EVERYDAY INNOVATION – review by Dr. Pat McHugh, Brown University, USA

EVERYDAY INNOVATION by Hugh Henry provides a clear and informative how-to guide for establishing and managing an innovation management system within the context of an established business. Dr. Henry is uniquely qualified to write on this subject, having served since 2008 as Director of Innovation and R&D at Bord na Mona plc, where his efforts are helping transition this large, long-established Irish enterprise from its traditional businesses, heavily dependent on peat and fossil fuels, to new more sustainable energy and ecotourism related initiatives. His experience developing a highly effective innovation management system at Bord na Mona provides the foundation for this timely book.

This book will be extremely valuable to all senior business leaders, as well as managers and directors of innovation, new product development and R&D within established firms. While the book is particularly relevant to business leaders in Ireland, given the regionally-specific guidance on topics such as tax schemes and the local nature of the company-specific examples provided such as FBD Insurance, An Post and Arran Chemicals, its accessible style provides insight and practical guidance generally applicable to business leaders globally. While the book is positioned in a crowded space – a book search on Amazon.com for “innovation management” returned 36,734 results – the book’s specific how-to focus, Irish and European-centric context, and, as the title suggests, guidance on “everyday innovation” efforts all broaden and target its appeal to readers. This book belongs on the shelf with Clay Christensen’s The Innovator’s Solution, providing practical and executable advice on how to create disruptions (as well as more modest innovations) and thus reduce the possibilities of being destroyed by such change.

While outlining 10 steps to establishing an innovation management system (IMS), the book acknowledges that: “There is no magic formula to follow. However, an IMS is about collecting ideas, prioritizing them and then setting up a review gate, project tracking and project management system.” The need for the market exploitation of the resulting outputs is emphasized and a call for pragmatic consideration in this area is made.

Incremental innovation is encouraged as part of a portfolio approach to the innovation process – as the book states: “The game-changing discovery may indeed happen but it is through the piece-by-piece or incremental innovation that the best results will be seen.”

If a company is not able to directly exploit an innovation, licensing or other paths to market are encouraged to enable realization of economic value.

The book also tackles organization issues, emphasizing that innovation must begin at the top, noting that: “If the CEO does not protect and reward the process, it will fail.” The pros and cons of different organizational models are considered, although the need for a core team, with goals aligned to overall business objectives, to drive the process is suggested.

The book, by design, takes a process view of innovation, suggesting process is critical to building an innovation culture: “To instill a culture of innovation, you must first introduce innovation behavior – and for that, you need the correct processes in place.” Process is also identified as critical to the management of the innovation ideas funnel with five key criteria seen as important considerations to the stage gate process and “fail quickly and cheaply” objective: strategic considerations, feasibility, cost-benefit, market need and resources.

This book was written within a local, regional and international focus on innovation process standardization which receives far less focus in the U.S. As the book notes, there are national standards such as the Guide to Good Practice in Innovation and Product Development Processes established by the National Standards Authority of Ireland in 2009 and European Standards (CEN 16555) and International Standards (ISO 279) for Innovation Management Systems at various stages of development. The book does not position its recommendations within the context of these standards, although their reference at a minimum suggests they informed the book’s recommendations.

In closing, the book is a quick read that serves as a valuable guide to the creation and successful management of an innovation management system. As noted in the book: “Innovation is the process of converting an idea or invention into a product or service that creates value which customers require and are prepared to pay for”, suggesting this new work is, in itself, an innovation of great interest and value to its readers.

The reviewer, Dr. Pat McHugh, is the Director of the IE Brown Executive MBA program and lecturer in the School of Engineering at Brown University in the U.S. He has over 25 years of industry experience with technology companies, including executive roles at three venture-backed firms selling data security solutions. Earlier initiatives include building a call center automation services practice for GTE (winner of the GTE Chairman’s Leadership Award) and an online financial services offering while at IBM Credit Corp. He is the recipient of two patents in the area of call center automation and holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Materials Engineering from Columbia University, an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, and a Ph.D. in business from Bentley University.

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