Book Review: Innovation Management in the Knowledge Economy

    By: PDMA Headquarters on Oct 01, 2013

    Book Review: Innovation Management in the Knowledge Economy 

    By: Ben Dankbaar (ed.), London, UK: Imperial College Press , 2003. 371+xxiii pages. 
    Review by: Lawrence P. Feldman

    The last decade, or so, has seen an acceleration in the application of what Innovation Management describes as information and communication technology (ICT) to various aspects of business. The subject matter of this book, the seventh in a series on technology management, is the impact of ICT-based services, which comprise the “knowledge economy,” on the innovation process. Ben Dankbaar compiles 15 contributions written by academics, all but one of whom are European. What follows is an outline of the book's basic structure, along with a review of some of the individual contributions selected for their likely interest to Product Development Management Association (PDMA) members.

    The material is divided into five parts:

    • I.

    The Knowledge Economy: Trend or Scenario?

    • II.

    Services, Innovation and Knowledge

    • III.

    Competencies for Innovation

    • IV.

    Innovation with Technology

    • V.

    Innovation Management as Knowledge Management

    Each of these is preceded by quite thorough and well-done integrative comments by Dankbaar. It is unfortunate that he was not more diligent in other respects. The generally turgid prose that characterizes so many academic treatises certainly is present here, and it is compounded by lengthy paragraphs that often embrace multiple subjects.

    Parts I and II deal with what essentially are definitional and conceptual issues, for example, the definition and significance of the knowledge economy, and the role of services in that economy. It is pointed out, for example, that ICT-based services play a growing role in product innovation, and this heavier service component in the process has affected its nature and structure.

    I found parts III and IV to be considerably more engaging. For example, a contribution on “Innovative Performance and the Locus of Control” (chapter 7) is based on research embracing 63 small and medium-sized companies. The purpose of the research was to identify the business policies that distinguish innovative “front-runner” companies. It is, perhaps, no surprise to find that frontrunners tend to have an internal locus of control, but an important conclusion is that another major influence is what the author, J. Cobbenhagen, calls a “configuration” of a system of interconnected routines, which have their origin in the ICT or knowledge economy.

    In chapter 8, David Birchall, Jean Jacques Chananon, and George Tovstiga discuss the challenges to innovation in the automotive industry posed by the growth in ICT. They provide examples of the way ICT is affecting innovation management in this very traditional industry. According to the authors, today this industry is at the intersection of the old economy and the knowledge economy, which gives it great potential for exploiting areas of innovation at their interface. Of particular interest is a summary exhibit on p. 181, which cross-classifies aspects of organization architecture with those of innovation capabilities.

    Part IV is concerned with the impact of new technologies on innovation as it affects the economy as a whole. One such set of technologies has to do with rapid prototyping. In chapter 10, Koenraad Debackere and Bart Van Looy claim that, for the first time, these technologies permit truly concurrent product design and engineering.

    Such rapid prototyping technologies as stereolithography serve to reduce the ambiguities involved in communicating the elements of a new design to those involved in the innovation process. An examination of the development of the Boeing 777 is used to exemplify the use of new technologies to develop innovative production technology.

    Other chapters in part IV deal with the multitude of interactions required in the design of innovative smart products that require “dynamic, real time interaction with users” (p. 237) involving large amounts of information processing.

    For instance, in chapter 11, J. Fleck describes the design considerations involved in the development of the Persona electronic contraceptive. Apart from the technology involved in creating the product, its design also had to incorporate a plethora of information on personal and cultural sensitivities that would influence the demand for, and pattern of use of, such an intimate product. This undertaking probably would not have been possible without the use of ICT.

    Part V, the last section of the book, deals with “innovation management as knowledge management.” Chapter 13, a contribution by Van Looy et al. provides three case studies to show how the companies involved each approach the problem of resolving the high level of ambiguity that accompanies the innovation process in a different, and differentially effective, way.

    In chapter 15, the concluding contribution, by Dankbaar, begins with a look at the “traditional” approach to innovation. He then uses a case study of an international consulting firm, Pink, to illustrate what he calls the “new paradigm” of the innovation process. This case study provides a good overview of the content of the book to the point where the reader might like to begin with this chapter.

    In summary, this is not an easy book to read, but it contains material on management of the innovation process that may be worthwhile for the discriminating and persevering reader with an interest in recent thought on the topic. Consistent with its academic origins, all of the chapters are footnoted heavily for those who want to delve into the subject matter more deeply, such as doctoral candidates. For practitioners, there are some nuggets to be mined here on the management of the innovation process, if they avoid the dross.

    Released: October 1, 2013, 11:23 am | Updated: October 30, 2013, 12:11 pm
    Keywords: PDMA Blog

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