In this short course, we considered what the term ‘innovation’ actually means, in terms of definitions and types of innovation. We learned that most types of innovation can be broadly classified in terms of product innovation (i.e. a good or a service) or process innovations (i.e. production, distribution and logistics, information and communication technology systems, marketing, organisational process and process development etc.) or combinations thereof. System innovations are more complex and can comprise products and processes as well as social features, that is to say they are usually sociotechnical. Examples of different innovation types were considered as an activity. We also learned that it is difficult to classify some innovations by type or characteristics alone, and therefore that it is important to consider other factors when trying to understand innovation, including the role of people, technological, organisational, and contextual (PTOC) factors.
A model of innovation in an organisation was also introduced, based on Tidd and Bessant’s (2018) Search, Select, Implement and Capture (SSIC) model. This simple model appears to be generally applicable to describing the innovation process, phases and activities in many situations. This was underpinned by an activity to identify the phases and consider how it might apply to innovation management activities. You were also introduced to innovation diffusion, which refers to how innovations spread across users and market contexts over time once an innovation has been launched or implemented. We then discussed added value or value creation as an essential innovation process, including the natural, human, social, manufactured and financial ‘capitals’ (or types of value) that an innovating organisation seeks to capture or create through innovation.
Perhaps unusually, in the section ‘Sceptical voices’ we also highlighted some of the hype that surrounds the subject of innovation, particularly the belief in the transformative power of innovation. We emphasised the importance of considering different perspectives and of thinking critically about the claims made about technological innovation.
You were then introduced to innovation management as a distinct area of management, albeit one that is considered a core but risky business for many organisations. The range of skills and resources required by the innovation manager and the type of roles and activities performed will depend on the nature of the innovation project, which will change over time as the context changes. We suggested that considering the role of people, technological, organisational and contextual (PTOC) factors as 4 key lenses- is important for effective technology and innovation management, with the recommendation to ‘Tick the PTOC factors’ in your study and practice of technology and innovation management.
One feature of studying innovation, as distinct from the scientific and technological disciplines which generate much innovation, is that it is a fundamentally a sociotechnical and economic field, albeit with a multidisciplinary focus. Consequently, thinking about the contribution of different academic perspectives from different disciplines, and reading about contemporary practices, will deepen your understanding of these ideas. Finally – and perhaps most importantly – now you have completed this block, you should have gained an awareness of the fundamental technology and innovation management (TIM) concepts for the study of innovation, which you can build on in your future studies.
Congratulations, you have now completed the course! If you enjoyed this course, you might want to consider an Open University course. This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course.