The creation of products and/or services passes by a true partnership connecting the creativity of the manufacturer or service provider with the customer requirements rising from the practice from his business or a use repeated in its particular context.The Web makes it possible to better handle the data as those which collects,for example,Apple which makes the most of therequests carried out on hot-line,Levi Strauss which uses the data of industrial measurement or Kellog which studies the requests for dietetic information,as indicates it R.McKenna in an article of"Harvard Business Review"of July-August 1995,entitled"Real Time Marketing"(Ref.:§1.1)one can just as easily quote the manufacturers of vehicles which provide to their dealers a data processing assistance with the diagnosis of breakdowns and which learn from them the lessonsnecessary to the improvement of their products.
The organization in network makes it possible the various stakeholders to dialogue as early as the stage of design of the product and even,in certain cases,during its use,which makes it possible to design and possibly modify the product in connection with the customer;that also makes it possible to conceive the means of production with the operators who will have to use them and to train these operators in connection with the designers.The designer(or the design team)is placed in the center of an informational device which puts him in relation with the end-user and the manufacturing operator.That enables him to develop a virtual product,a virtual machine(or a process of manufacturing),tools of assistance to the training of the operators.
In order to avoid any ambiguity thereafter,let us specify that when we speak about organization in network,we refer to as well only one company comprising various centers of profit or autonomous units as a number of distinct companies working together on a contractual basis and taking up quite precise duties,some of them being able even to exert the same function and to enter in competition,as it is the case in the market places.Moreover,the innovation does not develop within the strict limits of a given function possibly constituting,at a given moment,a point of focusing but is diffuse through the very whole organization with the proviso of finding there a climate favorable carefully prepared and maintained by every direction and more particularly by omnipresent Human Resources Officers;the staff is then characterized,as we recommend it in our work entitled"L'entreprise délocalisée",by"his aptitude to work in team,to act and report,to get information and inform,learn and teach,listen and dialogue with his colleagues,to be able to create,maintain and develop his own network of relations".
The problem consists in collecting the ideas of innovation to implement them within the adequate function,whatever their origin and that by an incremental development inspired of the"kaizan"appraised by Japanese people.According to Walker,in a report of the RAND Corporation,this joint development is at variance with the"take or leave it"attitude when a manufacturer speaks to a customer or the"show and tell"one when a foreman speaks to an operator.That can involve particular organizations such as Russel L.Ackoff’s democratic corporation(Ref.:§1.1).
Understanding the market
Indeed,market is not only formed by your direct customers but includes their own customers and among those various customers(or even prescriptors or consultants),you may find wholesalers,brokers,dealers,concessionaries,servicemen,contractors,subcontractors and final users,each one having his own needs and goals;among users,you may distinguish those who use your product for themselves and those who do it for somebody else;moreover,you have to take into account the context of use,namely if your product(existing or potential)is jointly used with another one.If your product is used as a tool-a car is a tool for the motorist who uses it to go from one place to another-,you have to consider its purpose,which wants it supplies and in which way it is used.It is very difficult to speak about such a subject in a general way.
If your Company wants to innovate in order to remain competitive,it must start from a knowledge base.This base may be internal or external;it generally depends on the degree of theoretical content and the nature of knowledge–whether it is codified or tacit-.Scientific knowledge is more often codified whereas engineering one is rather tacit when it lies on know-how and experience.As we already observed it,innovation has to be embedded into a genuine strategic plan taking into account the specificity of the product to be brought to the market.The main issue is how to access to the knowledge which generally originates from research institutions.Karan J.Sorensen
(1)distinguishes-absorptive capacity(in-house basic research,publications,patents,conferences,exhibitions and so on)-connectedness(direct exchanges through meetings,networks,CoPs,reciprocal visits,research consortia and so on)-collaborative research which we shall examine further.
Whatever method you use,Knowledge Management is a must to share the information and any how,as Sorensen underlines it,it is very important to identify the"Thought leaders"in your own field.Collaborative research is at the source of the main successful innovations and some firms designed very efficient methods as CISCO,in the frame of its"Emergent Technologies"with its internal entrepreneurship-minded start-up teams with external assigned persons or DEGUSSA with its"Project Houses".One of them was described by Dr Andreas Gutsch,Head of Creavis Technologies&Innovation,Degussa A.G.,for"NanoTech Day"on September 28,2006.
The problem encountered was the excessive heating of new batteries for hybrid cars;it was solved by a ceramic separator based on customized nanomaterials designed thanks to a platform working in collaboration with academic institutions during 3 years under the same roof,gathering academic scientists for their fundamental knowledge together with Degussa searcher for their technology experience and marketing knowledge.Let us observe that the market amounts to€1,4 billions and will reach 3,9 in 2015.Such an initiative was well detailed at DECHEMA in Francfort ion May 29,2006(2).Project Houses are new technologies platforms staffed by a 20-30 persons teeam with a budget exceeding€15 millions and doomed to last 3 years,with a close cooperation with academia,the products or processes sprung from their research being commercialized within existing Business Units or through internal start-ups.
As you may see,innovation is no longer left to chance but it relies 25 on long term project management leaning on a few selected domains:it implies a structuration with ad hoc commitees,regular meetings with agenda,visits of sites and so on.An important issue is the status of IP when several entities work together;this supposes that contractual relationships regarding the result of the research have been clearly defined(3)namely who will own the patent or benefit from its commercialization or industrialization,that communication between the members is guaranteed and that non-disclosure to third parties is required;the royalties if any have to be specified.
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