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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Failing Brilliantly

By Greg Holden, Business Writer & Social Media Manager, IRI

The mantra “fail fast, fail often” has almost become cliché in industry, yet it is a concept that innovation leaders still struggle to implement effectively at their firms. It is not hard to see why. Failure is difficult for everyone, even when they are told it’s no big deal. Tony Singarayar, Founding Partner of Analogy Partners, LLC, touched on this during a panel discussion at an IRI meeting when he spoke about the problems that can arise when innovation leaders get moved up from a research position to a management role. He said, “What’s the cost of failing? Even though the company says, ‘Oh, fail fast, fail often. No problem. You’re an investment not a failure.’ It feels like a failure when you fail… so how do we really make these people feel like investments and not failures?”

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How Do You Reward Innovators?

By Greg Holden, Business Writer & Social Media Manager, IRI

In his keynote address at an IRI Annual Meeting, Bernie Meyerson, Chief Innovation Officer at IBM, said “the talented techies are the rock stars; these are the people that make it work. If you don’t value them, you lose them.” Highlighting the focus of organizations to favor non-technical employees, Meyerson was making the point that innovation comes from the technical people. And, without an effort to make the people that innovate happy, the entire organization suffers. IRI members talk about this. It’s one of the subjects discussed frequently in our Community Forum in myriad ways. Continue reading

Building a Culture of Innovation

By Jim Euchner, VP, Global Innovation, Goodyear, and RTM Editor-in-Chief

People will work long hours, climb over steep obstacles, and endure a lot of frustration to innovate if they believe they have a real chance to create something new. An organization can be said to have a culture of innovation when it supports those people and makes it possible for bold new things to happen with some regularity. Alas, in many organizations, it is almost impossible to be truly innovative. There are too many layers of organizational defense preventing it.

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Managing Culturally Diverse Teams

When French company Groupe Bull prepared to merge with American firm Zenith Data Systems, American and French engineers working for Bull discussed the difficulties of working with each other. As the Americans saw it, their French colleagues took an “analysis paralysis” approach to problem solving: They insisted on analyzing the problem completely and correctly before taking any action. Americans, in the French engineers’ view, insisted on action from the start, often at the expense of fully understanding the problem.

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How is Your Organization Training Innovators?

Tim Michaelis, PhD Candidate, NC State, Research Associate, CIMS
Tim Michaelis, PhD Candidate, NC State, Research Associate, CIMS


By Tim Michaelis, PhD Candidate, NC State University, Research Associate, Center for Innovation Management Studies (tlmichae@ncsu.edu)

According to 1,500 global innovation executives, interviewed by the Boston Consulting Group in 2014, innovation is considered a top 3 priority.(1) However, 70% of these executives rated their company’s innovation capabilities as only average. With such data in mind, data that indicates a significant gap between topic importance and the skills needed to address it, I decided to find out what the biggest companies are doing to train their innovators. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Innovation training simply does not happen.

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Here’s How to Keep Your Top Technical Talent from Leaving

Retaining top technical talent is a challenge for organizations everywhere. According to the Industrial Research Institute’s (IRI) annual R&D trends surveys, which ask R&D managers to identify what keeps them up at night, retention of R&D professionals is typically reported as a top five concern among R&D managers at firms of all sizes. While a one-size-fits-all approach to rewarding and retaining technical employees doesn’t exist, general patterns do emerge from the research IRI conducts into the topic. Here are the top four “best practices” in rewarding technical talent found by today’s leading practitioners of R&D and innovation management. Continue reading

From the Archives: “Leadership for Change”

Joseph C. Wilson, Chairman and Founder of Xerox Corp.
Joseph C. Wilson, Chairman of Xerox, 1966-1971

By Joseph C. Wilson, Chairman and Founder of Xerox Corporation, 1969

(The following throwback article appeared in Research Management, precursor to our award-winning journal Research-Technology Management, in November 1969. It was an address delivered by Mr. Wilson at the dedication of the Oxford Center for Management Studies at Oxford University, on April 30, 1969.) Continue reading

How Much is Enough?

By James Euchner, RTM Editor-in-Chief and VP, Global Innovation, Goodyear

“You can never be too rich or too thin.” —Wallis Simpson

Investment in R&D is critical for the long-term viability of industrial companies. But how much R&D is enough? It’s a question most CTOs face as they prepare budgets for another fiscal year. And there is no one good answer for it. Studies can be found to support any budget recommendation the CTO might choose to make.

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Which Box Are You In?

By Jim Euchner, Editor-in-Chief, RTM

Constraints are funny things. They can box you in, or they can inspire you.

A Shakespearean sonnet is constrained by the dimensions of its form: 14 lines, iambic pentameter, clear rhyme scheme, closing couplet. Yet it has consistently led to beautiful poetry. Has the form contributed to the beauty, or would it have emerged just as beautifully from blank verse?

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