Bruce Vojak, University of Illinois Associate Dean of Engineering, will give a talk on his book, "Serial Innovators: How Individuals Create and Deliver Breakthrough Innovation in Mature Firms."
The book zeros in on the cutting-edge thinkers who repeatedly create and deliver breakthrough innovations and new products in large, mature organizations. These employees are organizational powerhouses who solve consumer problems and substantially contribute to the financial value to their firms.
In this pioneering study, authors Abbie Griffin, Raymond L. Price, and Bruce A. Vojak detail who these serial innovators are and how they develop novel products, ranging from salt-free seasonings to improved electronics in companies such as Alberto Culver, Hewlett-Packard, and Procter & Gamble. Based on interviews with over 50 serial innovators and an even larger pool of their co-workers, managers and human resources teams, the authors reveal key insights about how to better understand, emulate, enable, support, and manage these unique and important individuals for long-term corporate success. Interestingly, the book finds that serial innovators are instrumental both in cases where firms are aware of clear market demands, and in scenarios when companies take risks on new investments, creating a consumer need.
For over 25 years, research on innovation has taken the perspective that new product development can be managed like any other (complex) process of the firm. While a highly structured and closely supervised approach is helpful in creating incremental innovations, this book finds that it is not conducive to creating breakthrough innovations. The text argues that the drive to routinize innovation has gone too far; in fact, so far as to limit many mature firms' ability to create breakthrough innovations. In today's economy, with the future of so many large firms on the line, this book is a clarion call to businesses to rethink how to nurture and thrive on their innovative workforce.