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    Company's internal innovation exchange process

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    What metrics are important to the evaluation of a company's internal innovation exchange process?

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    Innovation processes are underlying complex and multidimensional dynamics that encompass a variety of actors, knowledge domains and competence bases located both inside the firm and at the inter-organizational level. These dynamics create strong complementarities and interdependencies that reflect the very collective nature of the innovation process, which, in turn, requires specific efforts aiming at coordinating coherently and dynamically the actors and resources contributing to the whole process.
    This introductory paper to the issue puts in perspective the various dimensions that are implied by contemporary innovation processes as a collective phenomenon within and across firms and then stresses the new forms of coordination that arise The "interactive" model proposed by Kline and Rosenberg (1986) shows that innovation proceeds by feedback between R&D, design, manufacturing and marketing services. In other words, the genesis of innovation is the result of systemic linkages between knowledge and the market (Laperche, Uzunidis, Von Tunzelmann, 2008). Global competencies are developed for the adaptation of the firm to its environment and for the innovative process. Productive competencies, marketing, human resources, financing competencies must thus be taken into account (Munier, 2006). They express the possibility of assimilating internal and external information, of creating knowledge and of developing aptitudes to pose new problems and to bring answers, i.e. to innovate. The importance of competencies is also at the level of the relations, which the firm weaves with external partners. Cohen and Levinthal (1990) introduce the concept of "absorptive capacity" to describe this phenomenon. The capacity of the firm to develop an internal knowledge base and to exploit external knowledge is crucial for developing an innovation. Hence, studying the constitution of the firm's "knowledge capital" (Laperche, 2007), i.e. the set of information and knowledge produced, acquired and combined by the firm in order to innovate is crucial to understand the innovation process. The current keyword of the innovation process and of the constitution of the firm's "knowledge capital" is the one of "network". Complex networks associate large firms, start-ups, universities, public and private research labs, funding institutions, consultancy and specialized business services, etc. dedicated to the innovation process. The importance of networks reveals several major features of the innovation process which have taken place since the beginning of the 21st century.
    First of all, neither innovation, nor networks are Deus ex machina. The complex interactions between institutions are the result of -and result in - a change in the way of considering territories (as generators of resources and not just as blocks of factors) and public policies (giving incentives to the constitution of networks, revealing and accompanying the advantages of territories through short term and structural policies of attractiveness). For any firm, either large and well established or small and young, cooperative arrangements and networking and clustering moves have become inescapable strategic keys for producing/ accessing new knowledge and competences, and for being part of the innovative system and new markets in a given industry. Besides the debate initiated by Schumpeter (1912, 1942) which opposes the "entrepreneurial model" vs. the "large firm model", there are now solid arguments and growing evidence that these two models combine in a new broader model (the "networked model") based on strong collaboration and networking/ clustering among various complementary and interdependent actors.

    This model re-shapes innovation as well as competition dynamics on more collective grounds, putting the accessibility to the most strategic partners at the heart of firms' ability to innovate and to "stay in the game" (Hamdouch, 2007). It also increasingly enlarges the competitive game from mere inter-firm rivalry towards intra- and inter-coalitions, networks and clusters rivalry within and across various spatial scales (cities, regions, countries). Hence, innovation and knowledge creation- diffusion-accumulation processes underlie a complex and dynamic institutional and spatial framework in which industrial strategies, public policies and socially and institutionally embedded behaviors and interacting mechanisms, shape the specific trajectories and performance displayed by firms and territories in a given industry (Hamdouch and Moulaert, 2006). All these new dynamics are nowadays acknowledged by most national and regional governments (and even local policymakers) as reflected in the overwhelming "cluster initiatives" one can observe in developed countries as well as in emerging or developing economies. But collaborative and networking clustering dynamics cannot simply be initiated overnight by the sole virtue of political volunteerism or by the strategic aim of a single firm or institution. These dynamics build on a specific "alchemy" in which various historical, socio-economic and institutional ...

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