The Parable of the Soil

Jim Euchner, From the Editor, 61.4

“A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled, and the birds of the sky ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew, it withered for lack of moisture. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew, it produced fruit a hundredfold.”

Luke 8:5–8, New American Bible

 

An innovative culture is one in which radically new things can happen with some consistency. That culture is rare, and it requires nurturing. Like the seeds in Luke’s version of the parable of the soil, innovation requires the right conditions to thrive and produce fruit. Without those conditions, innovative impulses may crop up, but like seeds scattered in the wrong place, they won’t grow to maturity. The parable of the seeds offers a useful analogy for the factors in the corporate environment that can stifle innovation—or allow it to thrive.

 

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The Emergence of Innovation in China

Jim Euchner,  From the Editor, RTM 61.3

“Let me speak frankly: the advantage of innovation for multinational companies has shrunk substantially since the early 2000s.”

—Professor Hengyuan Zhu, Tsinghua University

 

I was invited to visit China for the first time in 1989, to speak about expert systems, then at the forefront of practical AI. At that time, technology transfer from the West to China was a one-way street, and it was expected to be so for some time. My visit was canceled by the tragic events at Tiananmen Square in June of that year. The emergence of a vibrant culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in China seemed very far away.

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Innovation Succession

Jim Euchner,  From the Editor, RTM 61.1

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

—Ecclesiastes 3:1

I have always been intrigued by the notion of forest succession. Following the burnout of a forest, the trees that grow are not (at first) the ones that were burned. The soil and the light are not proper for these trees. Instead, first-generation vegetation—mostly mosses and grasses—begins to grow, almost as soon as the ashes cool. Over time, as these plants grow, they change the composition of the soil, making the conditions right for a second-generation forest composed of bushes and small trees. Next, fast-growing evergreen trees take over. These trees love the sun and quickly become the dominant species. Soon, trees that thrive in the shade—the large, deciduous trees that will be the dominant species in the mature forest—begin to grow in their understory. The canopy they produce creates an environment in which the shade-intolerant pines cannot thrive; the climax forest is primarily composed of large, long-lived, shade-producing trees.

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A New IRI for the Future of Innovation

by Edward Bernstein, IRI president; published in RTM, Vol 60, 6

Five years ago, IRI celebrated its 75th anniversary by looking back over the accomplishments of the Institute and its members and envisioning what the next 75 years will bring. While much has changed in the field of innovation management over IRI’s lifespan, these shifts are modest compared to those that are coming. IRI is no stranger to change; in fact, we champion it by facilitating the incredible innovation endeavors of our members and by making smart pivots as an organization.

Through the decades, our organization has kept a steadfast focus on creating value that keeps pace with the continuously evolving needs of our members. The IRI of the 20th century focused on the leader of the central R&D laboratory; while the company was the unit of membership, our programs and services were geared toward providing value to the Chief Technology Officer. This value centered on the relationships developed at semiannual meetings held at top-tier venues. As R&D has become more distributed, IRI has evolved along with it, creating new ways to serve the new value creation units emerging in member companies. These new avenues included our networks, more open online content, and an increase in the number of complimentary registrations included with organizational memberships, to encourage broader participation in our network and ROR programs.

Now, our brand and the experience we offer need to catch up with that evolution, to communicate a cohesive vision that is relevant to the times and strategically mapped to how companies will realize growth into the 21st century. As we prepare to lead into the future, we know that the functions we support are more often referred to as innovation than as R&D—a permanent change that is more than semantic. Furthermore, the term industrial research, the core of our name, is anachronistic, belying our forward-thinking approach and creating a barrier to the organization’s adoption by “new economy” industries. For these reasons, the Industrial Research Institute is repositioning itself in the market with a new name: the Innovation Research Interchange. This change reflects our new value proposition, better defines the unique collaborative experiences we foster, and aligns with how our members achieve growth.

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