Corporations are becoming increasingly less dependent on their own internal R&D for new ideas. In their quest for”breakthrough” innovations — and business results — companies are looking outside their boundaries for ideas about novel, new technologies that will create truly differentiated products and services. Andrew Hargadon, CIMS Researcher (UC Davis), likens open and collaborative innovation to what happened at medieval bazaars along the great Silk Route — people from all over the world came together to “trade knowledge.”
Hargadon goes on to say that innovation and collaboration are deliberate processes that “devote resources — not to inventing — but rather to the recombination of existing ideas, people and objects from across different worlds.” The trend to a new open, collaborative model of innovation is sweeping all industries, yet few firms have been able to capitalize on it effectively. That’s why we made open, collaborative innovation the theme of the CIMS Spring 2008 Sponsors meeting, co-hosted by the Mason School of Business at the College of William & Mary. For three days, attendees were presented with new frameworks and tools to help their organizations learn “how to” gain the benefits of open collaboration (see p.3). As has been CIMS policy, we used the first day of the program to pilot a new Innovation Management School (IMS) executive education module — Tech Mining: Exploiting External R&D. Locating emerging technology opportunities and identifying potential partners/customers to co-develop these ideas depend on effective technological intelligence. Tech Mining leverages text and data mining to analyze information. It offers enhanced tools to gain such information and to integrate it into one’s business decision processes.
Course instructors Alan Porter, TPAC co-director and CIMS researcher (Georgia Tech), and Nils Newman, IISC president, showed CIMS members how to search publically-available technical data bases like the Web of Science, INSPEC and Micropatents, as well as business information sources like Factiva, and Nexus–Lexus to determine “who is doing what, where and when?” The IMS course module explains and illustrates the entire Tech Mining process to help CIMS members assess its potential fit with their strategic business interests.
Tech Mining is not for beginners. Both Alan and Nils emphasized the inevitable management issues that arise. These issues must be dealt with head- on or no amount of additional information will change the organization’s performance:
• The current decision process reality in most organizations is that expert opinion, not information, dominates the management of technology. This shift requires cultural change and management buy-in.
• The organization’s “bandwidth” is almost always an issue; it requires staff competent at searching.
• Output must feed a need in the standard innovation management decision process; starting with something new is generally a non-starter.
• Automation is the key to ROI. Unless you are working with high-value-added issues, custom exploration can yield a relatively low rate of return.
• And, the most frequent issue is what will Tech Mining cost? The answer is “it depends” --it depends on the data sources used, staffing requirements and the tools needed to analyze and present the data.
To help mitigate these costs CIMS plans to offer its members very attractive access to both the databases themselves and the software tools needed to analyze and display search results. Packaged as part of an “action-research” project, the IMS course includes a one-day orientation (on-site) where participants will discuss and learn how technical intelligence is generated today, the strategic issues facing the firm, the current business decision process, and a case study topic they will select.
Working with our partners at Georgia Tech, we will conduct the actual search and prepare a final report, through a corporate-sponsored contract research program. We will take line management through the case results and discuss how best to institutionalize Tech Mining capabilities. Throughout this process, CIMS will act as a single point of contact for the CIMS member company, Georgia Tech and NC State University library. (Due to special university license agreements with database providers, recurring searches will not be allowed under these provisions.)
For more information about IMS and the courses available for customization to your own organization’s needs, please contact CIMS program director, Michelle Grainger Smith at (919) 513-0166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if there are any questions I can answer about this, or any other CIMS program, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at Paul_Mugge@ncsu.edu