Agile Innovation

Innovation and technology management in open, loosely connected networks requires a new generation of management tools and frameworks. Market opportunities are increasingly defined by collaborative strategies. Productive technology management depends on complex collaborations, but these complex collaborations are difficult to manage. They take place both inside the company — across functional lines — and outside the company with innovation partners — including customers, suppliers, and universities.  However, few companies have mastered the skill of designing and guiding the complex collaborations. Equally important, they do not have the right tools to identify market opportunities for their technologies. Nor can they identify the partners they need to pursue these opportunities.

Companies as well as universities must adjust to innovation processes that are more open and complex. Fraunhofer IAO (based in Stuttgart, Germany) is a global leader in developing new tools and frameworks to manage technology development and innovation.  Through a collaboration between the Network and Fraunhofer, a new set of frameworks and protocols to manage the innovation process is now available in the U.S. Without this backbone, companies face enormous difficulties mastering the complexities of a more open innovation process. 

We first piloted these frameworks and protocols with Lockheed Martin, in collaboration with the New Jersey Innovation Institute. One challenge: Lockheed sought help in assembling a team of outside companies to develop a technology roadmap for the deployment of condition-based maintenance across the Aegis destroyer fleet. Through a series of four workshops spread over five months, we guided an innovation process involving Lockheed and over 20 outside companies. These outside companies brought expertise in a wide range of technologies, including machine learning, augmented reality and sensors.

Todd Tangert, a weapons system architect at Lockheed, told us that our innovation process worked well “to quickly identify an ecosystem of local companies to solve our defined problem.”  Mark Scotland, the CEO of 4.0 Analytics, one of the companies participating with Lockheed, called the Lab’s process “the most clear and concise open innovation process I’ve seen.”

How it Works

The Starting Point: Interested companies can work with a team from the Network to design a pilot project to test this new approach to open innovation. Typically, the design process starts with a core team drawn from both the company and from the Network.

Defining a Pilot: The next step involves developing a pilot project. Pilots begin the process of embedding agile innovation in the company. Typically, this step is an innovation opportunity that can be investigated in no more than four to five months. The pilot starts with a concise charter and defined outcomes. The team can start by evaluating several candidates for pilots.

Agile Technology Management Workshops: The next step involves designing a set of workshops to develop a response to the opportunity. These workshops typically involve cross disciplinary teams. They can include people both inside and outside the company. The workshops are designed to drive toward a set of innovative solutions.


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