Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Key challenges and initial discussion questions

“Innovation” implies commercialization of an approach (product or service) newly applied to a problem and defined context. Success requires transition from existing /legacy systems, processes and perspectives. Innovation can take many forms including product, service, structure, financial, etc. and may reflect incremental or disruptive change. Planning must consider associated ecosystem, stakeholders along multiple dimensions and context which in many cases is becoming more complex and dynamic with data highly uncertain.  Innovation increasingly also applies technologies which cross traditional industry sector and disciplinary boundaries and are more closely tied to science than might have been true in the past. This new knowledge foundation challenges standards formation. Standards have traditionally lagged the market but are being called on to anticipate and guide industry evolution.

The impact of standards, recognized as critical, has often been said to constrain innovation but this is not necessarily the case. The following are examples of constraining and stimulating contributions (impact may be one or the other, or both):

Inhibiting aspects Stimulating/enabling aspects
Tend to lock-in solutions, blocking potentially “better” approaches May stimulate competition (within standard defined domain); push incremental innovation
May delay or inhibit radical innovation Enable platforms; support subsequent generations of innovation; allow focus on component level innovation
Reduce choices and competition across approaches Ensure innovations will work with legacy infrastructure and systems  (may support transitions)
In a new field, knowledge required to inform standards may be unreliable Reduce cost of change and facilitate trade of complex products
Participation in standards development difficult for smaller firms & entrepreneurs

Give investors, consumers and innovators confidence. May grow market including government procurement

May enable global, cross-sector/cross-system collaboration

Standards impact can be expected to vary based on type of innovation, stage of development (maturity), complexity including interoperability requirements,  pace of market and industry change, extent of required changes and risks associated with implementation and by whom (customers, suppliers, etc.), nature and intensity of competition, presence and nature of legacies, knowledge/science foundation in industry sector (e.g., biology is very different than electronics), and other factors.

Initial discussion questions:

  • What are determinants of standards impact on innovation (and how do they interplay)?
  • What are strategic implications for compliance and participation in standards development? How can small and entrepreneurial firms track, comply and participate in standards development?
  • What are illustrative cases reflecting variation in terms of standards impact based on type of innovation, life cycle stage, supply chain roles and complexity, organizational and national culture, and other aspects of context?
  • How can tools such as mindmapping, scenario planning, roadmapping, and modeling used to plan innovation be usefully applied to standards development and strategy?

Linked papers

Review our Innovation Papers page for links to papers that are specific to innovation and entrepreneurship.