Professor of Management, Bisk College of Business & Director of the Center for Lifecycle and Innovation Management

Florida Institute of Technology hosted ISO 56000 Innovation Management World Congress

What if we assumed that musical ability was based purely on inherent talent? That, unlike other fields, it was essentially a set of skills that could not be taught or learned as a discipline? Most likely, we wouldn’t enjoy the plethora of musical variety that every culture reflects or the continual evolution of musical forms and instruments.

Granted, there will always be those extraordinary artists like Mozart or Elton John, but there is also an innumerable host of musicians who enrich lives, simply because they learned to play. To many, innovation is viewed in a similar way, where certain people or businesses are intrinsically innovative. The idea that the science and art of innovation can become enhanced by reliable practices, has only been recognized in the last few decades.

We operate in what has been described as the “Innovation Economy.” Nevertheless, more than 95% of new product innovations and 50% of product initiatives fail. In addition, only about 3,000 of the 1.5 million U.S. patents are commercially viable. This translates to, “99.8% of those patent efforts, which consume incredible resources, ultimately fail in the market,” according to Dr. Abram Walton, a professor at Florida Tech’s Nathan M. Bisk College of Business and founding director of the University’s Center for Innovation Management & Business Analytics.

Innovation is not just about amazing inventions that inspire awe and generate headlines. It is also about the day-to-day capacity for individuals and companies to rapidly detect and efficiently respond to new opportunities in order to maximize returns. This means understanding what to continue to invest time and resources in and what to jettison. A better understanding of the innovation process and developing standards to manage innovation could make all the difference.

Dr. Walton is an internationally recognized expert on innovation, who orchestrated the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 56000 Innovation Management World Congress, which was held September 23-27 on the Florida Tech campus. This was the first time that the Congress has been held on U.S. soil and was an opportunity to showcase Space Coast, where innovative pursuits have changed the world.

Abram Walton

EW: So, there is a difference between being innovative and being inventive, imaginative or even creative?

AW: Absolutely, though to many they are synonymous. Innovation is a process by which we insure an inventive or creative idea or product actually has use and value in the marketplace.

EW: That makes sense, explain the evolution of innovation as a management system?

AW: In 2008, a colleague and I co-founded the International Journal of Innovation Science, because there were no scientific journals on the subject, and we wanted to create a forum to propagate reliable and sound information regarding the art and science of innovation. We saw the signs that this was an important aspect of the future of management, not just a fad or trend.

Any stand alone field of study eventually develops a specific vocabulary, defined terms, and an ever- growing body of knowledge, along with repeatable and reliable methodologies. All this is what causes a knowledge domain to be substantial enough to be considered a science and, eventually, degrees are awarded in that field. Today degrees are offered that did not even exist 20 or 30 years ago, like accredited Software Engineering degrees.

Historically, if you are an MD, a CPA or a PE it is because you have mastered a certain amount of knowledge that an accrediting organization has developed in that field. The same was true for the Project Management Institute; it took them approximately 20 years to issue their first certification exam for a PMP, Project Management Professional.

We founded the International Association of Innovation Professionals in 2013 to move this forward, because we were getting calls from companies like Johnson & Johnson or Proctor & Gamble, who had just fired their “Director of Innovation” and it cost them millions. We needed to help these organizations make better predictions on who to hire. What are the core competencies for an “innovation professional”? The demand is there. If you look on Indeed, there are more jobs for innovators than for accountants, but how do you know they are qualified? Because they say they are on their LinkedIn profile?

EW: So, from launching the International Association for Innovation Professionals to this Congress?

AW: Six months after the association was started, ISO began its formal process of developing world standards around innovation. Just to be clear, innovation and innovation management are two very different things. The art and science of doing innovation, is not the same as those involved in managing innovation, in other words, how is it funded, how is it rated, applied technology readiness levels, etc. These are all the things that management systems have to do.

Firms that were sustainability competitive had some kind of home-grown advantage, where innovation was germane to their culture. As a country, we wanted to see how to make more and more companies equally competitive, so we had to study how these innovative companies operated, versus companies spending millions, if not billions, of dollars and getting little return on their investments. The problem is not about capital or technology, it is a lack of management systems wrapped around how innovation is done.

From 2013 to now, we have been in a process of developing these standards and the overall components of these innovation management systems. This includes how do you assess innovation or develop metrics to insure you are actually getting traction? What are the tools, like intellectual property management or strategic intelligence management? Think about how important a company’s knowledge resources are as we see all these Baby Boomers moving into retirement.

EW: Explain what happens at the Congress and what triggered this gathering?

AW: Every year the national governing organizations propose new “work items,” which is a body of knowledge that needs to be studied and standardized. Then they vote on them and submit it to the international body, which gets it approved by the other national member organizations and then, if accepted, ISO convenes a congress of topical experts to work on the standards.

EW: Sort of a Constitutional Convention?

AW: In a sense, yes, a UN for business. Every nation selects their delegates differently. They convene in a host city, with the goal that, by the end of the week, documents will be produced, which will then be sent out to all the nations who were not physically represented for their review and comments. At the same time, we, as those who represent innovation management in this country, will have internal debates on it from a U.S. perspective. Then we submit our proposals to our national body ANSI (American National Standards Institute), which will then submit an approved document to ISO.

These documents have very far reaching effects, from determining how organizations accredit practitioners, to determining how intellectual property laws are drafted and interpreted.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), was founded in 1946 “to facilitate the international coordination and unification of industrial standards.” Since that time they have issued standards in manufacturing and practices that are recognized and used worldwide. These standards provide confidence to businesses and consumers that products are safe, as well as ensuring products are made, and companies are operated, following the highest technical, ethical and efficiency guidelines. American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is the American organization that represents the U.S. in the development and the implementation of these standards.