Making Innovations Happen

Making Innovations Happen: Fostering Innovations by Inducing Foresight

Making Innovations Happen: Fostering Innovations by Inducing Foresight

Teresa Jurgens-Kowal

Originally published: 2016 (PDMA Visions Magazine Issue 2, 2016 • Vol 40 • No 2)
Read time: 9 minutes

Ravi Arora’s book “Making Innovations Happen” offers a unique perspective on holistic innovation. Arora proposes a new methodology to guide product portfolio selection and manage innovation incentives.

The book is written from the perspectives of two recent Harvard Business School graduates, Jiao and Paul, engaging in a series of conversations. Both have landed jobs at large corporations and are immersed in innovation: Jiao at the front end of innovation and Paul at the retrospective phase of innovation.

Over the course of their first year at work, the two exchange texts, emails and phone calls that detail the problems of innovation in large companies today, based on their own transition from student to employee. For example, engaging the entire workforce in innovation and rewarding commercialized products are challenges many of us immediately recognize.

Jiao and Paul take a vacation to India, where they spend time discussing their favorite topic: innovation. The remaining chapters require a leap of faith by the reader. Jiao and Paul are magically whisked away to a secret society in India that is more technologically advanced than any other culture known on Earth. Leading to this unexpected achievement is the heart of Arora’s new proposal: innovation foresight.

As later chapters explain, innovation foresight is built on a series of telescoping lists and documents. Individuals and teams submit idea predicting future innovations several years into the future. Then, in each subsequent year, they describe both internal and external developments leading to this future state.

Senior management is expected to participate in this innovation foresight process by offering their opinions on execution of the right ideas. Awards are then based on which teams guessed right in their long-term predictions as well as teams who executed properly to achieve those goals.

Overall, “Making Innovations Happen” offers a new perspective to innovation — addressing the challenge of engaging all levels within an organization in the process. As Arora admits in the book, the methodology of innovation foresight is untested. In its full form, innovation foresight seems to rely heavily on documentation. It is not clear whether or not the process removes organizational politics from the awards system, as the author does make that specific argument.

New product development practitioners will enjoy reading this fresh book. It is relatively quick to read, and Chapter 2 (titled “The Innovation Conundrum”) offers a detailed history of recent innovation literature. Both new and experienced product development professionals will find this chapter an excellent review and summary of current innovation theory and practice. If a firm is planning to implement any aspect of Arora’s proposed innovation foresight program, additional information and training would be desirable.

About the Author

Teresa Jurgens-Kowal is founder and president of Global NP Solutions, LLC. She earned a BS. degree in chemical engineering from the University of Idaho, a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Washington and an MBA from West Texas A&M University. Jurgens-Kowal is a certified New Product Development Professional with PDMA and a certified Project Management Professional with the Project Management Institute.

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