging work environment, and a support system that helps (not hinders) the workflow.
All of these activities optimize the innovation cycle. Firms maximize the value of technology when they apply proven processes to the management of the innovation function, and tie them to the core revenue generators of the firm.
Many of our technology management consultants are retired Chief Technology Officers of Fortune 1000 firms [Meet our partners]. The most junior R&D consultant has over 15 years of experience managing technical professionals. We understand the complexities you face and the challenge of linking the research function to the rest of the firm. Working closely with senior management, our consultants develop a work program that meets your requirements within the cost and time constraints desired. We pride ourselves in helping research executives take specific actions that motivate people and encourage innovation that achieves marketplace results. Our Innovation Workshop outlines the issues and helps research managers frame the answers.
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