Tools That Drive Innovation: The Role of Information Systems in Innovative Organizations

Jason G. Caudill

Carson-Newman College, USA

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this chapter is to examine computer technology as a tool to support innovation and innovative processes. The primary problem that this chapter is intended to address is the multitude of widely held misconceptions that seem to exist regarding technology and innovation; technology is not innovative in and of itself. The primary method of research for this chapter is a literature review and case study method examining how technology is being successfully integrated into innovative processes in industry. Specifically this chapter focuses on technology’s role in communication and creativity, two of the many activities found in an innovative process. Findings indicate that while directly connecting technology use to innovation is difficult, technology can play a substantial role in facilitating the innova­tive process. Thus, technology is a qualifier for many innovative processes, a resource that is necessary for the work of innovation to take place.

Copyright © 2012, IGI Global. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.

INTRODUCTION

In modern, developed countries around the world commerce, and by extension life itself, have changed dramatically in the past few decades. Commerce ultimately touches every aspect of life.

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-165-8.ch034

Businesses produce the goods that people need to live and provide the jobs that people work to earn money to purchase what they need. People’s incomes and spending habits, in capitalist markets, drive businesses in what they do to capture market share and generate profits. While this connection
between people and economic activity is certainly not new, the way in which much of this interac­tion occurs is.

The rise of ecommerce and the globalization of commerce have changed not only the methods by which people consume goods and services, but the very development ofthose goods and services. Innovation is central to this change as, “ICTs (in­formation and communication technologies) foster a broad spectrum of innovation activities which involve the individual, organizational, industrial, and national levels of economic productivity” (Ho, Kauffman, & Liang, 2008, p 1). Markets of all types are more dynamic now than at any time in the past. Product development moves more quickly, products change more often, and consumer expectations are for this to happen and continue to happen. Brynjolfsson and Schrage (2009) explain that, “Technology is transform­ing innovation at its core, allowing companies to test new ideas at speeds—and prices—that were unimaginable even a decade ago.”

In today’s digital age innovation and tech­nology are inexorably linked. Baldwin and von Hippel (2009) explain that technologies like the personal computer and the Internet provide more opportunities for innovative activities to occur in more forms. Many people may feel that technol­ogy by virtue of its existence is innovative, and that applying technology to any situation means that innovation is taking place. While perhaps understandable this is not at all accurate. This chapter will discuss technology as a tool, an aid to the innovative process. There are many different ways that technology can be appropriately applied to innovation, and innovation has benefited from these applications, but an innovative process must exist before technology can serve as an aid to it. Technology in this sense is not in itself a creator of competitive advantage, but it does serve as a facilitator to innovative activities through which advantage can be gained. The focus ofthis chapter is to introduce ideas of technology applications as tools through which innovative activities can be fostered, and with which efficiencies and ef­fectiveness can be improved.

TECHNOLOGY AS A TOOL

Technology is an incredibly powerful force in the developed world. Compounding not only tech­nology’s importance but also its impact, the rise of digital technology and its penetration into the market has been unrivaled in human history. In just a few short years personal computers moved from very expensive diversions for a limited number of technically-engaged hobbyists to a common household appliance. In just a few more years they moved from being stand-alone devices to networked devices that brought the world into living rooms and offices. Ultimately, such connectivity moved from full-sized computers to handheld devices in the form of smartphones.

Such devices are constantly changing and the highly competitive marketplace brings new features and new models to customers on a fre­quent basis. Technology is inherently innovative, particularly where competition among technology providers is concerned. Where misunderstanding often occurs is the idea thatjust by having technol­ogy in a process that process becomes innovative.

Technology is, and always has been, nothing more than a tool. Dosi (1988) explains that, “In very general terms, technological innovation in­volves the solution of problems-for example, on transformation of heat into movement, shaping materials in certain ways, producing compounds with certain properties-meeting at the same time some cost and marketability requirements” (p 1125). Notice that not only does technology solve problems, but it solves problems within the bounds of what is acceptable in the marketplace. The innovation is not the technology, rather the technology helps to find the answers as part of an innovative process.

As a tool technology can serve to enhance in­novation. Better communications, faster analysis of data, greater ability to assess alternatives, and many other factors make digital technology a great asset to the process of innovation. Technology is not a traditional capital investment, but serves a more general purpose for an organization; invest­ments in information technology can contribute to higher productivity and it is such related contributions that provide a return on technol­ogy investments (Brynjolfsson & Hitt, 2000). Not only can technology enhance innovation through providing focused process improvement, it can also impact the innovative nature of an organization as a whole. Bartel, Ichniowski, and Shaw (2007) noted in their study on information technology and innovation that, “.. .the adoption of new computer-based IT also increases the skill requirements of workers, notably technical skills, while also promoting the adoption of new human resource practices” (p 1723). Not only do tools give workers more options, but the presence of new tools can change the practices and capabili­ties of those workers. This chapter will be dealing primarily with today’s digital technology, but the concept of technology and integration holds true for all types oftechnology; effective tools enhance innovative processes.

TECHNOLOGY, INNOVATION, AND COMMUNICATION

Sometimes innovation is the result of a single individual finding enlightenment or inspiration to change the way something is done or made. More often, particularly in organizational contexts, in­novation is the result of collaboration, teamwork, and ultimately communication. Fagerberg (2005) explains that:

Thus, what we think of as a single innovation is often the result of a lengthy process involving many interrelated innovations. This is one of the reasons why many students of technology and innovation find it natural to apply a systems perspective rather than to focus exclusively on individual inventions/innovations (p 4).

Historically, communication technologies have been of substantial importance to humanity. From clay tablets to parchment scrolls to Gutenburg’s printing press the written word made archiving and disseminating information ever more accessible (Schneiderman, 2000). Going forward broadcast media, radio and television, and then the Internet have reached people in remote locations all over the world and changed daily lives in society (Schneiderman, 2000).

Von Hippel (2002) examines innovation net­works as the development mechanism for free and open source software applications. Communica­tion is part of that innovation network, explained in context as, “.individual users do not have to develop everything they need on their own: they can benefit from innovations developed by oth­ers and freely shared within and beyond the user network” (Von Hippel, 2002, p 1). The process of innovation is certainly much more than just communication, but communication does play a key role in innovative activities. Increasingly, this communication takes place through the use of technology.

Herrmann (2008) discusses the field of Com­puter Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW), which focuses on using computers to support creativity. Herrmann’s work explores the idea that while different people engage in the creative process in different ways technology tools are flexible enough to support individuals according to their preferred work habits. These technology tools can take many different forms in CSCW, including: supporting the large picture—visu­alization of rich material, malleability of shared material and stimulation of variations, support of convergence within evolutionary documentation, smooth transitions between modes of creative collaboration, and integration of communication with work on shared material (Herrmann, 2008).

Awazu et. al. (2009) identifies five roles of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in innovation: understanding idea sources; documenting ideas and sources; distribution and sharing ofideas for cross-application; idea design, testing, and refinement; and idea commercializa­tion. These ICT roles mirror Herrmann’s (2008) view ofthe benefits oftechnology tools in CSCW. Supporting the large picture and visualizing rich material can be support functions for document­ing and distributing ideas. Shared material and stimulation of variations can support distribution of ideas as well as idea design, testing, and refine­ment. Support of convergence can benefit idea commercialization. These tools of technology - enabled collaboration align with the innovation benefits of ICT.

In order to successfully fill these roles ICTs must be properly implemented and managed in the firm. This is not a static effort, rather continuing monitoring, assessment, and updating must occur in order for a firm to apply technology towards maintaining continual competitive advantage. McAfee and Brynjolfsson (2008) define a three - step process for doing so:

• Deploy: adopt a uniform technology platform;

• Innovate: design better ways of doing work;

• Propagate: use IT to replicate process innovations.

If technology is properly managed then it can successfully fulfill its role to support communi­cation and collaboration as a component of the innovative process.

Communication and collaboration may be somewhat interchangeable terms. If people pursu­ing innovative work are communicating, they are in effect collaborating, and ifthey are collaborating with others then there must be communication. Regardless ofthis connection the exchange ofideas is critical to the innovative process. The difficulty in many situations is that in any circumstance teamwork poses challenges to organization and management. In an innovative effort, however, a common space must be developed. The “... abstract territory in which design search takes place.” (p 1297) has been termed the design space (Bald­win, Hienerth, & von Hippel, 2006). Herrmann’s

(2008) points about the assistive possibilities of technology and innovation can be part of creating the design space to provide innovation a place in which to happen.

Innovation thrives on the input of multiple perspectives, but often such diverse inputs create overly complex decision environments. Inter-or­ganizational collaboration, partnerships between multiple organizational entities, is an important part of business innovation today, but even with such great potential value as many as 60% of such ventures fail (Faems, Van Looy, & Debackere, 2004). As industry continues to progress towards a more global operating environment there are certainly opportunities for more diverse perspec­tives to act as inputs for innovative processes. Concurrently, there are also many more compli­cating factors, ranging from global differences in time zone, the impracticality of physical meeting spaces, and language barriers. Additionally, tech­nology can increase participation in innovative processes by better incorporating persons with disabilities into active participation. Technology in the form of CSCW can offer technical solutions to these organizational issues and, by eliminating the barriers, enhance innovative activities.

In relation to time zone issues, asynchronous communication technologies are a familiar tool to many today. Discussion boards and other forums, in addition to older technology like e-mail listservs, give contributors the opportunity not only to share their ideas at any time but also to have those ideas archived as a part of the innovative process for later reference. Both the ability to communicate effectively across time zones, effectively creat­ing a 24-hour a day office, and the archiving of conversations can aid everyone involved in the process. If technologies are used that provide for the threading of discussions effectiveness is further enhanced by keeping topics closely connected for better understanding of all involved.

Asynchronous exchanges do have their limitations and sometimes the only way to ef­fectively resolve development issues is through live, synchronous exchanges. Globalization has been a complicating factor in such meetings for many years due to the distances separating team members or contributing groups in different coun­tries. Through the economic downturn that began in 2008 this difficulty has been compounded by the critical need for firms to reduce expenditures, travel being one such cost.

Virtual meeting spaces are a technical solution to the problem. While time zone complications may make scheduling the meeting difficult there are multiple technologies available that support live audio-visual exchanges among multiple par­ticipants from any location while also providing tools to share files, display materials in the group environment, and even share the ability to write and draw on a virtual whiteboard. Such technolo­gies can provide more frequent synchronous work environments than are possible with travel between multiple locations, thus enhancing the innovative process for all involved. Also, many ofthese virtual workspace technologies can record and archive all activity in the room so that valuable ideas are not lost. Not only does the archive preserve information for future reference of attendees, it also allows those individuals who were unable to attend the meeting to experience the full exchange of ideas for a more thorough understanding of the meeting’s conclusions.

Any exchange, whether synchronous or asynchronous, ultimately depends on a common language existing among the participants. While still in its early stages there are technical solutions to language barriers. Software solutions exist that can roughly translate written materials online and display the result in a variety of languages for the reader. Admittedly these technologies are not a substitute for a fluent speaker of the language, but today’s solutions can serve as a stop-gap measure when absolutely necessary. In the future such technologies will hopefully advance to a point that language barriers are virtually invisible through electronically-mediated communication.

All of the previously discussed solutions and others can also be very useful in giving individuals with a broad range of disabilities the opportunity to take an active role in the innovation process. Computer-mediated communications provide users with auditory or visual disabilities many opportunities to engage in the exchange of ideas through either text-to-speech or speech-to-text conversion tools. These tools, properly imple­mented, can provide mediation for such dis­abilities in both synchronous and asynchronous work environments and, by extension, improve the innovation process by bringing more ideas to the table.

Beyond such basic applications technology provides many other valuable opportunities for disabled persons to be incorporated into innova­tion processes. The live streaming of video and synchronous online communication can serve to bring mobility-impaired persons on-site for projects that they could not physically negotiate. By seeing what the group is seeing and having a medium through which they can communicate in live time with the on-site team this process can include people who in the past would have been forced to rely on photographs or videos after the fact. Also, such technologies are not only limited to serving those with disabilities; these processes can also bring contributors unable to physically attend such a meeting into the process. Regardless of who is served, the inclusion of more people in the live environment can produce more insights and improve the overall efficiency of the innova­tive process.

Overall, communication in innovation is mov­ing from the traditional Web 1.0 environment to Web 2.0 solutions. Fischer (2009) approaches technology contributions to innovation from a Web 2.0 perspective, explaining that current technologies have driven a shift from information consumer culture to cultures of participation that create content. This participatory culture is seen as an advance in innovative capabilities, explained as, “End-user development is an essential compo­nent of this transformation, but its impact is much broader: this transformation represents a change and new opportunity for social production, for mass collaboration, for civic and political life, and for education” (Fischer, 2009, p 4). Collaboration in multiple arenas, facilitated by technology, can enhance innovation efforts.

Of particular interest in the incorporation of Web 2.0 technologies is the generational shift occurring in the workforce. As the baby boom­ers begin to exit the workforce organizations are looking at increasing numbers of Generation X members in leadership positions, a generation much more comfortable and familiar with tech­nology. More important to Web 2.0 integration in organizations is the entry of Generation Y mem­bers into the workforce in ever-growing numbers. These workers are easily the most techno-centric workers in history and expect connectivity through social media and online learning to be the standard rather than the exception.

As increasing numbers of workers become comfortable with and demanding of Web 2.0 technologies their work, including innovative pursuits, come to depend on such communication technologies. The impact of these technologies is beyond simply giving workers another com­munication medium. Because of changing work and social practices social media is becoming a necessary tool to engage people in communication and, by extension, innovation.

Communication is the first of the two major categories oftechnical contributions to innovation. Perhaps the best illustration of the value of com­munication to technology today is an observation of how many people use computers. Before the Internet became commoditized and commonplace people often spent time on their home computers just working independently. With Internet con­nectivity an expectation now a computer without access to the network quickly becomes an almost useless device. People expect technology to con­nect them to others.

TECHNOLOGY, INNOVATION, AND CREATIVITY

Leonard and Sensiper (1998) use the definition, “The process of innovation is a rhythm of search and selection, exploration and synthesis, cycles of divergent thinking followed by convergence” (p 116). This innovative process is cyclical, with multiple decision cycles occurring as a part of cre­ative group activity (Leonard & Sensiper, 1998). Leonard and Swap (1999) discuss creativity, and its myths, in relation to innovation. Their defini­tion ofinnovation is that it is, “.the embodiment, combination, and/or synthesis of knowledge in novel, relevant, valued new products, processes, or services” (Leonard & Swap, 1999, p 7). The process of creativity can be difficult to precisely define, yet there is an inherent understanding of what creativity is; it is the creation of a new idea, new device, or new work, something new. The question for the technologist is how to enhance the creative process, the process of innovation, with technical tools. Leonard and Swap’s (1999) definitions of and myths about creativity are listed in Table 1 for reference.

There are multiple approaches in the literature regarding how to support, enhance, and assess creative action and, by extension, innovation. Leonard and Sensiper (1998) explain that creative cooperation is critical to the process of innovation, no matter what the intended product of that in­novation may be. By understanding how creativ­ity works it is possible to connect defined actions to support provided by the inclusion of informa­tion systems in the process. These connections can then serve to improve the correct application of technologies to the creative process.

Huber, Bretschneider, Leimeister, and Krcmar,

(2009) introduce the generator of excellence (GENEX) framework for innovation. The frame­work consists of:

• Collect: searching and browsing digital li­braries, visualizing data and processes;

• Relate: consulting with peers and mentors;

• Create: thinking by free association, ex­ploring solutions (what-if tools), compos­ing artifacts and performances, reviewing and replaying session histories;

• Donate: disseminating results.

Table 1. Definitions of and myths about creativity (Source: Leonard & Swap, 1999)

Definitions of and Myths About Creativity

Definitions of Creativity

Myths About Creativity

•...that process which results in a novel work that is accepted as tenable or useful or satisfying...

•...it is both novel and appropriate, useful, correct, or valuable response to the task at hand...

• A company is creative when its

employees do something new and potentially useful without being directly shown or taught.

•...the production of something that is both new and truly valuable

•...involves a process that is extended in time and character­ized by originality, adaptiveness, and realization

• Creative output depends on a few, often flamboyantly different indi­viduals

• Creativity is a solitary process

• Intelligence is more important than creativity

• Creativity can’t really be managed

• Creative groups are found only in “The Arts” or in high-technology companies

• Creativity is relevant only to Big Ideas

• Creativity only involves coming up with new ideas

While all of these activities have in one way or another always existed as a part of the innova­tion process technology serves to enhance them to improve innovation.

Schneiderman (2000) continues the exploration of the GENEX process. Specifically, he explains that the four phases of the GENEX framework are not strictly linear, rather they may be cyclical and iterative, repeated multiple times to arrive at a conclusive solution. This discussion mirrors Leonard and Sensiper’s (1998) discussion of the innovative process as being similarly cyclical. Such cycles often occur in group contexts and as such require active and archivable communica­tion methods to support the process. Innovation is certainly more than creativity, but as creativity is a key part of innovation and there are parallels between the creative and innovative processes the role of technology in supporting creativity does feed innovation.

Components ofthe GENEX framework can be identified in other creativity research. Shneider - man (2007) addresses technology as a medium through which to engage in creative activities that lead to innovation, explaining that, “Creativity support tools extend users’ capability to make discoveries or inventions from early stages of gathering information, hypothesis generation, and initial production, through the later stages of refinement, validation, and dissemination” (p 2). Creativity support is defined as a combination of two factors, specific tasks that support discovery and the capacity to generate multiple alternatives (Shneiderman, 2007).

Gathering information connects to the GENEX framework concept of collecting. Technology’s role in information collection is difficult to over­emphasize in today’s connected world. Where only fifteen years in the past a team of research­ers might have to make phone calls or written requests via mail to obtain data from past projects performed by others, particularly international works, the same information is now available through digital technology. If the documents are not available directly online then e-mail contact can bring electronic versions of the document as quickly as differing time zones will allow. Such online repositories of knowledge and the digitalization of many older text works greatly enhances people’s ability to collect information. Such technology directly enhances the collection stage ofthe GENEX framework. One technology currently in use is a branch of computer aided information (CAI) called patent analysis/patent map tools that assists “.the users in searching, collecting, analyzing, and visualizing patent data” (Yu, Wu, & Lien, 2008, p 524).

Stage two of GENEX, relate, is a communi­cations aspect of technology. This is a critical component that links the collection of informa­tion to the analysis and use of that information. Communication is the process that transforms data in the collection stage to information in the create stage.

Creation is the point at which the foundational work of collecting and relating grows into new ideas. This GENEX stage can relate to hypothesis generation, initial production, refinement, and validation. In initial stages what innovators create is ideas. Brown (2008) explores the creative prod­uct analysis model, which includes the concepts of novelty, resolution, and style. The primary focus of this work is on the ability of technology to facilitate the creation of more ideas, which by extension lead to more innovative solutions. In support of this concept, Brown cites Linus Paul­ing’s statement that, “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.”

Lots of ideas are the foundation of hypoth­eses. From the generation of hypotheses comes the initial production of concepts. This stage too can benefit greatly from technical innovation. A second branch of CAI, Innovative Solution Generation, is one technology that can help us­ers to create innovative problem-solving models (Yu, Wu, & Lien, 2008). The collaborative ben­efits of technology have already been discussed, but initial production can greatly benefit from technology in other ways. The virtualization of products, components, or other parts of an inno­vative product or idea can be greatly enhanced by the use of technology. Rapid prototyping is an industry standard where much time is saved by creating and testing new physical devices in a virtual space. Not only does the speed of the system lead to faster development cycles but the relatively low cost allows for the exploration of many more possibilities. To paraphrase Pauling, lots of ideas better lead to good ideas.

Following this initial production refinement takes place. The value of prototyping and in­vestigative technologies cross over from initial production to refinement as many of the same technologies and same processes can help in­novative workers to refine their many ideas. As the process progresses many ideas are funneled to fewer, more practical and more probable ideas. Refining, much like other stages ofthe process, is enhanced in speed and effectiveness by technical tools. Communication and rapid prototyping are both parts of this refinement.

Past the rapid prototyping technologies testing technologies enhance refinement. At the refine­ment stage the bulk of ideas should be eliminated, with the refinement stage finding and defining shortcomings of sub-optimal ideas. Rej ected ideas at this stage are not failures, and can improve the ultimate solution, a process that is also technology - enhanced. Failure points, and also positive aspects, of ideas discovered during the refinement process can be archived and assessed using technical tools. Ideally, these individual items will be compiled to enhance the final selection. With technology creating more ideas and faster initial production technology is also needed to organize and capi­talize on what is learned by refining the product from so many ideas to only one or a small few.

Once that one or small few ideas have been reached through refinement those selected con­cepts must be confirmed as valid ideas. The same technologies already applied work here and offer many of the same advantages. The validation process can move more quickly through the use of technology and it may also be possible to per­form detailed validation analysis of more ideas, thus providing an in-depth analysis of more ideas than would be possible with other methodologies.

With validation complete and a final solution identified the donate stage ofGENEX, dissemina­tion, is the final part of the innovation process. This may be the easiest technology connection to identify as the communicative and marketplace forces of the Internet make dissemination of new ideas faster and easier than at any previous point in history. Integrating Web 2.0 technologies into the process makes this dissemination even faster as others with an interest in the discovery post and spread the news on their own, independent of the organization.

These individual stages of innovation help to produce a map of where and how technology can enhance the innovative process. The goal of technology integration in any field, however, is to create and enhance an overall system of productiv­ity. Hekkert, Suurs, Negro, Kuhlmann, and Smits

(2007) look beyond individual technologies and address technology tools as part of an overall in­novative system, defining an innovation as, “.. .the successful combination ofhardware, software, and orgware...” (p 414). To understand how innovative systems work, including the role of technology within such systems, Hekkert et al. propose that the activities of an innovation system should be mapped to identify and understand their functions. These functions include: entrepreneurial activi­ties, knowledge development, knowledge diffu­sion through networks, guidance of the search, market formation, resources mobilization, and the creation of legitimacy/counteract resistance to change (Hekkert, et al., 2007).

Hekkert’s (2007) work highlights several important points, not the least of which is the reaction ofpeople in the organization. Regardless of what technologies are applied to the innova­tive process people are the core resource. If the people involved in the process do not support the technologies being applied to innovation then the system as a whole is likely to fail. With that in mind, creating legitimacy and counteracting resistance to change is an early priority in any innovative process. Human resource management sources often identify employee buy-in as one of the very first steps in any change process and that holds true for innovative processes.

Much of the rest of the list proposed by Hek - kert, et. al. involves aspects of innovation and their related technology enhancements that have already been addressed here. The important new aspect highlighted by the list is that while these different components have been identified and discussed as individual components in an overall innovation process they are, in practice, parts of an overall system, each depending on the oth­ers. In this interdependent system of innovation every part of the process shifts when any part of the process shifts. When examining the role that technology plays in such a system the impact of technology enhancements is greatly magnified. Improving the speed or efficiency of a single part of the process or allowing for more exploration in any stage of development impacts the overall performance of the process as a whole. Thus, the potential impact of technology integration in the innovation process can be exponential.

SOLUTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Utilizing the advantages offered by technology in innovative processes in any kind of organiza­tion is no longer an option; rather the question is how much technology will be used. This situation presents many unique challenges to an organiza­tion engaged in innovative work. The choices of technology, workers’ use of the technology, and overall structure of the effort must all be carefully determined.

Across all categories of technology solutions for innovation training for all involved is highly recommended. At an organizational level there must be decision-makers who understand the role of technology in the organization’s strategy. A fundamental recommendation ofthe Management Information Systems (MIS) field is that strategy should drive technology; technology should never drive strategy. This means that decision-makers need to be properly trained in how to assess the technical needs of their organizational programs and the best ways in which to apply technology to the problems.

Once technology choices are made workers who will interact with the technology must be trained on how to effectively use that technology. For the tools to be effective users must know how and when to apply them, which is where training for personnel enters into the equation. A comprehensive, integrated training program for employees should be established in advance ofnew technical integrations for innovation processes.

Tying into the issue of strategy there should also be a concerted effort towards structuring the use of technology in the organization across all aspects of innovation and other activities. The nature of structure will change for each unique organization as the structure of the technology implementation will need to match the structure of the organization. Executing such a match will require detailed study by a cross-functional team drawn from throughout the organization. Done properly, this effort will help to ensure a successful use oftechnology to enhance innovative processes.

FUTURE RESEARCH DIRECTIONS

There are many opportunities for future research connecting technology and innovation. Part ofthe breadth of opportunities connects to the difficulty of measuring innovation. Because innovation is, by its very nature, the creation of something entirely new there is not necessarily an existing point against which to measure the effort. With the lack of a firm starting point assessment becomes much more challenging. This certainly does not mean that effective research cannot be done, but there are many different approaches that could be useful, with some situations benefitting from multiple studies using varied methodologies.

Future research should drive deeper into the subject and generate data from innovative fields. Possible models for such research may include broad surveys of professionals engaged in innova­tive processes to reveal what technical tools they use and how those tools complement each other and the work preferences of the users. Surveys using a basic Likert scale may be used initially, but the richness ofthe subject matter may demand interviews and ethnographical analysis to reach the best data.

There may be interesting opportunities for innovation research to take place in multiple disciplines. Manufacturing, scientific research, software development, and media development firms could all provide unique study opportunities for the integration of technology in innovative processes. Multiple segments within each disci­pline may offer unique opportunities as well, but at the very least the multiple disciplines should be studied to see how different innovative efforts apply and integrate technology differently.

One significant issue that may merit study is that of necessary speed of development. Different industries face very different competitive environ­ments and their products function on different life cycles. One aim of the research could be to determine if industries are more or less likely to use technology enhancements in their innovation processes, or if they use technology differently, in connection to their needs for fast development cycles.

The technical skill sets of employees in given industries may also be worthy of investigation. The assumption is likely made that more technical industries are more likely to use technology to enhance their innovation efforts. Research could either prove or disprove such assumptions and could serve a function in guiding industries of different technical skill levels in how to effectively pursue technology-enhanced innovation.

These broad opportunities help to define some of the work that may be done in researching the role of technology in innovation. Within each broad category there are many focused opportu­nities for study, some of which may benefit from being replicated across multiple broad categories. One important factor in designing future research in the role of technology in innovation is that the studies may focus more on strategy than on the technology. With that in mind there are likely good research partnerships to be found between strategic management experts, marketing special­ists, and technologists.

CONCLUSION

Technology is an important component of almost every modern organization. Similarly, innovation has become an important part of organizations. Technology and innovation have traditionally been closely related, but the perspective is often one of technology being a source or result of innovation versus technology being a valuable tool in the building of innovation. Going forward, innova­tors need to recognize the value that technology offers as a tool of innovation.

Communication and creativity are the primary contributions that technology can make to innova­tive processes. While speed, efficiency, and other metrics also benefit from a technology-rich inno­vative environment, but all these positive factors ultimately tie to communication and creativity. By strategically implementing the appropriate technical tools an organization can enhance both communication and creativity, the two of which symbiotically assist each other, and advance the innovative cause of the organization as a whole.

The goal of the technologist in an innovative firm should be to successfully align technical tools with the strategy of the organization. Beyond this alignment, training and support should be designed to move organizational members towards effective use of the technology. Ultimately, the approach to applying technology to innovation may of itself be innovative, but the efforts are well worth the positive results.

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