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Two decades of innovation research

Featured Publications


After more than 20 years of research in focus and applied in practice, we have unlocked the secrets of making breakthrough innovation projects successful, designing a management system to support them, and legitimizing innovation as a discipline. Beyond the Champion is all about how to embrace a strategic innovation agenda and make it happen through people. It is featured as one of the best books on corporate innovation on Innovation Leader.


Engaging and informative, Pivot provides entrepreneurs and corporate entrepreneurs with practical guidance for achieving success in their business startups. It skillfully addresses topics ranging from how to reduce business uncertainties, manage the scope and scale of innovation opportunities, and change your innovation game. It is considered a prominent "How to and Reference Guide" and is featured as one of the best books on corporate innovation on Innovation Leader.


Established companies are clamoring for breakthrough innovation, but are often hamstrung by the highly reliable, repeatable processes of their management systems. Based on years of research, Grabbing Lightning shows how twelve companies have tried to develop a capability for sustainable breakthrough innovation, and outlines best practices for your organization.


Radical Innovation, a groundbreaking book, reveals the patterns through which game- changing innovation occurs in large, established companies, and identifies the new managerial competencies required by firms to make radical innovation happen.

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For Radical Innovation, typical innovation metrics don't work. This paper published in Journal of Business Strategy puts emphasis on the pitfalls of using incremental innovation metrics in a strategic innovation context. It suggests alternative paths for measuring strategic innovation opportunity progress. We have further developed this academic work, and it is now put into practice as part of our implementation programs for companies.

Across the rInnovation Group team, we have more than 100 peer-reviewed academic works published. Many of these are in top tier journals within innovation management.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) has been leading the academic research program, which has been a longitudinal study since 1995 of Fortune 1000 and other companies. We have contributed a lot of resources to this valuable knowledge pool. We have used 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-, radical- 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. This greatly increases the efficiency and success rate.

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. The first book for this phase, "Beyond the Chamption: Institutionalizing Innovation Through People" was published in 2018, and the research is ongoing.

Over time, we have greatly expanded our research network to be able to get inspired by scholars from leading research institutions across the globe.

About our Academic Research

Other Resources


  • Hyland, Joanne (2012). What's Next... Strategic Innovation. TMTC Journal of Management, July 2012, pp. 70-73. 

  • Robeson, Daniel and O'Connor, Gina (2007). The governance of innovation centers in large established companies. Journal of Engineering and Technology Management, 24(1), pp. 121-147

  • O'Connor, Gina and DeMartino, Richard (2006). Organizing for Radical Innovation: An Exploratory Study of the Structural Aspects of RI Management Systems in Large Established Firms. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 23, pp. 475-497.

  • O'Connor, Gina, and McDermott, Christoper (2004). The human side of radical innovation. Journal of Engineering and Technology Management, 21, pp. 11-30.


  • O'Connor, Gina, Hyland, Joanne, and Rice, Mark P. (2004). The Transition Management Challenge: Bridging the Transition from Strategic Innovation to Acceleration and Beyond. Except from "Bringing Radical and Other Major Innovations Successfully to Market: Bridging the Transition from R&D to Operations".

  • Leifer, Richard, O'Connor, Gina, and Rice, Mark (2001). Implementing radical innovation in mature firms: The role of hubs. The Academy of Management Executive, 15(3), pp. 102-113


  • Rice, Mark, O'Connor, Gina, and Pierantozzi, Ronald (2008). Implementing a Learning Plan to Counter Project Uncertainty. MIT Sloan Management Review, 49(2), pp. 54-62

  • O'Connor, Gina (1998). Market Learning and Radical Innovation: A Cross Case Comparison of Eight Radical Innovation Projects. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 15, pp. 151-166

  • Lynn, Gary S., Morone, Joseph G., and Paulson, Albert S. (1996). Marketing and Discontinuous Inovation: The Probe and Learn Process. California Management Review, 38(3), pp. 8-37

  • Rice, Mark P., Kelley, Donna, Peters, Lois, and O'Connor, Gina (2001). Radical innovation: triggering initiation of opportunity recognition and evaluation. R&D Management, 31(4), pp. 409-420

  • Rice, Mark P., Leifer, Richard, and O'Connor, Gina (2002). Commercializing Discontinuous Innovations: Bridging the Gap From Discontinuous Innovation Project to Operations. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, 49(4), pp. 330-340


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