Technology, innovation and management
Technology, innovation and management

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Technology, innovation and management

2.1.3 Diffusion

The final definition of innovation that we consider is from the work of one of the most influential writers on the diffusion of innovations, Everett Rogers, and is concerned primarily with how innovations spread. Rogers has defined innovation as follows:

An innovation is an idea, practice or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other object of adoption. It matters little, so far as human behaviour is concerned, whether or not an idea is ‘objectively’ new as measured by the lapse of time since its first use or discovery.

(Rogers, 2003, p. 12)

As Rogers is concerned primarily with why people and organisations decide whether or not to adopt an innovation, it matters less whether that innovation is absolutely novel than that it is new to a would-be adopter and the circles in which they move. An understanding of how and why a target audience of people or organisations decides about an innovation can be critical to its success or failure. We will look at elements of the diffusion of innovation in a little more detail later in this course.

Activity 1

Now you have been introduced to a range of ideas about – and definitions of – innovation, watch these five short clips from the Open University/BBC co-production Built in Britain (2012) in which a range of interviewees talk about examples of innovation and related issues.

Videos 1–5: Watch all five videos

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Skip transcript: Video 1: Interview with Andrew Wolstenholme of Crossrail

Transcript: Video 1: Interview with Andrew Wolstenholme of Crossrail

Interview with Andrew Wolstenholme of Crossrail

ANDREW WOLSTENHOLME:
Well, I suppose you can talk about Crossrail being the biggest construction programme in Europe. It’s 14.8 billion pounds. We’re digging 50 kilometres of tunnels under London. And if you get on a train at Maidenhead and get off at Shenfield, then that’s about 120 kilometres long. So this is as big as they get.
EVAN DAVIS:
Why does London need this?
ANDREW WOLSTENHOLME:
I mean major infrastructure projects provide a lot of different things. One is it’ll help Londoners move. It’ll provide 10 per cent extra rail transport capacity for London. It’ll provide the opportunity for up to three million square feet of development above our stations. It will bring 42 billion pounds of economic growth over its life cycle. So, it moves people; it provides economic growth; it provides jobs. And it provides development opportunity.
EVAN DAVIS:
Let’s talk a little bit about the engineering. Early days, what are some of the difficulties of building this mega project across what is one of the biggest cities in Europe?
ANDREW WOLSTENHOLME:
Well, I think you can understand the complexity of putting 50 kilometres of tunnels under London. We’re going to come up just 350 metres from where we stand now at Paddington, then at Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road. All of these stations create challenges in them – in themselves. London – if you look at a picture of it underground – is fairly full of foundations, of utilities, of sewers. You know, Bazalgette in 1860 began to build the sewers of London. So we have to understand the relationship between Crossrail and those. And, technically, I think people will be fascinated by how you build a deep station at Bond Street, how you connect the running tunnels to it, and how behind me you use tunnel boring machines to make all this possible in a safe and economic manner. You know, the depth of the station, for instance at Bond Street. If you take Nelson’s Column, then you’re two-thirds of the way up Nelson’s Column below the ground. If you look at the different station concourses, there are three full size football pitches between the east and the west concourse. At Liverpool Street, therefore, in the east you are at Liverpool Street and in the west you’re at Moorgate. And the huge scale engineering to logistically feed these projects, to understand the technology of how these structures relate to the existing infrastructure of London, are all challenges that we are well rehearsed in. UK engineering is the best in the world. And this is really what we’re very good at.
EVAN DAVIS:
At points you’re coming very close to other things, aren’t you? You’re kind of gliding past other tunnels and under building foundations, even perhaps touching them.
ANDREW WOLSTENHOLME:
Well, we never touch things. We come relatively close, but these tunnel boring machines are designed for safety. They’re designed to minimise the movements and the deflections and the disruptions of any infrastructure that comes very close. That’s why we’ve spent almost ten million pounds per each one of these machines. They’re the most sophisticated, and certainly the safest, that you can buy in the world. So the deflections at the surface are very small, and they go relatively slowly. We monitor all the services around us. And, therefore, the risk of anything happening is very low.
EVAN DAVIS:
How much planning, and what planning, has to go into something like building a Crossrail?
ANDREW WOLSTENHOLME:
Well, I mean, Crossrail was first talked about 20 years ago. But when you start the physical engineering, up at a very high level, this started three or four years ago for Crossrail. There have been about two thousand people designing Crossrail for almost two years now.
EVAN DAVIS:
What is innovative? What is some of the innovative, leading-edge things that Crossrail’s pioneering?
ANDREW WOLSTENHOLME:
Well, I think if you look at the rail sector, Crossrail has a fantastic opportunity to move the industry forwards. And what we’re trying to do is two things. One is to create the environment where people can bring their ideas - it’s called an open innovation model - and that we can share those ideas and accelerate the pace at which they’re accepted on a programme like Crossrail. The second thing we’re doing is that we’re sponsoring our own innovations. And let me give you two examples of that. Signalling - we are using a communication-based signalling system, but we’re going to design and build a transition to the new European signalling systems. We’re also looking at how, perhaps, you can recover the heat from tunnel segment rings. And if we don’t achieve that on Crossrail then we’ll make sure that the industry is four or five years closer to future projects around the world. So those are the sorts of examples of innovations, the environment to share ideas and the sponsorship of ideas on Crossrail itself.
EVAN DAVIS:
You’ve also been doing a lot of modelling, haven’t you? Design modelling underground. Quite challenging environment in itself.
ANDREW WOLSTENHOLME:
So, another innovation is using the technologies of digital modelling. Something that the car industry and the aerospace industry did perhaps 10 or 20 years ago. But if you bring together all the models, all the geometry, and you begin to understand how you can construct these models, not just to design and build but to operate over 60 years, this will be a fantastic opportunity, at a scale that no one’s seen before, to improve and to advance the technology of building information modelling.
End transcript: Video 1: Interview with Andrew Wolstenholme of Crossrail
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Skip transcript: Interview with Rob Holden of HS1

Transcript: Interview with Rob Holden of HS1

EVAN DAVIS:
Which do we do better here? Do we do the engineering, the physical engineering, better? Or is it the financial side, the financial engineering that we do better – or worse?
ROB HOLDEN:
The engineering, I think, we’ve got correct, as we can see here. The problem for projects is financing and planning. Although when I think about planning, we’re not as bad as some other countries, particularly the United States. But the Hybrid Bill process ...
EVAN DAVIS:
Which is the process of taking a private project through Parliament if it needs to be taken through Parliament...
ROB HOLDEN:
It’s basically getting its permissions to acquire the land and do what it needs to do. Comes with a huge bill in terms of many, many undertakings and assurances, which adds to the cost.
EVAN DAVIS:
Because every MP can say, look, let’s put this in or that in. And some of those will go through. Just whacking up the bill for the developers.
ROB HOLDEN:
Yeah. And we had some hundreds on Channel Tunnel Rail High Speed One. Crossrail has 780-odd undertakings and assurances. And every one of those comes with a bill, sometimes millions of pounds. And what we’re not good at is sorting out the necessary from the nice-to-haves. And it introduces delay. So that helps complicate the financing.
EVAN DAVIS:
Innovation. We like it in this country, quite a bit. We want to have innovative companies. Was there a system in London and Continental Railways - as it was - was there a system for being innovative in the building of HS One? Or was it really just about being as uninnovative as possible and using everything, but making sure that you’re not trying things out and doing everything in the same old way?
ROB HOLDEN:
Being a cautious accountant, I’ve adopted the approach - and fortunately my colleagues followed it here - that we would not be innovative. I’m not ashamed to say that High Speed One Channel Tunnel Rail link is simply an extension of the French TGV network. It works, and it worked for us. And when I was at Crossrail, again, we took the approach that we weren’t going to use the project as an experiment. There are enough risks on mega projects without introducing unnecessary risks. And I think, with the success that we had here, it was the right decision.
EVAN DAVIS:
So the signalling system, for example, tell us about that.
ROB HOLDEN:
The signalling system here is a proven signalling system – in France. There is, at the moment, a European requirement to move to a signalling system called ERTMS Level 3. It doesn’t work at the moment, and it’s going to cost an awful lot of money to get it working. Big projects cannot afford to be the test bed of new signalling systems. So I’m sure I and my colleagues will be very happy to use ERTMS when somebody has got it to work successfully.
End transcript: Interview with Rob Holden of HS1
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Skip transcript: Interview with Colin Matthews of BAA

Transcript: Interview with Colin Matthews of BAA

INTERVIEWER:
It took quite a long time to get here, didn’t it? I mean, BAA – and it goes back well before your time, and the chap before you’s time, and probably the chap before him – what do you think of that planning system that took so many years?
COLIN MATTHEWS:
Well, I think it took about 18 years for T5 to go through planning. And that’s just too long. That’s not serving the interests of the UK, to take that long over thinking about important bits of national infrastructure.
Having said that, though, I don’t think that’s all down to the planning process. For a planning process to work really well, it needs to happen in a framework of good, clear, stable government policy. And for policy to be stable, I think it needs to last more than one Parliament. For a project that’s going to take 10 years to deliver, that’s at least two political cycles. So we need stable policy that isn’t party political and changes every time there’s an election, and it needs to be clear. Because then the planners have something to refer against.
And I think one of the challenges for T5 planning that wasn’t that clear. So the planners themselves had to try and figure out what’s in the national interest from the point of view of infrastructure.
So of course we should discuss the details of the planning process. We also need really clear government policies.
INTERVIEWER:
How, in a company like BAA – maybe you don’t, but how do you encourage, promote innovation, doing things better?
COLIN MATTHEWS:
I think sometimes small companies, again, to be more agile than a big one like ours. But every company cares about innovation. We’re in T5. At the other end of this terminal, you could hop in a driverless vehicle that’ll take you to the business car park. That’s a specific innovation that happened from my company over the last few years. It’s a really great bit of technology. It works well. I don’t know if you’ve tried it. Give it a go. But yes, we do need to be innovative.
I think more often than that is the innovation every day of someone thinking, OK, we’ve got to carry out specific, say, security processes. How do we do that in a way that’s more comfortable for business people, more comfortable for families travelling with children, more comfortable for people who are struggling to take their shoes off or put them back on? So I think it’s a day to day issue of getting people to think, how do we make this work better for passengers, as well, of course, as satisfying every single technical requirement that an operation like this has to.
INTERVIEWER:
Take the little pods that take people to the business car park here. That is an innovation, isn’t it? I don’t think it’s done anywhere else in the world, as I understand it. Where did it come from?
COLIN MATTHEWS:
It came from an idea that with sophisticated programming, you could have a vehicle which is available for anyone to use, where you just push a button and say, I want to go to this location. In this case, if you’re in T5, you can say which part of the car park you wish to go to. And it’s driverless. It’s driven by battery. So it’s much more efficient from an environmental point of view than having diesel buses travel backwards and forwards whether or not they’re full. Often, you’ll see they’ve only got one or two people on them.
So it’s a good environmental solution. It’s a good technology solution. It’s comfortable. It’s fun. It works great.
INTERVIEWER:
Did it come from inside BAA, to your recollection, or did it come from an outside company that said hey, we’ve got a great idea for you.
COLIN MATTHEWS:
The idea was developed within BAA. The original idea, I’m not sure where that came from. I suspect not from a BAA employee. But it was developed by the company.
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Skip transcript: Interview with Ken Burgin, Chief Executive of the Cotswold Canal Trust

Transcript: Interview with Ken Burgin, Chief Executive of the Cotswold Canal Trust

KEN BURGIN:
We’re standing at Saul Junction, and right in front of us here is the Gloucester and Sharpness canal. And that runs from Gloucester down to Sharpness, and at the moment, water flows down this canal and is used to help supply Bristol with its water. On the other side, we’ve got the start of the Cotswold canals, and they run from the Gloucester and Sharpness canal, right away over to the river Thames in the east, distance about 36 miles.
Now the idea is to use some of the water that is here – which is supplied by the Severn and from rivers coming down the Cotswold hills – and pump it up to the top of the canal and then to flow it by gravity down the rest of the canal to the Thames and the thirsty southeast.
INTERVIEWER:
Brilliant. Very, very good. It seems like such a good idea, why wouldn’t we just jump at that? Give us the arguments for and against, if you like – probably mainly for. But give us some of the arguments around the idea of this scheme?
KEN BURGIN:
Well OK, for this scheme to work, it’s important that the water is going to be available to make it work. If there’s not the water available, then there are limitations –
INTERVIEWER:
That’s water in the Severn? Because you’re putting it on the Severn.
KEN BURGIN:
Water in the Severn. So the amount of water that’s available, that has to be checked. The mixing of the water from here – although it’s very good, the water here, I have to say – and that of the Thames, that needs to be checked to make sure it’s not going to cause any ecological difficulties or chemical problems, so that needs to be checked.
The cost of any water supply scheme is important. It’s looking quite a good one, from a cost point of view. It’s certainly a lot cheaper than, for instance, building a reservoir instead, by probably a factor of three or four. So cost, it looks like it will meet that.
So it is going into the detail and comparing it with other solutions. If it’s comparative in cost, if the water’s available, there are some huge upsides in restoring the canal. Because it’s not just then a conduit for getting water to London, you’ve got all the recreational benefits and the ecological benefits, and the conservation benefits, and the heritage protection benefits. All of those are added on top as an additional bonus.
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Skip transcript: Interview with Evan Davis of the BBC

Transcript: Interview with Evan Davis of the BBC

EVAN DAVIS:
A very interesting thing I noticed about technological innovation in the making of this series is that, with large-scale infrastructure, you don’t want it to be too technologically innovative.
You don’t want to be trying things out in a ten billion pound railway project. You want to build, as one guy described to me, the best five-year-old railway system in the world. And that’s because so much capital is tied up in the construction of the railway system. If anything is going to go wrong with the signalling system, you don’t want to be doing that while you’re building or sitting on a huge investment, unused, while that signalling system is being refined.
Then you have to ask yourself, actually, a lot of what we can do is not about technology. It’s about better human organisation. And I was very struck at something called NEC3 - New Engineering Contract, third version, published book. And it’s basically just a way of organising the project management, the contractors, the workers, everybody involved, and trying to iron out some of the mistakes which have dogged us in the past.
INTERVIEWER:
And in terms of what you’ve learned while making the two programmes, what do you consider the most serious barriers to development of infrastructure in this country?
EVAN DAVIS:
I think I would label the barriers to infrastructure as being decision-making barriers. Essentially, we have a habit of taking a very long time to work out how we’re going to finance a project, where we’re going to build it, and whether we’re going to build it. This is not an unfamiliar point. We are quite careful about what we do. And I think being careful about what we do is no problem whatsoever.
We should be careful about what we do. We’re talking about large amounts of money, and we’re talking about a very beautiful country, and we don’t want to go knocking it down and tarring it over for no purpose whatsoever. However, I think pretty well everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that there’s a difference between being careful and being paralysed.
And sometimes it got into the paralysis of analysis. We’ve spent all our time thinking about it, and it hasn’t really improved the decision making. It’s just taken a very long time to get to where you could have been very much more quickly. And I think we need to get away from the paralysis of analysis. Sometimes, we simply just need to make up our minds more quickly. The fact that a decision is difficult doesn’t mean it gets easier because you spend 25 years over it, and then make it, rather than five years and making it. And I think, at times, we just need to knock heads together and decide on a decision.
INTERVIEWER:
Why did you choose to get involved with this series in the first place?
EVAN DAVIS:
The reason I chose to get involved with this series is quite simple – I love the engineering aspect of it. I think infrastructure raises wonderful questions around economics, which is my patch, my beat. But the truth is, I just find it aesthetically pleasing. I think some of the bridges I’ve been to – the Medway Viaduct in Kent with the Eurostars going over it, or the Forth Road Bridge, north of Edinburgh – I just think these are very beautiful constructions. I’m constantly amazed at how you can have a piece of cable going across a river from which you’re hanging a bridge on which lots of cars will go, whether it’s the Humber or the Forth.
I just find these constructions extraordinary. I am in awe of the engineers that design them and build them. And I think it’s a fascinating reflection on Britain today that, actually, the engineering is always the easiest bit. We tend to think of ourselves as a country that lost the knack of engineering. But the engineering bit is the bit we don’t seem to have a problem with. It’s the human bit. It’s not the concrete and cables we get wrong, it’s the human decision-making side we get wrong. Both of them interest me.
But the reason I got involved was so I’d have a good excuse for climbing up tall buildings and going into deep tunnels. And I think people should focus on the decision-making dysfunctions we have in our country. But I worry also about the dysfunctions of not building enough infrastructure. About finding one particular community, blighted by a piece of critical infrastructure, at a particular time, and the need sometimes to take a bigger view of these things and say, look, this is a painful decision. It’s not one that is going to meet everybody’s requirements. But nevertheless, we do need to decide on where a motorway goes or where an airport goes.
End transcript: Interview with Evan Davis of the BBC
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