The Future Of Innovaiton ... Innovation As A Corporate Activity

Dr Henry Tirri

Innovation in mobile computing is changing. A collision between research styles is challenging the way companies innovate today and in the future. Through the advancement of technology, three distinct approaches have been thrown together and the outcome is the emergence of a new and exciting innovation culture. Companies that understand this and adapt, will gain a significant advantage.

Collision of innovation systems

Traditionally telecoms industry players innovated within silos, protecting their advances with intellectual property rights (IPR). This creates solutions that define specific standards, but mandate the rest of the industry adopt those standards to see them proliferate. The result is a power play to assert dominant ideas which through decisions over licensing fees and legal entanglements can lead to the demise of the best solutions.

But computer science and Internet innovators traditionally operate with an altogether different style. The open and collaborative approach fostered by Linux community and Internet companies is based on speed and competence; a true meritocracy. With this type of innovation, being fastest is key. The approach is also self-balancing, as wide access to shared information demands companies become more flexible in their approach to innovation; it creates real incentives based on commercial success.

There is no single right way to nurture innovation so businesses today must identify the style which will be most successful for them in the converging world.

Innovation flow

Innovation cycles are accelerating dramatically. The speed at which new solutions reach the market can be a matter of months, if not weeks, and this timeframe is continually shrinking as online service organizations embrace a “beta” culture. The Internet has enabled innovators to share results and garner feedback faster. Feedback from peers, public betas and pilot studies is essential to fuel the accelerated innovation cycle.

Future innovation must also support scale; companies that can scale innovations quickly will succeed by gaining mass market acceptance almost instantaneously. A willingness to take risks and test ideas fast is vital; we call it a ‘fail fast, scale fast’ mentality, rooted in a culture of conducting pilots and trials. Often it isn’t until you test a product or service that you really understand how customers respond. It is not unusual to see customers using products in unforeseen ways; embracing this can lead to runaway successes.

Nokia Sports Tracker ( HYPERLINK "" ) is one example. Initially designed for runners and walkers, it has been used by everyone from kayakers to motorcyclists. Such unexpected adaptations have prompted Nokia to expand the mandate and functionality of Sports Tracker, conforming to the customers’ needs, rather than our preconception of what the service should be.

Collaboration also drives innovation forward at a pace that monetary investment alone can never match. Collaborating with leading research organizations globally, Nokia is building an Open Innovation network to co-create intellectual property and leverage each organization’s insight, expertise and resources. Through research partnerships we maintain a continual inflow of fresh thinking, which ensures we are always challenging established views. This is an integral element of our open innovation philosophy.

Innovate or exit

As history shows, in the midst of change, one truth remains constant: companies that cannot identify and exploit the best approaches to innovation for their business will fail. From a personal perspective, I am proud to be leading research for a company whose strength is founded on a century and a half of innovation. From its roots in a riverside paper mill in southwestern Finland to a global telecommunications leader, Nokia has learnt this lesson well.

Article © 2009 Dr Henry Tirri. All rights reserved.

about the author...

Dr Henry Tirri

Dr Henry Tirri

affiliation:   Nokia

position:  Head of Nokia Research Center, Senior Vice President

country:  Finland

area of interest:  Innovation as a corporate activity, Future innovation in mobile computing

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