A Group of KGI Students Recap Corporate Innovation Study for Industry R&D Executives
KGI students presented the results of a nine-month study of how to improve corporate innovation during the 2012 annual meeting of the Industrial Research Institute (IRI) on May 7 in Indian Wells, a desert resort near Palm Springs. The study was conducted as part of a Team Master's Project on the transformation of industrial R&D that was sponsored by the Eli Lilly Co. and supported by IRI and its member companies. IRI is a non-profit organization which brings together leaders from diverse industries in order to enhance the effectiveness of technological innovation. More than 200 companies in the U.S are the members of IRI.
Team members Cijian Feng, Selena Guggavakin, Ryan McComb and Durgalaxmi Ramachandhiramani led a two-hour discussion of their findings, which were based on 73 interviews conducted with scientists, engineers and other innovators at four Fortune 500 companies as well as a leading Federal research lab.
Titled "Achieving Sustainable Innovation," the session was moderated by Carl Garner, a senior director for Lilly Research Laboratories, and one of two industry mentors from Lilly. The students were also supported by Jamie Dananberg, a Lilly vice president, and by their KGI faculty advisor, Joel West.
"By leveraging the competitive advantage of having an unbiased view towards R&D innovation, we were able to provide credible insights to the IRI audience," said Ramachandhiramani. "That said, we have also been able to prove that graduate student consultants are equally capable of finding solutions to different organizational challenges in innovation."
Among the group's most significant findings was that after identifying opportunities and generating possible ideas, innovators use informal feedback processes to crystallize their innovation concepts before selling them within the organization. They also found that the success of their concepts depends not only on selling their ideas to upper management to gain future funding, but also building internal consensus among peers that is essential to gaining management support. Additionally, the most successful R&D personnel are those who enlist internal support among business-oriented coworkers that help them articulate the economic benefit of the technological innovation to the firm.
The team concluded their discussion with a series of recommendations for R&D managers to create internal processes and corporate culture that enables the emergence and implementation of valuable innovations. The group is now working on summarizing their findings in a journal article to be distributed to all the IRI membership.