Monday, October 21, 2013

On Drucker and innovation

It's hard to go wrong quoting Peter Drucker when discussing innovation. Peter Drucker (1909-2005) was an Austrian-born American management consultant, educator, and author. His books and articles have made a lasting impact on the philosophical and practical foundations of modern businesses. I have several of his books on my shelf, including Innovation and Entrepreneurship. It's a good read, if a little dry, and I recommend every aspiring innovator take time to read it.

While Drucker's work spans many years, from 1939 to 2008 (posthumous), much of Drucker's advice applies well to modern innovation. For example, interpreting your critics' reviews is important to knowledge-based innovations, such as in realizing new ideas in higher education technology. In Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Drucker suggests that there must be "receptivity" to innovations in order for them to be successful:
To be successful, a knowledge-based innovation has to be "ripe"; there has to be receptivity to it. This risk is inherent in knowledge-based innovation and is indeed a function of its unique power. All other innovations exploit a change that has already occurred. They satisfy a need that already exists. But in knowledge-based innovation, the innovation brings about the change. It aims at creating a want. And no one can tell in advance whether the user is going to be receptive, indifferent, or actively resistant. (126-127)
Drucker lists seven sources of innovation opportunity. In supporting our campus, much of our technology innovation derives from the third source: process need.
In innovations that are based on process need, everybody in the organization always knows that the need exists. Yet usually no one does anything about it. However, when the innovation appears, it is immediately accepted as 'obvious' and soon becomes 'standard.' (69)
Drucker suggests four rules for entrepreneurship within a public-service institution (183). The first two rules apply especially to developing new applications within public higher education institutions:
  1. A clear definition of the mission.
  2. A realistic statement of goals.
Drucker's third rule—failure to achieve goals should be viewed that the objective is wrong, or not defined correctly—should guide any innovation throughout its course, as we continually evaluate its success. In developing new services and ideas, if we encounter major obstacles and cannot work towards the goal, that should be an opportunity to step back and consider if the objectives are the right ones. In a public university, technology acts in service to the campus, and we need to ensure technology properly supports our students and faculty.

In any innovation, Drucker suggests three conditions for successful renewal of ideas (138-139):
  1. Innovation is work. It requires knowledge, great ingenuity. Some are more talented innovators that others. Innovators rarely stick to one area. At the end of the day, innovation becomes hard, purposeful work making great demands on diligence, persistence, commitment.
  2. To succeed, innovators must build on their strengths. Innovators look at opportunities over a wide range then ask "which of these fits me?" There must be a temperamental "fit." It must be important to you and make sense to you personally.
  3. Innovation is an effect in economy and society. It's a change in the behavior of customers, of people in general. Or a change in process in how we work. Innovation, therefore, has to be close to the market, focused on the market.
Finally, Drucker encourages a continual process of purposeful innovation, admonishing that "successful entrepreneurs do not wait until 'the Muse kisses them' and gives them a 'bright idea;' they go to work" (34). Embracing the changing technology allows universities to better serve their students and faculty, and by extension, their academic mission.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.