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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: August 2015

1 - Understanding Innovation: A Reorientation


The acuteness of organizations' need for innovation was expressed by Buzan (2007, p. vii) when he concluded that “right now any individual, company or country wishing to survive in the twenty-first century must … innovate” (emphasis added). The purpose of this book is to present a broadened perspective on how organizations can become more potent in innovating. This will be achieved by (a) developing a more differentiated understanding of the nature of innovative products (Chapter 2); (b) analyzing the thinking processes through which such products are generated (Chapter 3); (c) identifying the key psychological resources (attitudes, values, motives, and the like) of individual people who carry out these processes (Chapter 4); (d) analyzing the external and internal environments within which the processes occur, the personal resources are applied, and the products are produced; and (e) working out the implications of this material for innovation management.

The Need for Innovation in Organizations

Awareness of the need for organizations to innovate is by no means new, and the issue has been receiving substantial attention for many years. More than a quarter of a century ago, Van de Ven (e.g., 1986) was already reporting that managing innovation had become a central concern of CEOs. Early this century, Walton (2003) showed that 80 percent of managers he surveyed regarded creativity as vital for corporate success, and the 2010 IBM Report (IBM, 2010) concluded that creativity had become the chief concern of CEOs by then. Anderson, Potocnik, and Zhou (2014) confirmed that scholarly and professional discussions have experienced massive growth in interest in the topic in the last decade, both in the English-speaking world and internationally. In fact, over the years, the call for innovation has reached life and death proportions, with Freeman and Soete (1997, p. 266) concluding that “not to innovate is to die” (emphasis added), and the slogan “innovate or die” has become an established catchphrase in the current literature (e.g., Collis, 2010; Kriekels, 2013).

An example of the failure to innovate leading to corporate death can be seen in the fate of Smith Corona, whose core product – the typewriter – was annihilated by the introduction of the word processor, not because of flaws in Smith Corona's typewriter technology (which had been improved constantly and effectively by the company over the preceding decades by means of incremental change) but because the technology itself had become irrelevant in a digital word-processing world.