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Academic Research

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) leads the academic research program, which has been a longitudinal study since 1995 of Fortune 1000 and other companies. We contribute time and money to this valuable resource. We use the learning from this research to develop and evolve our programs and tools to stay at the forefront of innovation. The key insight is that breakthrough innovation, game changing or strategic innovation is not an ad hoc, serendipitous event… it is a management discipline that companies need to learn such as engineering, marketing and other disciplines.

The RPI research has taken place over three phases. Phase I culminated in the release of the book on Radical Innovation, in which, seven management challenges were identified that must be overcome for companies to be successful. These challenges are the foundation of a new innovation management framework. This framework transforms the pursuit of these higher uncertainty opportunities from an unpredictable model to a management discipline and structure to guide companies through the uncertainty to reduce the business risk and improve the return of innovation investments. The seven challenges are how to:

1. Capture promising, game-changing ideas and converting them from the reservoir of technical or operational knowledge into compelling business opportunities.

2. Manage Incubation projects in a chaotic environment with no pre-determined end point.

3. Learn about unfamiliar markets or create new markets by using market probes to learn as quickly and inexpensively through incremental steps and failure by design to redirect or pivot.

4. Build the business model through a value chain or network experimentation process to uncover the most appropriate market entry strategy.

5. Bridge resource and competency gaps by pursuing a resource acquisition strategy and developing an entrepreneurial mindset.

6. Accelerate the transition from Discovery to Incubation to Acceleration to operations status by understanding when to transition through a systematic uncertainty reduction process.

7. Acknowledge the importance of individuals in driving strategic innovation, supported by an innovation focal point.

Phase II led to the book Grabbing Lightning to help companies more fully understand how to initiate, develop and sustain a breakthrough innovation capability based on the Discovery, Incubation, and Acceleration (D-I-A) model. The building blocks guide the development of new business opportunities. During Discovery, the focus is on the attractiveness of the technology or business model options to the market and the company, leading to the development of the business concept. During Incubation, the focus is on engaging the market through experimentation and the organization as the strategy emerges, leading to clarifying the market entry strategy and development of the business proposal. During Acceleration, the focus is on growing the business to make it reliable and scalable. It is also about making it profitable and working through multiple iterations of the business plan.

Phase III is in progress and focuses on the role of people in institutionalizing a strategic innovation capability within a company.