Estimared reading time: 6-8 min. Some companies succeed in continuous innovation, some don’t. The story is full of companies that once were forerunners in innovation, but then lost their ability to innovate in rapid global change, such as the technology shift. Some examples of technology failures are Kodak (Analog vs Digital Camera), Nokia (Mobile Phone vs Smartphones), Blockbusters (DVD Rentals vs Streaming Video).
But there are also examples of companies that have become very successful in rapidly changing industries. A study investigated how Google Inc. works with organizational features to generate continuous innovation.
The study included interviews with 28 Google employees, collected over an eight month period in 2010. The majority of the interviews (80 percent) were made at the Mountain View headquarters. Other interviews were conducted at Google Inc’s offices in Asia, Europe and the United States. Most of the respondents work at management level. There were also two non-executives and two vice-presidents. Respondents represented most of Google’s features such as: technology, product development, marketing, business communication, sales, HR, and finance.
Continuous innovation at Google
Google’s Continuous Innovation Organization can be seen as a dynamic and open management system for innovation, involving the entire organization, and supported by an innovation-oriented top management and board.
The system is visualized in the figure below, which consists of five main blocks (blue-marked): key drivers, facilitators, hygiene factors, external interaction and foundation factors. Each block contains the organizational features that are important to Google’s continuous innovation.
Based on the five main blocks, researchers specifically point to the eight key organizational characteristics of continuous innovation. These are:
1. Innovation-oriented and change-minded senior management and board
2. Innovation-oriented and change-oriented corporate culture
3. Competent and committed employees who burn to renew
4. Managers and leaders who enable, coach, and eliminate obstacles to innovation
5. A semi-structured and ambitious organization
6. Innovation-oriented performance measurement system
7. Continuous learning
8. Open Innovation
There are important practical lessons to deduce from the study. The importance of factors such as corporate culture and the selection of individuals identified in the empirical study must be considered by managers and leaders, and may affect their understanding of how to maintain continuous innovation over time.
Steiber, A., Alänge, S., 2013. A corporate system for continuous innovation: the case of Google Inc. European Journal of Innovation Management 16 (2), 243 – 264.
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