A viable approach to increasing STEM starts with empathy
Five Questions for R&D Leaders
Research & Development - known more commonly by the shorthand R&D - involves coming up with new technologies or improving existing ones. It is vital input into the innovations that improve our lives and power corporate growth. It leads to planes that fly faster and safer, mobile phones that astonish with their simplicity and power, and medicines that improve quality of life.
can't maintain competitive advantage without R&D. The pace of
technological development and the speed at which new ideas spread in
today's highly connected world mean that competitive advantage often
disappears in the blink of an eye. For example, research by Innosight
board member Richard Foster suggests that 75 percent of S&P 500
companies will disappear from the index over the next 15 years.
The answer is not just pouring money into R&D, but doing it right. Companies should consider five important questions:
do we continue to focus on R&D given the reality of
hyper-competition and constant cost pressures? Some companies have
turned to creative mechanisms to keep their innovation engine humming,
such as collaborations with universities, "open innovation" programs
where they work with individual scientists around the world, or posting
challenges for individual researchers on online marketplaces like
do we make sure that we balance "blue sky" research with important
development work to optimize current solutions? Both are critical for
long-term success. Without the right control mechanisms it is very easy
for a company's R&D portfolio to get out of balance, with
predictably negative consequences.
can we "reverse engineer" R&D to maximize its productivity? In
other words, how can we identify market opportunities that can be
addressed by the creation of an enabling technology? Sometimes
"technology push" efforts succeed, but a "market-back" approach can help
make sure companies maximize the return on their R&D investment.
do we make sure that R&D isn't an academic activity but one that
drives to commercial impact? Xerox knows the painful consequences of
getting this wrong. In the late 1970s its legendary Palo Alto Research
Center developed just about all of the underpinnings of the personal
computer age. Unfortunately, Xerox barely benefited from these
inventions, ceding the computing to new companies such as Apple. Recent
efforts to drive R&D to commercial impact are part of Xerox's recent
- How do we view R&D expansively? Competitive advantage often comes from developing business models with innovative ways of creating, capturing, and delivering value. Technology is necessary but insufficient. An overly narrow focus on pure technology limits R&D's impact.
of U.S. companies need to consider these questions carefully. Rapidly
growing companies in countries such as India, China, Brazil, and South
Korea are ramping-up their spending on R&D to enhance their
competitive positioning in current markets like automobiles and nascent
markets like clean tech. Either U.S. companies will find out how to
master R&D, or they will have to deal with the consequences.
Learning about innovation from the DIY solutions of hobbled citizens