By @SimonCocking

This is a useful and practical book published by Oaktree Press. There are some good case studies of Irish companies, from a whole range of sectors, discussing their experiences of how they tried to create a supportive and systematic methodology for achieving innovation within their businesses. There are a number of guides, flowcharts, and processes illustrated in the book to help give clear structured examples of how to enable your company to remain innovative and proactive.

Irish Tech News was also able to talk to the author himself and get some further insights into his views on the Irish innovation and development scene.

Since you wrote the book, if you were doing a second edition is there anything you would rewrite or revise your opinion on? Is there anything you have drastically changed your mind on?

I am just recently finished the book so it is well up to date on most innovation management issues of relevance. However, I am most interested in how the outputs of Research and Development (R&D) or New Product Development (NPD) get to the market place i.e. how do businesses commercialise the outputs of innovation. As the saying goes R&D is the conversion of Money to Knowledge but innovation is the conversion of knowledge to Money?

I am pleased to say that I am still passionate about innovation management. My basic premise is that ‘if we manage it we do it better’. Nothing has changed my mind about this either in my career to date, my research for writing the book or indeed since.

In your own experience at Bord na Mona, how have you found the challenges of developing / embedding R&D and business innovation in the company?

In 2008 The Bord na Mona Group’s overall vision was to migrate from a business which had a high dependence on peat and peat products to a company which was a commercially more balanced enterprise with a strong focus on lower carbon intensity activities, renewable energy biomass supply. In order to achieve this vision a number of key Innovation objectives need to be delivered. Our first aim was and ‘to put Innovation at the core of our activities’. Then Bord na Móna set about leveraging the commercial and technical strengths within the organisation and, through applied collaboration/partnerships with specialist research institutions, focused on capitalising on identified market opportunities. To this end we have a lot done but much more to do.

Innovation in the horizons as discussed in my book (near term incremental innovation versus longer term breakthrough innovation) is critical and, in BnM, is an ongoing challenge for me as operations and sales people tend to concentrate on the near term innovation activities and leave the longer term innovation to another day. This is understandable as staff are usually judged and compensated based on short term goals. However, the longer term needs some attention too or something could come from left of fields and wipe out you business. Don’t Kodak wish they had done things differently and operated the principles of innovation in the horizons? Who is Kodak I hear you ask? – Exactly!!!

What trends are you excited about for Bord na Mona and the wider Irish landscape?

In my time in BnM I have seen our dependence of our core activity of harvesting peat decrease to be replaced by other activities principally in the low C intensity fuel and renewable energy space (wind and biomass). I look forward to this trend continuing.

Innovation is a pseudonym for change and transformation. I thing that like, Bord na Mona, Ireland is at a crossroads. It must change with the times to survive. Thankfully both are doing that very well but more effort is needed. Bord na Mona and Ireland must become and/or remain exemplars in all we do. We are indeed competing on the world stage and Ireland is no longer the extent of our ambitions.

What blogs / thought leaders do you follow for inspiration?

I am very impressed by Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary and try to read as much as possible of what he says. O’Leary is a perfect example of the fact that all innovation is not just about technology. He flies the same planes as others but yet he is more successful. Why is this? It is because he has embraced the concept of business model innovation by introducing a low fares strategy into his business. In addition, he has not reinvented the wheel! He ‘borrowed’ the business model from a well known US based airline company, improved it and put that business model into operation in Europe. The rest is history!

Will you be writing another book / if so on what?

If I were to write another book it would be in the area of commercialising the outputs of R&D in the market place. As I said above I am most interested in how the outputs of Research and Development (R&D) or New Product Development (NPD) get to the market place.  Remember R&D is the conversion of Money to Knowledge but innovation is the conversion of knowledge to Money. You are only half way there when a new product or service has been developed.

However, my current focus is to promote the message of this book first. Put an innovation management system in place – Get the players on the pitch first. You can make them better or more effective players later!!!

Anything else you’d like to add?

The summary messages from my book are:

Is a no-nonsense book designed to help you take the plunge and invest in Innovation and in the future of your business.

  • It sets out 10 easy steps  to establishing  an  Innovation  management  system  in  your business.
  • It provides a comprehensive, but easy to follow, description of each step, and how to embed the IMS in your business.
  • It explores the risks and potential pitfalls of installing an IMS and how to avoid them.
  • The real-life commercial comments throughout the book, takes a look at some companies close to home
  • it also looks at other countries that are considered to be exemplar in this area.
  • The Glossary of terms acts as a ‘jargon-buster’, explaining all the buzz words and terms used in Innovation management
  • It is essentially an Innovation management DIY toolkit!
  • It is written in plain English!

Your final thoughts?

The biggest hurdle we are facing is a failure to gain real traction in the business sector in Ireland. There appears to be some who insist on making innovation management difficult or complicated. I argue that it is very straight forward. The product or service being developed can be very complicated and cutting edge but the means by which it is  managed from thought,to paper, to development, to testing and finally to the market should be simple and uninvolved. I also find that it is difficult to gain any momentum when the ‘expert’ is from Ireland. Unless you are from the US, Mainland Europe or the UK it is difficult to be considered. I guess you are ‘never a prophet in your own kingdom’.

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