Efficient Utilization of Innovation Tools

Efficient Utilization of Innovation Tools

By Salvatore Di Cristo

This Article is based on research appearing in the MIT Sloan Managment Review

Understanding how to effectively and efficiently make use of innovation tools is key. This knowledge can keep companies from making common mistakes and ensure that they maximize the potential of their tools by integrating them seamlessly into their existing infrastructure.

At the root of many modern breakthroughs in technology, there are advances in developmental tools. However, the mechanisms are not the sole providers of the benefits – it is important to remember that tools don’t actually create anything. It is the combination of tools, their proper use on behalf of the development teams and the proper integration of the them within a companies’ infrastructure that ensure success. If any of these components do not function properly, companies can easily fall into common pitfalls and actually inhibit performance instead of increasing it.

The use of tools offers the potential to increase productivity, innovation and cost savings. This is achieved by providing developers with means to better problem-solve and to enhance communications with other developer communities. One of the keys to ensure that this succeeds is to pay close attention that the tools are integrated into a system currently in use within the companies’ infrastructure. It is imperative that companies find a way to insert these new tools into the existing organizational patterns that have been created over the years. Changing the existing organizational structure to insert a foreign technology has been found to hamper, more than facilitate, innovation.

This situation can be found within the automotive industry. This industry has been the subject of many studies aimed at verifying the effective use of technologies over the course of the past twenty years due to its inherent complex and ever changing nature.

An example that shows the different outcomes based on the effective use of technologies is found in studies that compare the Japanese automotive industry practices to those of the United States and Europe. It was found that the Japanese approach, which efficiently utilized innovative tools, was successful through the use of better project coordination and project management, increased communication, and a more consistent use of simultaneous engineering. Thus, the Japanese auto manufacturers were able to bring new concepts to the market significantly quicker than their western counterparts thanks to the efficient use of their resources while maintaining high quality levels.

By taking a closer look at these studies of the automotive industries, several questions arise. For example, it was found that the western industries were able to bridge the gap at times by breaking up project tasks, using additional engineers and procuring more innovative technologies. However, the gap continued to widen every time. The reason can be found in the fact that these strategies were not integrated appropriately into the existing infrastructure. In fact, the Japanese auto manufacturers demonstrated that even utilizing lower level technologies, they were able to continue to surpass their Western counterparts because they took smaller steps and ensured that each change that was brought into the process jived with the existing system. In essence, the reason was that technology adopted in the United States and Europe had the potential to drastically improve the process, however they did not pay attention to ensuring that the technology was put to use properly.

This utilization of new tools as substitutes to existing ones is just one of the pitfalls uncovered by these studies. Other pitfalls involve the addition of new interfaces as opposed to their minimization, and the introduction of new tools without taking the time to change the behavior of the people.

The above examples are significant in sustaining the theory that the tools are only as good as the way they are used. To effectively and efficiently unlock their potential, there are many factors that need to be considered, and most importantly the tools must be incorporated into the existing system framework.


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