At The Speed Of Innovation

Mars_explorer

Here are three perspectives on how we can speed up the innovation cycle and get great new ideas to market more quickly:

1) Coordinating R&D–While competition is a good thing in driving innovation, it can also be hinder progress when we are not sharing good ideas, findings, and methods in a timely manner–in a sense we are having to do the same things multiple times, by different entities, and in some more and other in less efficient ways wasting precious national resources. Forbes (10 February 2012) describes the staggering costs in pharmaceutical R&D such that despite about $800 billion invested in drug research between 2007-2011, only 139 new drugs came out the pipeline. Bloomberg BusinessWeek (29 Nov 2012) notes that for “every 5,000 to 10,000 potential treatments discovered in the lab, only one makes it to market” and out of the pharmaceutical “valley of death.” The medical research system is broken because “there ultimately no one in charge.”  The result is that we are wasting time and money “funding disparate studies and waiting for researchers to publish results months or years later.” If instead we work towards our goals collaboratively and share results immediately then we could potentially work together rather than at odds. The challenge in my mind is that you would need to devise a fair and profitable incentive model for both driving results and for sharing those with others–this is similar to a clear mandate of together we stand, divided we fall. 

2) “Rapid Fielding”–The military develops large and complex weapon systems and this can take too long for the warfighters who need to counter evolving daily threats on the battlefield. Federal Computer Week (19 July 2001) emphasizes this point when it states, “Faster acquisition methods are needed to counter an improvised explosive device that tends to evolve on a 30-day cycle or a seven-year process for replacing a Humvee.” There according to the Wall Street Journal (11 December 2012) we need to move to a model that more quickly bring new innovative technologies to our forces.  The challenge is to do this with reliable solutions while at the same time fast tracking through the budgeting, acquisition, oversight, testing, and deployment phases. The question is can we apply agile development to military weapons systems and live with 70 to 80% solutions that we refine over time, rather than wait for perfection out of the gate.

3) Seeds and Standards–To get innovation out in the hands of consumers, there is a change management process that needs to occur. You are asking people to get out of their comfort zone and try something new. According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek (17 December 2012) on an article of how bar codes changed the world–it comes down to basics like simplicity and reliability of the product itself, but also seeding the market and creating standards for adoption to occur. Like with electric automobiles, you need to seed the market with tax incentives for making the initial purchases of hybrids or plug-in electric vehicles–to get things going as well as overset the initial development expense and get to mass development and cheaper production. Additionally, we need standards to ensure interoperability with existing infrastructure and other emerging technologies. In the case of the electric automobiles, charging stations need to be deployed across wide swathes of the country in convenient filling locations (near highways, shopping, and so on) and they need to be standards-based, so that the charger at any station can fit in any electronic vehicle, regardless of the make or model. 

Innovation is the lifeblood of our nation in keeping us safe, globally competitive, and employed.  Therefore, these three ideas for enhancing collaboration, developing and fielding incremental improvements through agile methodologies, and fostering change with market incentives and standards are important ideas to get us from pure exploration to colonization of the next great world idea. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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