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The Innovation Value Chain - Thoughtful, useful, concept

Colleagues Morten Hansen and Julian Birkinshaw posted a really solid piece in the June 2007 Harvard Business Review (which I’ve just gotten around to reading).  Essentially, they argue that companies tend to focus their attention (and absorption of best practices) with respect to innovation on one part of the process, rather than the whole value chain of innovation, which includes idea generation, conversion to ventures, and diffusion of the innovations elsewhere in the organization.  The article is:

Hansen, M. T., & Birkinshaw, J. 2007. The Innovation Value Chain. Harvard Business Review, 85(6): 121-130.
You can find any HBR article such as this one at their web site

Among the valuable concepts in the article are the notion that specific interventions can help fix a broken innovation chain.  These are:

For idea generation

  • improve in-house idea generation
  • cross-pollination with other innovation sources
  • external sourcing of innovation

For Conversion to venture status

  • improve selection
  • Create better development disciplines

For Diffusion and spreading of ideas and learning

  • Champion the idea past its ‘tipping point’

Among the references the authors recommend is a wonderful book by Zenas Block and my co-author, Ian MacMillan, called Corporate Venturing:  Creating New Businesses Within the Firm (Harvard Business School Press, 1993). 

Mac and I have actually been working for some time on a similar concept of managing the whole innovation pipeline.  Similarly, Thomas Keil and I last year published an article that emphasizes management of the multi-step processes of innovation.  That one is:

McGrath, R. G., & Keil, T. 2007. The Value Captor’s Process: Getting the Most Out of Your New Business Ventures Harvard Business Review, 85(5).
It’s available at the same site. 


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